TAIPEI - Taiwan says it is disappointed that political rival China rejected its bid to be a founding member of a new regional development bank. Attention is turning now to whether Taiwan can join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) later as a normal member despite the two sides’ precarious relations. The government in Taipei said joining regional organizations was its right.
China says the bank to be launched later this year has 57 countries approved as founding members and will have an authorized capital of $100 billion, of which China is expected to contribute about half.
Experts say China stuck to its principle of letting only sovereign states join the bank as founding members. Beijing sees self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory, not as a separate country. Wu Chung-li, a political science research fellow with Taipei-based institute Academia Sinica, said allowing Taiwan to join would have sent a message.
“If the Beijing government lets Taiwan be a founding member, it might give an impression Taiwan is a sovereign state, and then how about Hong Kong and Macau?” asked Wu.
Hong Kong and Macau are ruled by China but with a degree of autonomy, and many in Hong Kong are pushing Beijing for more self-rule.
Beijing’s new institution, which is set up like the World Bank, will provide funding to power plants, transportation projects and urban redevelopment in emerging parts of the 4.3 billion-person continent. The infrastructure bank is also seen as an extension of Beijing’s global clout. The United States, and some rights groups, has expressed reservations about policies governing the bank's loans, saying they may lack the similar safeguards for protecting human rights and the environment that govern the World Bank's projects.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said last week participation in the infrastructure bank would give Taiwan’s construction industry a chance to expand by winning contracts around the region.
The rejection has hurt President Ma’s image at home, where his approval ratings already hover below 20 percent in many surveys. Taiwan’s chief opposition party said the government was rushed and irresponsible in asking to be a founding member of the infrastructure bank.
But Taiwan’s governmental Mainland Affairs Council says it will apply again to become a regular member of the infrastructure bank as long as Beijing treats it with respect, including a name that does not imply both sides belong to one country. China said Monday it would be open to the application.
Lin Chong-pin, a retired strategic studies professor in Taiwan, said the two sides can probably work out a deal.
“Beijing’s attitude is to welcome Taiwan to join later, not as a founding member. The question is what name. These options can be worked out, because there has been precedent,” said Lin.
The two sides are expected to agree on a membership name for Taiwan that neither implies statehood nor suggests it is part of China. They have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but over the past seven years have worked to repair relations.