Last month, Taiwan joined the rush of last-minute applicants seeking to claim founding member status in Beijing’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). China has been approving individual applications since the March 31 deadline– and today, the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) confirmed that Taiwan’s application has been denied.
On Monday, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for TAO, said that Taiwan’s bid to become a founding member had been rejected. In his comments, Ma confirmed a previous report by China Review News that said Taiwan would not be allowed to join as a founding member, but would be welcomed to join at a later date.
Ma did not specifically say why Taiwan’s bid had been denied, but pointed to the argument in Taiwan over how and under what name Taiwan would join AIIB. Taiwan’s executive branch had applied for AIIB through the TAO (rather than directly through the AIIB secretariat), sparking protests. Critics alleged that, by applying through TAO, Taiwan’s government had indirectly acknowledged Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is a part of the People’s Republic of China. Critics also complained of a lack of transparency over what name Taiwan would use in the AIIB – an issue that directly relates to perceptions of Taiwanese sovereignty (or lack thereof). Supporters of the decision argued that joining AIIB is crucial for making sure Taiwan does not become economically marginalized.
Ma did not point to any specific issues in Taiwan’s application that led to it being rejected. Instead, he simply repeated China’s earlier statement that Taiwan would be welcome to join using “an appropriate name.” Ma added that he believes all parties will keep Taiwan’s possible participation in mind when formulating AIIB’s charter over the next few months. That suggests that AIIB will be defined as a grouping of economies rather than states, a move that would pave the way for Taiwan to participate (as it does in APEC).
Interestingly, Ma also said that the mainland was paying attention to different views in Taiwan over its membership application. “We are willing to continue to listen to ideas from all sides in order to solve the issue of Taiwan’s participation in AIIB,” Ma said.
When asked for more information on why Taiwan’s AIIB bid had been rejected, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei declined to comment on the issue.
Taiwan’s legislative speaker, Wang Jin-pyng, said on Monday that Taiwan would reapply to join the AIIB as an ordinary member. He said that the decision to try again for AIIB membership was reached at a meeting of leaders from both the executive and legislative branch – an important point, as the original decision to apply was criticized for being made without consultation with the Legislative Yuan. Wang noted that ordinary membership is functionally the same as founding membership, expect Taiwan would not have any say on drafting the AIIB charter.
Wang added that Taiwan would seek to join AIIB under the name “Chinese Taipei,” the same name Taiwan uses in the Olympic Games and in the World Health Assembly.
Charles I-Hsin Chen, a spokesman from Taiwan’s Presidential Office, said that Taiwan would not join AIIB unless it is sure it will be treated with “dignity and equality.” Executive Yuan spokesman Sun Lih-chyun said Taipei would closely analyze the AIIB charter to see if it “meets the principle of dignity and fairness with regard to the admission of new members.” Sun also said Taiwan would lobby friendly founding members of AIIB for their support.