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Seminar provides insight into the history of the Republic of China (ROC)-Taiwan and South Africa’s foreign policy towards the island

Posted on April 25, 2019

On 23 April 2019, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, in partnership with Living Stories & Memories, hosted a seminar on the legality of South Africa’s foreign policy towards the Republic of China (ROC)-Taiwan. The discussion centered on understanding the complexities of the policy shifts that have occurred towards ROC-Taiwan.

Prof Alice Chan provided a brief overview of the history of ROC-Taiwan and reflected on the current economic and political situation on the island. She touched on the national health insurance system which has been in place since 1995. In the past two years, ROC-Taiwan has not been invited to attend the World Health Assembly and she calls for the World Health Organisation to include ROC-Taiwan in their activities as it is placed in a strategic node of the Indo-Pacific region. This can provide vital information for dealing with cross-border disease transmission and she holds that it serves as a model in the Indo-Pacific region for the provision of affordable healthcare.

Dr Christopher Williams, a post-doctoral fellow in international relations at Wits University, analysed the foreign policy approach taken by South Africa towards ROC-Taiwan. He gave insight into the challenges the South African government had faced in the early 1990s with regards to the ‘One China’ principle and the long-standing conflict between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and ROC-Taiwan. He provided an analysis as to how and why Mandela’s government shifted policy. South Africa initially maintained recognition of both the PRC and ROC-Taiwan, but gradually shifted to recognise only the PRC. Dr Williams showed how President Mandela’s position was at odds with that of the ANC, and how he had to accept the party’s position.

The seminar then moved to a vibrant question and answer session where questions regarding foreign policy considerations and the application of human rights theory to the situation of ROC-Taiwan were posed by the audience.

The Centre’s Director, Prof Frans Viljoen closed the discussion. In his closing, he noted that from a human rights perspective, the situation of ROC-Taiwan also poses questions about the right to self-determination.


For more information, please contact:

Dr Dominique Mystris
Podcast Producer
Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 5408
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743
[email protected]

- Author Centre for Human Rights
Last edited by Simphiwe Khumalo

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