Desperation time for Taiwan
Ever since I heard a fascinating This American Life episode about the travails of Nauru, I’ve developed an unhealthy obsession with the tiny Pacific island nation, home to just over 13,000 people. The plight of Nauru is as comical as it is sad. Ninety percent of the population is unemployed, and Nauru was recently named ...
The plight of Nauru is as comical as it is sad. Ninety percent of the population is unemployed, and Nauru was recently named the world’s fattest country. Now that it’s no longer considered a laundromat for Russian mafia cash, the country’s only real industry is phosphate mining. But that’s dying, too. It’s a nasty business that has left a giant crater in the center of the amoeba-like island. One of the government’s major sources of income since the phosphate began running out has been hosting Australia’s unwanted refugees. And now, that’s running out, too. Throw a lack of freshwater and climate change into the mix, and tiny Nauru could be the first nation-state of the modern era to disappear. Nauru’s upcoming 40th independence celebration, to be held Jan. 31, is going to be a bittersweet affair.
So, it’s especially sad that Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-Bian is assiduously wooing Nauru’s new president, who just came to power in December after the 18-member Nauruan parliament ousted his predecessor. Nauru is one of only 24 countries that still recognize Taiwan as an independent state. But it’s not much of an ally, I’m afraid.
Blake Hounshell is a former managing editor of Foreign Policy.
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