Jan 9, 2020 - World

World Bank changes hiring rules after asking Taiwanese staff to get Chinese passports

David Malpass

World Bank President David Malpass. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The World Bank has revised its staff rules after Axios reported in December that the bank had asked Taiwanese employees to obtain Chinese passports.

Why it matters: The revised rule, issued on Dec. 19, states that the World Bank gives hiring preference to nationals from member states, but does not prohibit hiring non-member state nationals. China has sought to squeeze out Taiwanese nationals from international institutions. The World Bank's new rules represent a compromise position.

Between the lines: The revised rules include the following addition: "The Bank Group's recruitment policy is to hire staff of the highest caliber, on as wide a geographical basis as possible, with preference to nationals of WBG [World Bank Group] member countries or countries of operations."

Background: Taiwan is not a member state, but Taiwanese nationals have long worked at the World Bank.

  • But in December, Axios reported that the World Bank had begun forcing its Taiwanese staff and prospective hires to produce mainland Chinese passports in order to maintain or secure employment. The World Bank expressed regret for those actions after being contacted by Axios.
  • The Chinese government has waged a decades-long campaign to isolate Taiwan on the international stage and force it out of international institutions. Taiwan is no longer an official member state of any major international organization, including the United Nations, the IMF, the World Health Organization and Interpol.
  • Some organizations, such as the IMF, prohibit the employment of nationals from non-member states.

Seen in that light, the World Bank's new guidelines could be viewed as a compromise position, depending on how the rule is interpreted.

The bottom line: Taiwanese face growing barriers abroad as China has become more aggressive in its attempts to marginalize an island it sees as its own sovereign territory. Even the World Bank's new position represents a further erosion of Taiwan's participation in the international community.

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