China has applied for membership in an international police organization but has attached tough conditions to its application. The Paris-based International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) is one of the few remaining international organizations in which Taiwan holds full membership and China does not.
Interpol's executive committee is expected to submit China's application for membership during the organization's annual meeting, being held in Luxembourg Sept. 4-11.
According to Parris A. Chang, a scholar who has studied this case, China has demanded, among other things:
(1) that the Taiwan delegation to Interpol drop the name ''Republic of China'' (ROC) and use instead ''Taiwan, China'';
(2) that Interpol cease using ''Republic of China'' in its documents and at its conferences and stop flying the ROC flag; and
(3) that the Taiwan delegation be made part of China's delegation. (Taiwan would no longer be able to vote in plenary sessions.)
In a paper presented last week to the American Political Science Association's annual meeting here, Professor Chang argued that demands such as these undermine Peking's ''peace offensive'' toward Taiwan and reinforce the impression that Taiwan's peaceful unification with the mainland is still ''light years away.''
Chang, who is chairman of Asian Area Studies at the Pennsylvania State University, said that Peking is also still trying to oust Taiwan from the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) or at least humiliate Taiwan by forcing it to change its name in order to remain in that international lending organization. This, said Chang, a Taiwan-born US citizen, does not generate good will in Taiwan or inspire confidence toward Peking.
Although Chang and some other observers consider China's conditions for entry into Interpol to be tough, unrealistic, and unfair to Taiwan, those conditions do mark a softening of Peking's approach. At one time, Peking simply demanded Taiwan's ouster from international organizations. Now, it is saying in effect that Taiwan can stay - but only if it yields up its influence and its status as an independent state.
All this is of more than passing significance for the United States. The US wants to encourage China to play a constructive role in international organizations. China's application for membership in Interpol can be seen as a step in that direction. But just as was the case with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) nearly two years ago, the US does not want to see Peking's entry into an international organization add up to a total defeat for Taiwan.
The result has been intricate and sometimes agonizing attempts on the part of the US diplomats to find compromises that will permit Peking's entry into a given organization while preserving some semblance of influence and dignity for Taiwan.
In the case of the Asian Development Bank, the State Department has argued that Taiwan has played a ''constructive role'' not only in the bank but also in the region as a whole. And in a statement on the subject last year, the State Department said many members of the US Congress ''believe strongly that Taiwan should be permitted to continue to participate'' in the ADB.
''We share this concern and hope that it can be met within the context of our policy that the people's Republic of China is the sole legal government of China ,'' the State Department said.
''This is another issue on which we are in danger of being backed into a corner and forced to choose between support for the PRC and support for Taiwan, '' said a congressional specialist concerning China's application to join Interpol. But the State Department's statement makes it clear that the US will do everything possible to avoid, or at least delay, that choice. It is the kind of choice which diplomats are paid to avoid.