In protest against the loss of its UN Security Council seat to the PRC in 1971, the ROC walked out of the UN General Assembly. That ushered in a period of international isolation for Taiwan. In most intergovernmental fora since 1971, the PRC has exerted effective leverage against extending membership or recognition to Taiwan.
But some things have begun to change. For many years, Taiwanese health professionals were seeking Taiwan's readmission to the World Health Organization (WHO) which it left in 1972. But with the election of President Ma Ying-Jeou in 2008, joining the UN as a new country is no longer policy. And in 2009 Beijing agreed to the Taiwan’s participation in WHO activities under the name “Chinese Taipei".
In 1994, Taiwan's office in Washington, D.C., changed its name from "Coordinating Council on North American Affairs" (CCNAA) to "Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO)."
As of 5 August 2006, the ROC had embassies in 24 countries from whose governments it had full diplomatic recognition. According to Hong Kong journalist Frank Ching, "the Vatican... has made clear its willingness to abrogate ties with Taiwan." Withdrawing diplomatic recognition from Taiwan, according to Ching, depends on whether the Pope reaches an accord with the PRC concerning Catholics in China ("Vatican Treads Thin Line in Ties with China," The New Straits Time Online, 12 July 2007). At the same time, Taiwan also continues to have substantive formal economic and cultural relations with more than 150 other countries.
In countries that do not extend full diplomatic recognition to Taiwan, the Taiwanese institution similar to an embassy or a consulate is called the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office or TECO. These offices issue visas, facilitate trade, investment and cultural exchanges, and advocate policies of the home office in Taipei. Although the ROC is self-governing with more power than most nominally independent countries, China's growing international power has prevented Taiwan's admission to most intergovernmental organizations. Unlike Taiwan, neither Hong Kong nor Macau issues its own visas to travelers going abroad.
As democratization proceeded in Taiwan and internationally, the ruling Kuomintang (Guomindang ["Nationalist Party"]) copied an election campaign plank from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party program in 1993 and began conducting a global media campaign for readmission to the UN. A byproduct of the campaign has been a higher profile for Taiwan in news reports, advertisements and editorials in the mass media of many countries whose governments refuse to extend formal diplomatic recognition to Taipei. Among international nongovernmental organizations, Taiwanese NGOs are represented. However, according to some Taiwanese, more initiative could be taken to interact with NGOs elsewhere.
In early November 2001, fifteen years of effort by the People's Republic of China met success with the PRC's admission as a developing nation to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Meanwhile, on 31 October 2001, Taiwan's Legislative Yuan passed fourteen laws and regulations to facilitate accession to the WTO, according to President Chen Shui-bian's report. Taiwan was admitted to the WTO "one hour after a signing ceremony for its larger rival." Concluding a twelve-year accession process, the WTO agreed to classify Taiwan as a "separate customs territory." After the accession documents were reviewed and approved by Taiwan's Legislative Yuan and deposited with the WTO, Taiwan officially became a member of the WTO in early 2002.