The International Monetary Fund yesterday finessed once again, the claim of the People's Republic of China to the seat in the organization now held by the Nationalist Chinese government in Taiwan.
Faced with the need of deciding whether the People's Republic or the Nationalist Government is entitled to receive about $15 million worth of gold, the IMF allocated it to neither, and postponed the issue until April 1, 1977.
According to reports, there was a sharp division of opinion among countries in the IMF, with a majority arguing that Taiwan is the legal representative of China within the IMF, and that the postponement of the gold delivery is a discrimination.
In effect, yesterday's action tells the Communist authorities in Peking that if they are serious about joining the IMF, they should make formal application by April 1. Many international authorities feel that Peking is not interested in IMF membership, but simply wishes to see Taiwan booted out.
Last September, just prior to the IMF's annual meeting in Manila, the IMF received a cable from the president of the People's Bank of China, challenging the right of the Taiwanese to China's seat in the IMF.
The message was similar to one received at the annual meeting in Nairobi in 1973, but had one new element: It demanded that the IMF act preserve China's assest in the IMF for the People's Republic.
Had the People's Republic actually applied for admission, there would have been an almost certain acceptance of the Communist government, and expulsion of Taiwan.
But since the People's Republic apparently was not ready to accept the obligations of membership, including convertibility of its currency and information about its economy, the question of who is entitled to membership was not taken up at Manila, and passed over to the executive directors.
The question might have been put on the back-burner, as it was after the original Communist request in 1973.
But the question of gold restitution intervened. As a companion piece to the sale of one-sixth of the IMF gold for the benefit of poor nations, the IMF under an agreement reached last year also is restituting - giving back - one sixth of the original gold deposited by member countries.
It is doing this in four annual steps. Each step involves returning 6.25 million ounces of gold, or about $800 million at current market prices. China's initial share would be a small part about $15 million.
Although the original Chinese membership in the IMF goes back to the beginnings of the IMF in 1945, all of the gold put up by China came from Taiwan, in August, 1970. Since that time, however, Taiwan has borrowed 100 per cent of that gold deposit in dollars.
When the question came before the IMF last week, a proposal by the United States and others to give the gold to Taiwan was blocked by the French government, with support from Belgium, India, Iran, Syria and others.
At a session yesterday morning, the directors approved a compromise proposed by IMF managing director H. J. Witteveen, under which the gold will be placed in escrow until April 1, at which time it will go to Taiwan unless the People Republic indicates by then it is ready to assume the obligations of membership.