The Taiwan Trilogy (On Taiwan’s Status and Taiwan-China Relations) (I)…台湾三部曲(第一部曲)…

05Jan08

If anyone has realised, although my blog is titled ‘Chinese Chic’, I have never really written on China or China-related issues. This year, being the Year of the Chinese Olympics held in Beijing as well as China’s continued phenomenal economic and political rise on the world stage, I shall write my first post on a China-related issue-that of Taiwan.
This post shall detail my thoughts on my other homeland of Taiwan, its current diplomatic situation, political situation, its cultural might and influence in the Chinese-speaking world, as well as the much debated issue of Taiwanese ‘independence’ or ‘reunification’ with China. I shall state my opinions as well as position on all these issues via the Taiwan Trilogy posts which shall also include my thoughts on the Presidential Elections in Taiwan in March this year.
Taiwan as an Independent Nation(台湾民国):
Firstly, I must state my most basic position in regards to Taiwan.
That is: Taiwan is an independent country, a sovereign nation.
Regardless of what China might insist on, it is an UNDENIABLE FACT that Taiwan has been an independent country since a long time and has NEVER BEEN a part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This is as anyone whom has a cursory knowledge of Chinese history would know that the Communist Party of China only came into power in China in 1949 and has never controlled Taiwan before. It was the Manchurian Qing Dynasty which ruled Taiwan before its accession to imperial Japan in 1895 and the KMT Nationalist government which reclaimed Taiwan from Japan in 1945 after WW2. Thus, the current CCP govt in China simply does not have any legitimate claim over Taiwan. In fact, it would be the Qing govt, if it were still existing, which would have a greater claim over Taiwan than the Communist Party of China ruling over China now.
Taiwan has its own parliament, own military force, own police force, own education system and syllabus, own democratically elected president and vice-president, own cabinet and government departments, own postal service, own healthcare system, own laws, as well as many other characteristics of a sovereign nation. One may point out that Taiwan is not recognised as a nation by most countries of the world, has no diplomatic embassies in most countries nor diplomatic relations with most nations and is not even in the U.N.. However, not being recognised by others as a nation does not mean that it ISN”T a nation. Many countries, in particular the people of countries around the world often do differentiate between Chinese (from the PRC) and Taiwanese and many governments around the world do not recognise the Taiwanese government not because they sincerely believe in the legitimacy of China’s claim over Taiwan, but rather, in difference towards China’s economic and political might on the world stage currently.
The Independence/Reunification Question(統・独問題):
My position that Taiwan is a country thus leads to two questions: When did it become a country?? If Taiwan is now a country, then how would this relate to the independence/reunification question?? (統独問題)
The first question is a very complicated one and i would put the date at which Taiwan became an independent country as 1945. This is as one can argue that Taiwan was never really independent until the dictatorial KMT Nationalist government (国民党)was voted out of office in 2000 or that Taiwan is still not an independent country as the Constitution still states that it is the Constitution of the Republic of China and that Taiwan’s official name and flag still carries that of the Republic of China (中華民国). However, the reality is that Taiwan possesses all the characteristics of an independent nation and also is a ‘convenient myth’ that the Republic of China still exists now and thus I think the most appropriate answer and date would be 1945 as Taiwan’s independence date.
South Korea provides a good example to follow. The South Korean state was established officially in 1947 and Korean independence is officially set as being in 1945, the year the Korean peninsula was liberated from Japanese colonialism. One could argue, along the lines of those whom deny the independent status of Taiwan, that South Korea has not achieved independence yet given that it is still not reunified with North Korea. Further, S.Korea was under military dictatorship until only 1992 so some could again argue that it didn’t become truly independent until 1992 with a change to civilian rule. Now, that would be an unwise and impractical analysis and thus the same rationale can be applied to Taiwan.
It does not matter that the KMT ruled Taiwan until 2000 or that martial law in Taiwan only ended in 1987, Taiwan’s independence date should be set as 1945, the date when it was released from Japan’s colonial governance. Otherwise, to set the date for independence at 1987 (when martial law ended) or 2000 (when the DPP Party (民進党) came into power) would mean other SEA nations would also have to postpone their independence date to the date when they could freely elect their own governments such as indonesia in 1998 and the philippines in 1987 with people power I. (In places like Malaysia and Singapore where there is still no true democracy with restrictive media censorship laws in place, lack of rallies and protest rights, and dictatorial laws such as the Internal Security Act which allows for indefinite detention without trial, one can argue is there ‘true independence’ now so many years after Western colonial powers have left??)
Thus Taiwan’s independence for me occurred on October 1945 with the official handing over ceremony to the KMT from Japanese hands.
The second question has been a hot political topic in Taiwan for at least the past 10 years. If my position that Taiwan has been an independent nation since 1945 is agreed upon (or at some later date), then the option is not of ‘Taiwanese independence’ or ‘Reunification with mainland China’ is it???
The option now for Taiwan and its citizens is really either maintaining the status quo (of independence) or reunification with China. Thus its really silly to continue debating over the pros and cons of Taiwanese independence or for the Chinese media to always mention ‘Taiwanese independence’ as the ‘taboo’ word when the matter of the fact is that Taiwan is already an independent nation. Thus, polls have consistently shown that Taiwanese people overwhelmingly want to maintain the status quo, with some stating that they wish to maintain the status quo FOREVER. What this means is that Taiwanese people want Taiwan to remain independent forever. Some take this to mean Taiwan’s people want Taiwan to remain non-independent non-reunification with China but maintaining the status quo really means maintaining Taiwanese independence as the status quo now=Taiwan as an independent nation, regardless of what some would choose to interpret otherwise.
Therefore, what Taiwan now needs to choose is whether to maintain its status as an independent nation or to opt for ‘reunification’ with mainland China or even to choose a third option, that of a federation/commonwealth framework with China.
Taiwan-China Relations (台中関係):
China, on the other hand, must learn to give Taiwan more space in the international arena if it is to win the hearts and minds of Taiwanese. It cannot keep insisting on treating Taiwan as a renegade ‘province’ and the Taiwanese government as ‘illegitimate’ and continue to stifle Taiwan’s diplomatic space by bully-mongering nations into preventing Taiwan’s president from making diplomatic stopovers (it does this all the time) or insisting that UN agencies go thru it over Taiwan’s affairs when it has practically no control over Taiwan’s affairs (eg. the SARS crisis in 2003 is a prime example whereby Taiwan, not being a WHO member, was denied access to international help and assistance as China insisted on the WHO going thru it, China, on the SARS crisis in Taiwan).
The One-Country Two Systems Proposal (一国两制):
This is not a feasible or implementable proposal in relation to Taiwan even if it were to decide to ‘reunify’ with China. This is as Taiwan cannot be treated in the same manner as Hong Kong or Macau for one simple reason. Taiwan was never a colony and is currently not a colony (since WW2) unlike Hong Kong and Macau which were Western colonies and had no choice in deciding whether or not to return to China. Lets not forget that many Hong Kongers were reluctant to return to Chinese rule (many immigrated in the 80s and 90s before the 1997 handover in fear of CCP rule. Many have since returned to HK encouraged by the continued prosperity of Hong Kong and the rapid economic growth of mainland China.) and actually preferred British colonial rule and had no input into whether to return to Chinese rule or not. The decision was made by the British government who had to return Kowloon and the New Territories under a lease signed with the Qing govt. and so decided, out of practicality, that Hong Kong Island had to be returned as well. The same applies to Macau whereby the Portuguese government had already signed an agreement which mandated the return of Macau to China in 1999.
Thus, in both cases, historical agreements mandated their return to China and the one country two systems policy came about as a kind of negotiated compromise to maintain their capitalist systems in harmony with the controlled capitalism of the mainland in the 1980s. (of course no one would have imagined the rapid advance of China’s economy in the 90s and 2000s making it even more ‘capitalist’ and ‘bourgeious’ than HK and Macau.)
Taiwan is not a colony and no agreements have ever been signed mandating a date on which it must return to China and thus, unlike the situation of HK and Macau, the one country two systems proposal simply cannot be applied. This system would also mean a downgrading of Taiwan’s current status as an independent nation with its own legislature, president, education system, military force, police force, etc into one where like Hong Kong, it would not have its own military force, and would effectively become only one of China’s ‘SAR’ along with Hong Kong and Macau as opposed to a fully-fledged nation.
Maybe a new proposal based on some kind of Chinese Commonwealth making Taiwan an equal in a new ‘Chinese Commonwealth’ with mainland China could be proposed in the future.
Until then, and with the current social consensus in Taiwan, it is unlikely that Taiwan will ‘reunify’ with China anytime soon.
This post dealt with my position on Taiwan and its status as well as Taiwan-China relations, my next post in the ‘Taiwan Trilogy’ shall continue with my analysis on Taiwan-China relations as well as my thoughts on Taiwan’s political parties as well as the Taiwanese Presidential Elections coming in March…….. stay tuned for more thought provoking and insightful posts on Taiwan in my Taiwan Trilogy:)
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18 Responses to “The Taiwan Trilogy (On Taiwan’s Status and Taiwan-China Relations) (I)…台湾三部曲(第一部曲)…”

  1. 1 aimlesswanderer

    I think you are right, but since when has “face” had anything to do with either logic or reality? The CCP want to get their hands on all the territory they can get (hello occupied Tibet), and any excuse will do. I think that the CCP is also annoyed that they haven’t quite finished (ie won) the civil war, with Taiwan a constant reminder of their failure to achieve complete victory.

    It’s also a convenient issue that the CCP can inflame every now and again to distract their subjects from the CCP’s corruption and rampant unemployment.

  2. 2 hcpen 彭皓全

    aimlesswanderer: Completely Agree:)

  3. 3 aimlesswanderer

    I’m not sure how it will get sorted out, and it might well persist for ages. Democracy in China may not solve it either.

    Hopefully the Taiwanese won’t overly provoke the mainland into doing something rash. I just hope they don’t start lobbing missles at each other, or it could be hello WWIII.

  4. 4 hcpen 彭皓全

    aimlesswanderer: Yeah, thats true, but i don’t think taiwan does any ‘provoking’ at all, the only party doing the provoking as far as i can see is CHINA with its aggressive speeches about invading taiwan, the anti-secession law it passed legalising the invasion of taiwan in ’05 and various infringements on taiwan’s sovereignty. Actually, with democracy in china, it may help the situation abit as at least some voices against attacking china can be heard.

  5. 5 aimlesswanderer

    When Taiwan’s politicians start saying things like they want to declare independence, that’s just pouring oil on the fire, and they know it-but it is sometimes popular. Then the Chinese start saying things like they’d invade Taiwan if they declared independence, and stage war games nearby, simulating an invasion of Taiwan. Then the Taiwanese and yanks stage wargames of their own simulating a defence of Taiwan. Next the Chinese ‘test fire’ new missles near Taiwan. The yanks sell Taiwan a big chunk of advanced military hardware. The Russians sell the Chinese a big chunk of advanced military hardware, and the Chinese military keeps growing rapidly…. and on it goes.

    I hope that the massive investment Taiwanese have made in China (being the largest foreign investor by a margin), and the economic chaos that would result al over the world if there was a war (not to mention casualties and regional stability) dissuade both sides from doing anything stupid. We can only hope.

    I am not sure if democracy will help the situation, as politicians often look for a scapegoat (esp a foreign one) to blame things on, to deflect attention to their failings on the home front and to bring the country together by rallying around the flag. Politicians in a democratic country can whip up enough sentiment to invade a country (Iraq anyone?), especially if there is a less than free media (‘democracy’ doesn’t necessarily = a free media, or even decent elections, eg Russia) and some historical animosity. Not to mention that cronies may stand to gain financially from the venture.

    I just hope that China, which wants to be seen as a ‘responsible’ emerging world power that no one should be afraid of, lives up to that billing.

  6. 6 hcpen 彭皓全

    aimlesswanderer: I doubt war or conflict would occur in the near future over the Taiwan issue as too much is at stake for BOTH China and Taiwan. China’s economy is booming now and it wants to be recognised as the next superpower as well as to be well respected in the world. It knows that invading Taiwan would throw its economy (as well as that of the entire world and asia) back 30 years if a war occurs. Also, attacking Taiwan would also be counter-productive in gaining international respect as well as indeed taiwanese people’s hearts and minds.

    China will probably not attack Taiwan taking into account all the international condemnation envisaged as well as international and domestic economic harm it would definitely unleash. And with the Olympic Games in Beijing this year, we can be safe for 2008 at least…and i am sure Taiwan would know better than to declare independence (which is unnecessary given that it is already independent!)and get itself involved in a war with China a war it is gonna lose anyway!

  7. 7 aimlesswanderer

    Independent for all intents and purposes is different from going around shouting it to the world. ATM China only minds if Taiwanese politicians start talking about doing it officially – symbolic though it may be.

    That is, I hope, true, and I would much rather there not be a war. I can’t see any reason now why it might occur in the short term, given the massive economic and diplomatic ramifications, however, who knows what the situation will be like in the future? A desperate or massively powerful government (China’s, the unless the Taiwanese are either suicidal or crazy or have acquired gundams) in the future might think that a war with Taiwan sounds like a good idea. Governments have started wars for illogical and irrational reasons in the past and will likely do so in the future.

    You’re right, ATM the Chinese govt weighs up the pros (very few if any) and cons (an awful lot) and decides to just periodically make speeches and propaganda to inflame public opinion. Let’s hope that the worst that gets lobbed over the straights are propaganda broadcasts. In the meantime they have a substantial number of missles, troops and military hardware pointing at or close to Taiwan, and have made piles of detailed plans about a hypothetical invasion-just in case.

    On 10 September 2001, who would have thought that the US would, within 1.5 years, invade both Afghanistan and Iraq?

    Hopefully the two countries will grow closer together economically and culturally, and there will be a peaceful, voluntary reunification, with 2 free democratic countries joining together.

    I think the most likely scenario for a war would be if the US dramatically fell from its position as the most powerful country in the world and its place was taken by China, who occupy a similar position to the US now-unchallenged military and economic supremacy (this would mean that India or even Russia somehow went off the rails, or that Europe hadn’t become one entity). In that case, with unparalleled economic, military and political strength, China might decide to forcefully reintegrate Taiwan with the motherland. If the US (and everyone else) were not able or willing to help Taiwan, then the Chinese government might well decide that it is worth it if the Taiwanese refuse to ‘voluntarily’ join up. Empires/countries which are far more powerful than any of their rivals have, historically (eg Rome), tended to act arrogantly-it’s a human thing. But that’s unlikely, at least I hope so, for any of my future descendant’s sakes.

  8. 8 hcpen

    aimlesswanderer: yeah, i agree with your thoughts generally but for me, reunification between China and Taiwan is ultimately a decision for the Taiwanese people and is a choice, not a must.

  9. 9 aimlesswanderer

    It is a choice, and I think it’s likely that there will be a time when the Taiwanese decide that signing up is a good idea.

    On another note, I was looking through your archives. Japan is a very strange place-from the outside and from the inside.

    Your post about the problems with Japan and its denial that it did anything wrong and the contrast between its and Germany’s post war behaviour is, unfortunately, all too true.

    AFAIK none of my relos were abused or killed by the Japanese, thankfully. My dad however, still has, err, problems with them. He thinks they might remilitarise and do it all over again, and he wouldn’t go to Japan “because of what they did”. Neither my brother or I suspected this, until it came out when we told him we were going there for a holiday. I guess it’s an understandable legacy of Japan’s previous actions, not helped by their denials and dodgy education.

    Yeye didn’t mention anything bad when he talked about HK during the war – not that he would have, thinking about it. He and mama went to Japan in the 60s for business and had a good time, though I don’t think he’s the sort to hold grudges.

  10. 10 hcpen 彭皓全

    aimlesswanderer: Yeah, Japan is a difficult country to understand. It is still troubled by historical problems which just won’t go away:)

    I am assuming that you are originally from Hong Kong given that u talked about ur grandpa and HK during the war…well, Hong Kong didn’t really suffer as much during the war (of cos stuff like food shortages,etc was commonplace) which is prob why your grandparents don’t have much bad memories.

  11. 11 aimlesswanderer

    The Japanese missed out on a great oportunity to clear the slate and go forward without alot of baggage. I can understand the need to deny that your country did anything wrong, but that has just perpetuated the mess…. no wonder many younger Japanese are perplexed when them pesky furriners asked them about massacres and terrible experiments, and when said furriners get upset at their deliberately induced ignorance.

    However, there is much to admire about Japan. A strange but interesting place, as you would have found out during your stay.

    Yeye stayed in HK and mama and kids went back to the village. There wasn’t much to eat and that’s about all I’ve heard about it, besides that the Japanese soldiers liked sugar. Reminds me that I should ask yeye about it next time.

    Well, from Dad’s side of the family I am, but yeye and mama were originally from Guangzhou, and from mum’s side too (though goong goong from Shanghai?). I was born here, as was mum and porpor and tai por (goong?) and maybe further back. So if any stupid bugger tells me to “go back to where I came from” he’s gonna get it.

    I am very westernised, and my very limited Japanese is much better than my Cantonese. You’ve got very impressive language skills!

  12. 12 hcpen 彭皓全

    aimlesswanderer: I see…so ur mother and you were both born and bred Aussies whilst your dad was originally an immigrant from HK?

    Thanks for ur compliments:)

    PS: How old r u and what is ur occupation now?

  13. 13 aimlesswanderer

    Mum and are, but I get mistaken for a local in HK and even Japan. My genes are about 97% Chinese. Dad came here when he was 10, so he is pretty westernised too. Now that I think about it, it’s a pity that he didn’t teach me Cantonese when I was a kid, though at the time I was quite happy not to.

    I’m 27, currently trying to find a job that is interesting-not much idea what though, which is somewhat problematic. I’ve got a BCom majoring in demographics.

  14. 14 hcpen 彭皓全

    aimlesswanderer: Thanks for the intro…yeah, its a pity you weren’t taught Cantonese as a kid, it would be handy to know an extra language now:)

  15. 15 aimlesswanderer

    Yeah, no worries.

    It’s so ironic that the KMT won the parliamentary elections in Taiwan promising closer relations with China, given that they and the CCP were, less than 60 years ago, shooting at each other!

  16. 16 hcpen 彭皓全

    aimlesswanderer: Yeah, ironic isn’t it? And the CCP actually prefers the KMT nowv over the DPP!! Who would have thought of that? How times can change people and circumstances…

  17. 17 aimlesswanderer

    Yeah, I guess that it is a hopeful sign for the future-that formerly bitter enemies can get along after a relatively short amount of time.

  18. 18 hcpen 彭皓全

    aimlesswanderer: Yeah..


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