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TAIWAN INDEPENDENCE
OR UNIFICATION?

(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 04:07:57 PM)

he most pressing Asian foreign policy issue currently faced by the U.S. is the Taiwan question. The email we receive in reaction to our articles relating to this issue suggests that it's an emotional one for many of our readers. Perhaps one reason for the emotion is the fact that the issue isn't amenable to an easy or simple solution.
     The first historical mention of Taiwan appears to have been when Portugese traders found it to be a resting place on their journey to Japan and named it Isla Formosa. Beijing's claim to Taiwan dates back to the 16th century when a Chinese general fought off the Portugese to claim the island for the emperor. In 1897 the expansion-minded Japanese annexed it after defeating China in a war on the Corean peninsula. China briefly reestablished sovereignty over Taiwan following Japan's defeat in August of 1945.
     At the time the official government of China, as recognized by most nations of the world, was under the control of the Kuomingtang headed by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. He was engaged in a desperate war against Mao Tse-tung's peasant army. Despite billions of dollars of aid by the U.S. based mainly on intensely partisan reporting by Henry Luce's Time/Life empire, the spectacularly corrupt Chiang lost that war and fled to Taiwan with 2.5 million followers.
     He established the present government of Taiwan on December 7, 1949 and proclaimed it the sole legitimate government of all China. Mao made the same claim. The claims competed until 1971 when it became clear to most of the world that Mao's was more persuasive. Taiwan was kicked out of the UN. The Beijing government took its place as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a seat given in recognition of China's role in fighting Japan in World War II.
     Mired in its own misguided war in Vietnam, and intensely fearful of anything red, the U.S. was one of the last nations to recognize the legitimacy of Mao's government. In 1972 Richard Nixon made his historic journey to Beijing. In 1976 the U.S. took the next step by recognizing the People's Republic as China's sole legitimate government. It began pursuing the "One China, One Taiwan" policy under which official diplomatic contacts were exclusively with Beijing but continued to sell billions of dollars a year of fighter jets, helicopters, tanks and missiles to Taiwan to help defend against a possible Chinese effort to refunify by force.
     In 1997 President Clinton declared a "strategic partnership" with Beijing over intense Republican objections. It was an astute recognition of the fact that China's 1.2 billion people must be accorded a central place in U.S. foreign policy. But the historic, moral and economic ties that bind the U.S. to Taiwan's 23 million people stand squarely in the way of cutting off arms sales and renouncing the pact under which the U.S. obliged itself to come to Taiwan's defense in the event of attack by China. That U.S. pledge and continuing arms sales continue to inflame Beijing to periodic bursts of violent anti-U.S. rhetoric.
     Taiwan has been a domocracy since 1989 when it legalized opposition parties. It held its first democratic presidential elections in 1990. Lee Teng-hui handily won to keep the presidency which he had originally gained in 1988. Lee won again in 1996. Since 1997 he began efforts to warm up relations with Beijing by agreeing to enter into negotiations under a "One-China" framework with an eye toward eventual reunification. Beijing's leaders continued their highly successful campaign of pressuring diplomatic partners into severing ties with Taiwan. China even raised hell when Lee made a semi-surreptitious trip to New York in 1997. Since then China has scared neighborning nations like the Philippines into not allowing Lee to enter. As of 1999 Taiwan's diplomatic allies number about 18 out of about 220 nations on earth. All are tiny, impoverished Central American, African and Pacific Island nations that appreciate Taiwan's generous aid packages. Pago Pago is considered a major ally.
     Feisty Lee Teng-hui launched his own guerilla offensive in July, 1999 by declaring over German radio that Taiwan was in fact a separate state and would negotiate with Beijing on an equal footing. That sent Beijing into a tizzy. It fired off bombastic threats to take Taiwan by force and to annhilate the U.S. Navy if it intervenes. On October 18 during his British visit Chinese President Jiang Zemin assumed a softer, more relaxed tone in telling a London newspaper that China would be peacefully reunited with Taiwan under a one-nation two-systems formula by the middle of the next century. One might have expected Lee to have been relieved by that statement. Instead, he brushed it aside as "a hoax". China should try instead to set a timetable for its democratization as that was the only way to ensure reunification, sneered Lee's Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi. Most polls show that a clear majority of Taiwanese prefer to maintain the status quo indefinitely rather than moving toward unification.
     Beijing's reunification mandate appears based on the idea that in winning the mainland, the Chinese people had rejected the "criminal" Kuomingtang and its right to rule any part of China. It also sees Taiwan as a galling symbol of the division wrought and preserved by western imperialists -- namely, the U.S. -- seeking to enjoy global hegemony at the expense of Chinese dignity.
     Meanwhile the U.S. remains on the hook to defend Taiwan and sell it arms though doing so keeps its relations with a quarter of humanity rocky and on edge. Under its current policy the U.S. is the asbestos firewall that keeps friction between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait from igniting into war.
     Should the U.S. continue alienating Beijing to help Taiwan protect its independence or improve relations with China by pressuring Taiwan to reunite?

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WHAT YOU SAY

[This page is closed to new input. --Ed.]
Many who claim that Taiwan is part of China or should be "reunited"- let me place a bet that most (not all) of you are either don't have relatives in Taiwan, are from Mainland China (or descendants), or are waishengren Taiwanese. The waishengren (most)came to Taiwan after 1949 with hopes of returning back to Taiwan.

The majority of Taiwan's people have lived there for generations and have a vested interest in Taiwan. They want the status quo (and if it were not for the unjustified threat by China, they would probably outright support official declaration of independence of Taiwan). But, we should let the people in Taiwan alone determine the fate of Taiwan. However, let's face it, Taiwan is quite different from China. I don't see any gains for Taiwan to become part of China except for some exaggerated Chinese nationalistic pride. People (and China) should give Taiwan a chance-where Taiwan and China can peacefully co-exist and trade with each other.
Ilha Formosa    Monday, October 29, 2001 at 08:45:14 (PST)
Half Truth,

Taiwan is not part of China simply because some Fujianese settled it. End of story!
Taiwan    Sunday, October 28, 2001 at 20:41:45 (PST)
A Hong Kong Citizen born in Mainland China,

Right on! Finally, somebody with some sense. Too many people here are caught up with some Chinese nation notion that they have to conquer all this terroritory to be strong or for some inflated pride. That's all B.S.

Self-determination is the way.
Lay Off Taiwan!!!    Sunday, October 28, 2001 at 20:27:59 (PST)
To Chinese patriot:

"Today, think of this: by reuniting Taiwan gets dignity and many broken families can finally get reunion. By denying your Chinese heritage you are just becoming the bitch of the Japanese and Americanos." What to @#$#$ are you talking about???!!!! So, it's better for the Taiwanese to be "bitch" of the Communist Chinese???!!!!

Chinese heritage does not entitle China to claim Taiwan as a nation. If that were the case, then they could claim Singapore.

To reality check: the how did the Han people get to Taiwan and Taiwan being part of China is irrelevant. They settlers did not claim Taiwan for China.

I can't understand why so many people think Taiwan is part of China simply because of some Southern Chinese descedants settled there.

Face it, majority of the people in Taiwan don't want to be part of China. Leave them alone!!! Get a grip and stop living in some fantasy land!

I just notice many waishengren Taiwanese (who are the minority in Taiwan) want Taiwan to be part of China, most of the rest want the status quo or not unify.


Then the comment that "It has always been the dream of our founding father, Dr. Sun Yat-sen to see a united China."- Sun Yat-sen was the founder of the KMT- that don't represent the sentiment of the Taiwanese people.

I really hope you don't think the way that one Chinese-American person felt: she thought that the majority of Taiwanese came to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek. That's totally absurd. Chiang and his croonies never truly represented the majority of Taiwanese. So, stop using dreams of the early KMT to represent the sentiment of most Taiwanese.

Let Taiwan Be Free!!!    Sunday, October 28, 2001 at 20:24:02 (PST)
Interesting history guy, listen up,

I don't know how politics got to this point. Okay some argue that Taiwan isn't part of China. Fine. China claimed Taiwan by force in the past. Yes. So did the US claim the west by force.
Second of all, Taiwan was a part of China before 1400. Then the Dutch captured it and governed it for about couple hundred years until Zheng Chengong reclaimed it for the Ming dynasty in the 1600. After that the Qing dynasty finished this little Ming remain and reclaimed it until the japanese took over. But that is all the past.
Today, think of this: by reuniting Taiwan gets dignity and many broken families can finally get reunion. By denying your Chinese heritage you are just becoming the bitch of the Japanese and Americanos.
Chinese Patriot    Sunday, October 28, 2001 at 11:22:15 (PST)
Holo Taiwanese,

As a Cantonese, I agree with you on the need to retain the southern dialects (Min, Yue, Hakka, Chaozao) not because I want to see a separation from other Chinese (Mandarin speakers) but because retention of our dialects is pivotal to understanding China's earlier speech as we are the closest living descendants to the ancient speech of China (Han through Tang eras).

In China, Holo, Cantonese and Hakka will likely survive longer because the local and provincial governments in these southern provinces do not enforce the one language policy. Kids only learn it as a second language in school and university.
Steve    Saturday, October 27, 2001 at 13:39:39 (PDT)
Couple years ago, a Manchu descendant of the Ching imperial line (Aisin-Gioro) commented that it gives much atonement and self pride that Hong Kong has been returned to the motherland (China). It was the Ching emperors who had given away territories (Hong Kong, Taiwan) to foreign occupation.

Many Taiwanese during the Japanese occupation felt betrayed by the motherland (China). When founding father of China's modern era, Dr. Sun Yat-sen made a brief stop in Taiwan on his way for a conference in Tokyo, the Taiwanese natives came out to greet him and wanted him to bring back Taiwan into new China's fold.

When the war was over in 1945, and the Japanese packed up and left, the Taiwanese natives were elated with pride that they were now finally reunited with the motherland (China). But, China at that time was in chaos and anarchy (a century of wars and then an ensuing civil war between Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung).

At that time, the KMT governor of Fujian province was in control of Taiwan. The forces and troops he sent over were not disciplined types. More like bandits. They looted the natives. Then, came a massacre (forgot the exact date?) that cause simmering resentment up to this day.

In 1949, large numbers of refugees from all over China came to resettle in Taiwan under the KMT rule. My uncle left behind his family in Toisan city (Guangdong province) for Taiwan because he was a military officer.

I want Taiwanese compatriots to know that we as a people have suffered. Often, politics was beyond our control due to inept emperors and then the regional warlords who succeeded them during the republican era.

We all should sit down and reassess and reflect, whether we are Taiwanese, Cantonese, northerner, southerner, etc.

It has always been the dream of our founding father, Dr. Sun Yat-sen to see a united China. And, this he included the communists as well as people of Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Chinese living in America    Saturday, October 27, 2001 at 13:27:03 (PDT)
Taiwanese history,

If Taiwan has never really been part of China. Then how did the Taiwanese (Han Chinese) get there?? Stop trying to twist history with bits and pieces of distorted information, half-truths and lies.
reality check    Thursday, October 25, 2001 at 18:03:39 (PDT)
The matter is supposed to be simple: Taiwan's future should be decided by people that are living there or more: those who lived there for, say seven years after eighteen years old(debatable) and declare their belonging to Taiwan. Most people in mainland China have never been in Taiwan; they wish to conquer Taiwan, not to unite her! The word unification has been grossly misused by these people. CCP has tried to suppressed people through unification, including unifying thought---most terrible and horrible mentality I can think of.
A Hong Kong Citizen born in Mainland China    Thursday, October 25, 2001 at 16:58:14 (PDT)

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