For our last part of this series exploring the three taboo topics for China, we look at the nation of Taiwan. For all intents and purposes, I will be referring to Taiwan as an independent nation. As a former resident of nine years on the island, it was very clear that Taiwan acted just like any other independent nation, unlike what some other superpower nations might have us believe, that it’s “part of China.”
Taiwan has its own money, regular parliamentary and presidential elections, and unlike China, more than one party in power. Some may even say Taiwan speaks a somewhat different language than China, calling it “Taiwan Chinese”, as opposed to the regular brand of Mandarin Chinese spoken by most native speakers. The topic of Taiwan is an especially touchy one because China sees Taiwan as the “rogue province” and most of the powerful nations in the world don’t officially recognize Taiwan as a independent nation, including the US. The US, however, still deals with Taiwan as a separate entity through official channels and also from time to time has sold Taiwan military assets.
The history of Taiwan begins at the discovery of the island by the Portuguese in 1542, when they sighted an uncharted island and named it “Ilha Formosa”, meaning “Beautiful Island.” The name Formosa stuck well into the 20th century among English speakers. The name Taiwan came about from the early 17th century when the Dutch East India Company opened a port on the coast and derived a similar name based upon the words spoken by the indigenous peoples. This later evolved into the name of “Taiwan” as we know it today. The island later developed into an establishment called the “Taiwan Prefecture” in 1684, and then into the “Republic of China” in 1912. The establishment of the ROC is a pivotal time in Taiwan’s history as it is legally used to measure the year. While it is presently the year 2019, at the time of this article, it is “Republic of China’s 107th Year” and notated as such on many things from official documents to convenience store receipts.
Where Taiwan became a real problem for Mainland China was in what is known as the Chinese Civil War, which lasted between 1927-1949. The war was fought primarily in China between the Kuomintang (KMT) nationalist party of China against the Communist Party of China (CPC). When the KMT lost the war in 1949, they fled to Taiwan and China became the People’s Republic of China, with Taiwan to become the modern day Republic of China.
The resulting tensions between China and Taiwan only continued into present day, as even across multiple leadership changes in both countries, Taiwan and China are still on alert about each other. With the US as a silent ally to Taiwan and the largest trader with China, it only exacerbates the problem on a daily basis for Taiwanese residents.
Growing up, I would participate in regular air-raid drills in elementary school, where all classes in school would retreat into the basement and follow procedures to cover our ears and eyes to prepare us from getting injured from the ever-present threat of a Chinese invasion. Soundtracks of planes flying over and bombing the school would be played over the intercom to simulate the drill. I would also hear news outlets share intelligence reports from the ROC government of the military assets China has allocated for an invasion to something of the tune of 500 ballistic missiles aimed at the island. Whole cities would also hold air-raid drills for the whole day, where residents weren’t allowed to go outside or else violators would be arrested; Taiwan took the communist threat seriously.
Under President Xi Jinping in China, major moves have been made to escalate the issue of forcing Taiwan to “peacefully reunify” with the mainland. Propaganda videos of the People’s Liberation Army (China’s army) flying jets with songs in the background of “long lost brothers reuniting”, and footage of the Taiwan countryside cut between shots of fighter jets. Xi has also made statements that Taiwan’s continued attitude of being an independent nation is a “dead end.”
While Taiwan doesn’t want any military conflict with China, China continues to deny the sovereignty of Taiwan with its postures and statements made by officials, no matter the administration since the Chinese Civil War. Knowing full well that the world, and more importantly the US, is watching, China cannot engage Taiwan without retaliation from much of the world’s nations. Then again, most of the world also cannot officially recognize Taiwan’s independence as it could jeopardize trade relations with China (being a large producer of goods). The situation is delicate but also shows the priorities of governments around the world, the US in particular, are more in line with their interests rather than the interests of the principles they may claim to adhere to. In the interest of liberty and independence, Taiwan should be treated as an independent nation. In the interests of governments looking out for their interests of money and maintained power, Taiwan is an entity treated as part of China on paper, while as an independent nation in practice.
Looking back at our history of pursuing independence under threat of a tyrannical government seeking for us to placate to their demands without a differing opinion on governance, the US should recognize Taiwan as the independent nation it is, because at one point, a certain France recognized America for its fight against the British Empire.
Read more from Amos at Think Liberty here.