The Problematic Relations Between China And Taiwan

free essayOn the first of October, 1949, the Chinese people obtained a great victory in the new democratic revolution and proclaimed the People’s Republic of China. Thus, Kuomintang group retreated to Taiwan Province of China. Relying on the support of foreign forces, they took a position confronting the Central Government. Thus, the question of Taiwan emerged.

The resolution of the Taiwan question and realization of a complete reunification of China is related with the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation. Over the past 50 years, the Chinese government has led a relentless struggle for the realization of the abovementioned goals. Since 1979, China has shown a complete dedication in taking various actions aimed at reaching a peaceful unification of the country under the concept of ‘one country – two systems.’ The principle of one China was formed in the course of the just struggle of the Chinese people for the protection of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is established on both the factual and legal basis. Taiwan is an integral Chinese part. As a result, by the end of 1987, there has been a significant expansion of economic, cultural and personal exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

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Numerous facts as well as legal acts in respect of Taiwan indicate that it is an integral Chinese part. In 1895, Japan unleashed a war against China and forced the government of Qing to sign the unfair Treaty of Shimonoseki which resulted in the Taiwan occupation. In 1937, the Japanese people unleashed the war against the Chinese. In 1941, in the Declaration of the war against Japan, the Chinese government clearly told the world that from then, all the treaties, conventions, contracts and agreements, including the Treaty of Shimonoseki that affected the Sino-Japanese relations were denounced. That fact implied the return of Taiwan under the Chinese jurisdiction. In 1943, China, the United States, and the Great Britain signed the Cairo Declaration which stipulated that all lands Japan had occupied in China, namely the Penghu Islands and the island of Taiwan, should be returned to the Chinese. The Potsdam Declaration signed by the Great Britain and China in 1945, (subsequently it was joined by the USSR), stated clearly that “the terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out.” In the same year, Japan signed the act and announced its unconditional surrender. The document stipulated that Japan sincerely accepted all the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration. On the 25th of October, the government of China announced the freedom of Taiwan and the Penghu Islands occupied by the Japanese. Thus, the abovementioned territories appeared again under the Chinese sovereignty. Today, the Chinese government is actively and sincerely committed to the implementation of a peaceful reunification of the country. In this regard, the Chinese government has repeatedly advocated the calling for equitable negotiations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait on the basis of the one-China principle.

The relationship between China Mainland and Taiwan is a hotly debated topic in the society. In order to gather more information and obtain specific knowledge of this complex issue, a number of sources were used, namely Evergreen Valley College Library Card Catalog, Academic Search Premier, Lexis-Nexis Academic, Google Scholar, CNN News Database, as well as NBC News Database. This amount of sources was substantial for achieving more information and understanding the essence of the issue in-depth. The keywords used for the search were ‘China Mainland and Taiwan’, ‘Chinese-Taiwan problem’, ‘Chinese-Taiwan relations’, ‘Chinese-Taiwan issue history’. In addition, two representatives of each state were found and interviewed via Skype.

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Interview One – China’s Representative

In order to reveal the Chinese point of view, an interview was conducted with Li Peng. He is an ordinary Chinese man, who works as a tour guide accompanying the tourists during their trips to China. He was born in 1952 and is 64 years old now. The interviewee has a great life experience, including communication with a substantial number of people that can be characterized by the diversity of worldviews. Li Peng said that a long history of the Taiwan-Chinese relations is an absolutely natural process which began long before the rise of the Taiwanese nationalists. It all started as a part of the struggle against the Kuomintang who argued that their homeland is China, while Taiwan is only a temporary stop on the way. They believed that Shanghai, the Great Wall and the Yangtze River are the foundation of their identity. In 1972, the United States of America severed ties with Taiwan, and in 1978, they were expelled from the UN. Li Peng said that there was a catastrophic identity crisis – ‘If we are not China, then who are we? If the whole world tells you that you are not China, and the Chinese are someone else, there is a reason to consider the adequacy of our own value system’. When Peng was little, they learned only China’s geography, and nobody really knew what Taiwan was.

Peng sincerely believes that the island of Taiwan is the Chinese territory. He says that the facts and many legal documents testify this. The interviewee finds it to be sad that the state of hostility between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait has not yet been brought to an end. China wants a peaceful reunification with Taiwan, but it also does not exclude the use of force. Almost all ‘native Chinese’ lands have been reunited into one country. There is only Taiwan, the accession of which is the most painful and acute problem of China’s domestic policy.

Peng states that for the sake of protecting China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national reunification, the Chinese government has the reasonable right to resort to any necessary means. Although, of course, the interviewee considers a peaceful reunification based on the principle of ‘one country – two systems’ the most optimal way.

Peng considers that the main problem is the fact that the vast majority of the Chinese people do not know what is actually happening in Taiwan today. Their knowledge about the island is limited to the information that is being provided by the official Chinese media. Thirty years ago, the Chinese used to say that the Taiwanese were living in the abject poverty and ‘sleeping on piles of banana peels’. Since the late 1970s, it became more difficult to hide the fact that Taiwan has made a significant progress in the economic development. Thus, today, an ordinary Chinese person knows that the Taiwanese have the money. Peng noted one significant point, ‘if 10-15 years ago, in the trendy store in Shanghai, you were advised to buy a thing, because it was made in Europe or Japan; now, the consultants increasingly advise to buy, because it was made in Taiwan’. However, despite the fact that the Chinese are aware of the economic success of Taiwan, they do not know about Taiwan’s political reality. They know nothing about Taiwan’s democracy, how it was conquered and what difficulties they had to face on this way.

The abovementioned notions illustrate the way the ordinary Chinese perceive the issue. However, progressive intellectuals regard Taiwan as a model of democracy that can be possibly built on the mainland. Taiwan’s democracy, which is certainly not perfect, is generally the first experience of the democratic structure of the entire multi-millennial history of China. Therefore, the experience of Taiwan becomes key in the discussions about the Chinese democracy. At the same time, substantially few Chinese intellectuals really know what is going on in Taiwan, what exactly is advocated by the nationalists, and what are the points of view on key issues.

In China, Peng communicates with a plenty of the Taiwanese businessmen today. These are the personal contacts, of course, but they help in blurring of the image of ‘enemies’, imposed by the authorities on both sides. In addition, the contemporary Taiwanese culture is extremely popular in China. Songs, movies, and books also carry a certain idea of Taiwan ‘which is at odds with the official interpretation’. Peng can say that the Taiwanese culture actively spreads. For example, in modern China, it is fashionable to speak Chinese with the Taiwanese accent. It became so popular that the central authorities have been forced to issue the circular prohibiting the use of the Taiwanese accent or expressions on the Chinese television.

Peng says that it gradually becomes anecdotic. Once, he was in Beijing in the park and saw a group of elderly women practicing exercises with the music which seemed familiar to him. It turned out that it was the Taiwanese folk song ‘You Must Work Hard to Win’ on the local Taiwanese dialect. It was absolutely incomprehensible for the citizens of Beijing. The song tells about a young man from the south of Taiwan who arrived in China and had to work hard to achieve something. Most interestingly, this song became an unofficial anthem of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian’s re-election during the last elections. It was substantially strange to hear this song in the heart of Beijing, because the Chinese authorities consider Chen Shui-bian their main enemy. The interviewee asked those women whether they knew what music they listened to. The answer was that since the song came from Taiwan, it was good enough for them.

Interview Two – Taiwan’s Representative

In order to explore the Taiwanese point of view, Lung Yin was interviewed. She is a Taiwanese writer, culture and political commentator. In the 1980s, Yin was one of the critics of authoritarian methods applied by the Kuomintang management. Today, she opposes the policy of the Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian sharply to a considerable degree. In China, she has published several books. Now, she has a constant column in the paper.

Yin believes that Taiwan lives by its own rules and develops its own path. She says that the Taiwanese have no objective picture of what is happening in China. Most Taiwanese still see China as a monster, not paying attention to the changes that have taken place in terms of China over the past 20 years. This pattern was first created by Kuomintang words, and now, it is complemented by horror stories that the Taiwanese nationalists and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party use. However, the interviewee recognizes that China itself contributes to the creation of this image indirectly, especially when defiantly conducting missile exercises near Taiwan. Unfortunately, substantially few Taiwanese are able to rise above this ‘demonic image’ and look at new China, which appeared at the end of the last century.

Yin assumes that if to ask the Taiwanese whether they want to go back to China right now, the positive responses will be no more than 2-3 percent. However, if to ask in another way, whether they want to close the opportunity to join once and for all, even if China’s democratic changes take place, this position is not shared by more than 30% of the Taiwanese. Yin says that it is due to the fact that most people are still emotionally and culturally connected to China. They do not want to unite with Communist China, but at the same time, they say ‘let us keep the door to China opened’. This means that if China will move toward the liberal democracy, this question will be discussed more actively.

The interviewee also expresses the concern that if the Chinese got a complete freedom to decide what to do, they would have already attacked Taiwan. She suggests that the vast majority of the Chinese people do not know what is actually happening in Taiwan today. She thinks that most are still confident that the Taiwanese want to immediately reunite with China, and only a few nationalists are in power prevent it. Yin refers the Chinese determination to regain Taiwan at all costs to the state propaganda which stresses on a daily basis that the return of Taiwan is a sacred duty of every Chinese. In addition, in China, there has always been a strong idea of association that only the united China would be in harmony, and they must strive hard for this harmony. Yin says that this ideology does not correspond to reality – ‘if we look at China’s history, the period when China was divided turned out to be greater, but all the emperors and rulers of China without exception tried to maintain that myth’. For example, after the victory of the Qing Dynasty of the Ming Dynasty in 1644, Ming continued to exist for decades; thus, China was in fact divided.

With regard to the USA, the Taiwanese in general really like it since ‘it is still our only hope in the event of a conflict with China’. However, the interviewee does not think that the United States is really concerned about what will happen to Taiwan. She says that Taiwan is just one of the cards that the US play against China today. Moreover, Yin says that in general, they are little interested in what is happening outside the island. It is quite an interesting phenomenon indeed. The decades of international isolation has led to the fact that the Taiwanese have lost their sense of belonging to what is happening in the rest of the world. This is a highly dangerous trend. Taiwan has two generations of Taiwanese who do not feel themselves as a part of the rest of the world. The most glaring example is the Asian tsunami. When in Hong Kong as well as other Asian cities and countries they were remembering the dead, the Taiwanese celebrated the New Year carelessly. It is clear from the point of view of an ordinary human being. ‘If the world does not care about the Taiwan problem, why the Taiwanese have to worry about the rest of the world?’. The world has been substantially unfair to Taiwan, and now, the islanders themselves are strangers in this land.

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The interviewee was asked to imagine if it really came to the war, and China was able to take Taiwan, how the Taiwanese would react to the new Chinese government. She said that a lot, of course, would try to leave the island. As to those who would have remained, it is unlikely that they would be really long and violently resisting the new order.

Discussion

The purpose of the National Revival of China as a great global and regional power is currently the main priority of the Chinese leadership. In this context, the return of Taiwan to China is seen as a highly significant step towards its realization, since it not only completes the national reunification, without which it is difficult to imagine the revival of a great nation, but also gives a new impetus to the modernization of the country. Thus, China is trying to solve the Taiwan issue as well as other problems in regard to the development, although gradually and step by step, without making drastic steps, but consistently moving towards the target.

The opinion polls show that most people in Taiwan prefer to maintain the existing status quo. In 1998, 46% of the population of Taiwan supported the principle of maintaining the status quo, 20% were talking in favor of independence, 16% were in favor of the union, and 18% had no opinion on the matter. In the 90-ies of the last century, there was a downward trend in the number of the Taiwanese who supported the reunification and an increase in the numbers of those who advocated for the independence. This tendency was reflected in the results of the presidential election in Taiwan in 2000 and 2004 respectively.

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In fact, Taiwan is independent. However, its self-government is based on the support of the US. Since the 50-ies of the last century, the US was deeply engaged in the Taiwan issue. The United States played an essential role in the development of Taiwan, providing it with the means for its success in the industrialization and democratization.

The continued US involvement in solving the issue of Taiwan is one of the factors that created an additional emotional tension in the dispute over Taiwan. China has repeatedly said that it prefers a peaceful way of reunification with Taiwan, but does not reject the use of military force. The latter option is possible in three cases. First, if Taiwan is subjected to the foreign invasion; second, if it declares the independence; third, if for a long time, this problem is not going to be solved, and Taiwan will give up the principle of one China trying to break away from its territory. The problem of Taiwan is entirely an internal affair of China. The Chinese government aims at achieving the reunification through peaceful means, but it does not prohibit the option of resorting to force. It is crucial to note that each sovereign state has the right to use all the means to ensure its own sovereignty and territorial integrity.