ISSN 2330-717X

Taiwan A Worldly Confused Identity – OpEd

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Taiwan is an island off the coast of China having an area of 35,808 square kilometres which is almost half the size of Sri Lanka. The Taiwan Strait 180-kilometre-wide separates Taiwan and continental Asia. The strait is part of the South China Sea and connects to the East China Sea to the north. The democratically elected leaders say they run a country called the Republic of China (ROC). To the Communist government in Beijing the island is “Taiwan, China” part of China”. International organisations and nations not wanting to offend the mainland China – Peoples Republic of China (PRC) opt deliberately to remain ambiguous. Only a few small countries recognize it as a sovereign country. US recognized Taiwan for 30 years! To most it is just “Taiwan” but to become a country it is to be diplomatically recognized by the 193 “member states”  of the United Nations.

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Pandora’s box opened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In 2007, Taiwan approached the UN to process its application for full membership wanting to have its sovereignty legitimised by becoming a new member of the UN having lost the membership in 1971. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon refused to accept the application on the grounds that “In accordance with the 1979 General Assembly Resolution 2758, the UN considers Taiwan for all purposes to be an integral part of the People’s Republic of China.” Before this statement, the UN had remained vague on the status of Taiwan, but this statement opened a legal Pandora’s box, as it could be taken as the basis for the argument that China should be allowed to decide on matters concerning Taiwan in international organisations. The US protested Secretary-General Ban’s statement, arguing that “while this assertion is consistent with the Chinese position, it is not universally held by UN member states, including the United States. “The UN leadership, for its part, seems to have taken Beijing’s side for now and for obvious reasons China’s influence at the UN General Assembly. Beijing continues reiterate the interpretation of Resolution 2758, that it explicitly recognises “one China” and the government in Beijing as the sole representative of the whole of China. Wuhan COVID-19 pandemic stand by the UN and the WHO is a classic example of efforts to avoid blaming China for its origin.

*A chronology of key events: (At the end of the article)

The ROC government had fled to Taiwan and continued to hold the seat of “China” at the UN and was a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power. ROC was formally expelled from the UN in 1979 by a vote of the General Assembly and replaced by the PRC, which had taken power in Beijing at the end of the country’s civil war in 1949.The PRC has been effective in blocking Taiwan’s into UN run organisations.

Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek’s family rule ended more than 30 years ago. Since its democratic transition in the 1990s, Taiwanese see themselves as citizens of a de facto independent state and not Chinese in exile.

Taiwan’s quest to return to the UN, even as an observer, has been blocked. The UN appears to be confused with recognition of exiled governments. How can Taiwan be considered as a government in exile? If divided states like East and West Germany-North and South Korea-North and South Vietnam can coexist, why not China andTaiwan? And Taiwan calls itself as Democratic Republic of Taiwan.” Even Palestine is now a UN recognised state of Palestine then why the Republic of Taiwan not being recognised by the UN? Chiang Kai-shek’s government was overthrown and defeated in the 1949 civil war by the communists from mainland China and pushed or the Kuomintang government withdrew to the Taiwan Island then part of the mainland China. Logically the Kuomintang government was on its own land.

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China reacts angrily to countries that have sought to build a closer relationship with Taiwan, and has been stepping up political and military pressure on Taiwan.  In October 2021 China mounted a record number of sorties into Taiwan air space. China continues to claim that Taiwan is part of its territory. 

Building War Clouds: Chinese President Xi Jinping said (09 Oct 2021) that “reunification” with Taiwan must and will be realised. China still considers the island part of its territory and has asserted the right to take it by force.  Beijing urged Washington  to keep troops out of Taiwan .US Representative Michael McCaul Republican congressman from Texas told reporters in a conference call  that the Chinese mainland will “invade” the island of Taiwan sometime after the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Beijing called on the US military to strengthen its presence in the Taiwan Strait and to arm the island with more weapons-the New York Post (21 Jan)While some officials from the US military have predicted the mainland will use force to “capture” the island of Taiwan by 2027.

Resolution 2758 solved the issue of China’s representation to the UN, but it left the issue of Taiwan’s representation unresolved. The PRC claims that Taiwan is part of China, it does not exercise actual authority over Taiwan as the ROC government continues to hold de facto control over Taiwan and other islands. So far China has been successful in preventing the UN membership. China is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council and now it also enjoys increasing international clout due to its economic power. When the question of Taiwan’s status will be resolved is anyone’s guess now. A real threat exists of use of force from China to accomplish its unaccomplished mission to merge Taiwan into mainland China.

*Patial RC is a retired Infantry officer of the Indian Army. Possess unique experience of serving in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. Regular writer on matters military in professional journals. The veteran is a keen mountaineer and a trekker.

*A chronology of key events:

1683 – China’s Qing Dynasty formally annexes Taiwan.

1895 – China cedes Taiwan among other territories to Japan after losing the First Sino-Japanese War.

1942 – Chinese Kuomintang government renounces all treaties with Japan and demands the return of Taiwan as part of any post-war settlement.

1945 – The Allies place Taiwan under Chinese administrative control after Japan surrenders.

1949 – Communist victory in Chinese Civil War leads to evacuation of Kuomintang government to Taiwan. However, Taiwan retained its UN seat until the 1970s.

1971 – UN recognises Communist China as sole government and People’s Republic takes over China’s UN Security Council seat.

2000 March – Chen Shui-bian wins presidential elections, ending the Kuomintang party’s 50-year monopoly of power. Chen Shui-bian says in his inaugural speech that he will not declare independence as long as China does not attack.

2001 April – US says it will go ahead with sales of submarines, warships, and anti-submarine aircraft. China protests and President George W Bush pledges to help Taiwan should China invade.

2005 March – Taiwan condemns a new Chinese law giving Beijing the legal right to use force should Taipei declare formal independence.

2005 April – National Party (KMT) leader Lien Chan visits China for the first meeting between Nationalist and Communist Party leaders since 1949.

2006 February – Taiwan scraps the National Unification Council, a body set up to deal with reunification with the mainland. China says the decision could bring “disaster”.

2006 China highlights Taiwan as a security threat in plans to upgrade its military.

2007 August – The country attempts to join the UN for the first time under the name Taiwan, rather than the official title of Republic of China. The application is rejected.

2010 January – US approves the sale of air defence missiles to Taiwan under a proposed $6.7bn arms package. China suspends military contacts with the US.

2010 June – Taiwan and China sign landmark free trade pact seen as most significant agreement in 60 years of separation.

2014 February – China and Taiwan hold their first government-to-government talks since the Communists came to power in 1949. 

2015 November – Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou and China’s President Xi Jinping hold historic talks in Singapore, the first such meeting.

2016 January – Pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai Ing-wen wins presidential election, takes office in May.

Patial RC

Patial RC is a retired Infantry officer of the Indian Army and possesses unique experience of serving in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. Patial RC is a regular writer on military and travel matters in military professional journals. The veteran is a keen mountaineer and a trekker.

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