China Paper – Taiwan
The island now called by its Chinese name, Taiwan, has had a history distinct from that of China. However, it was incorporated into Chinese empires for long periods. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive. They called it Formosa, the beautiful, and the inhabitants Formosans, but they did not establish a permanent colony. The Dutch replaced them. There was a struggle for independence which ended in conquest by Japan., The Japanese ruled Taiwan until their defeat in World War II.
Before 1943, many Chinese leaders, including Mao and Chiang, considered Taiwan independent from China. After that date and during the time that he led the communist forces to victory in the civil war and then ruled China, Mao took the position that Taiwan was a province of China. In 1947, Chiang Kai-shek received permission from the United States to retreat to Taiwan. This also implied recognizing Taiwan as part of China. George Kerr, an American State Department officer, wrote “Formosa Betrayed” after he witnessed the treatment of native Formosans by Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang forces. The indigenous Formosans have been marginalized much like indigenous people in the United States. The population of Taiwan is now overwhelmingly ethnic Chinese.
Chiang Kai-shek claimed to be the ruler of all of China from his capital in Taiwan. The victorious Communists insisted that Taiwan was part of China. Chiang’s fiction was accepted by the United States and the United Nations until 1971 when the United Nations recognized the Beijing government as the government of China, including Taiwan. In 1972, President Nixon of the United States realized the absurdity of considering mainland China a part of Taiwan and visited the Chinese capital in Beijing, recognizing that it was the capital of the One China. However, this part of China has governed itself. China hopes that, as time passes, the common ethnicity will overcome the historical antagonism. Many Taiwanese are happy with the situation of practical independence without independent national status. Others push for full recognition of their factual independence.
In 2022, the United States claimed China was becoming more threatening to Taiwan’s freedom and tightened relations with the pro-independence president, Tsai Ing-wen. President Biden emphasized that any aggression by China would be met by American armed forces, dispatched the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to tighten bonds with Taiwan, and budgeted for arms to build up Taiwan’s military. China did not consider this compatible with the One China doctrine, and in response to Pelosi’s visit engaged in military exercises. However, rather than risk a nuclear war with the United States, Pres. Xi backed down, complaining of “bullying”.
Most commentators expected the Taiwanese independence party’s policies to be affirmed in the November municipal elections. However, Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party won only five of seventeen races. Tsai resigned as head of her party and announced that she would not run for re-election. Apparently, most Taiwanese, even if they would like to be officially independent, do not support antagonizing China and risking war. Nevertheless, President Tsai has continued to work closely with the United States. Taiwan has become virtually an American protectorate. The Taiwanese president has travelled to California and been received by Republican leaders almost as a head of state. Opposition to her behavior has been public and widespread in Taiwan, but it does not seem to threaten the American role there.
Rev. Ignacio Castuera
Social Justice Activist & United Methodist Minister