Taiwan's Identity *
International Conference On History and Cultures on Taiwan Taipei, by 29 May 2006
Taiwan is a paragon of democracy. In 1992, a few years after martial law was at long last lifted, this country managed to run its first-ever parliamentary elections. Presidential elections followed in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Taiwan rightly boasts of freedom of press, its judiciary is truly independent, the rule of law reigns supreme here. These admirable achievements present a stark contrast with the state of affairs in the rising superpower across the Strait. The entire world community of adherences to democracy and proponents of human rights should rejoice at this remarkable accomplishment of Taiwan. The thorough democratization of Taiwan is more than just blessing for its own people, it furthermore makes this country a light house, a lode-star in the East Asian region and beyond.
Is it not astonishing that this praiseworthy country keeps being treated by most of the surrounding world as an outcast? Taiwan finds itself excluded from the UN and the as well as from its affiliate organizations and agencies. Even its request for observer status continues to be brushed aside. The UN Charter proclaims in its preamble, inter alis, its" faith in the equal right of nations, large and small and in its Article 1, that its purpose and principles are among others" to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, To which Article 4 of the Charters adds, "membership in the UN is open to all ....peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations. The admission of any such state to membership will be effected by decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council." Most unfortunately, any ecommendation by that Security Council can be blocked by any council member wielding its veto rights.
Despite its name the Untied Nations is not an organization of nations but of states. So, is Taiwan a state? Or is it an integral part of the state presently called the Republic of China? Now let us take a brief look at Taiwan's history. In 1624, the Dutch came to the island they were not the first Europeans to discover this island and settled in the South. Their extensive records relate about Malayo-Polynesian aborigines population.No mention in these records si made of Chinese settlements here let alone a Chinese administrative structure. Two years later 1626 Spaniards took possession of parts of the island in the North but they were kicked out by the Dutch invaders fairly soon. Dutch colonial rule was short lived, however, Koxinga, as we call him, expelled the Dutch in 1662. He was a merchant and a pirate, loyal to Ming Dynasty in China. This did not amount to China taking over Taiwan. The Ming Emperor lived in exile, at that time, as the Manchu has already ascended the throne in Beijing. On Taiwan and the Pescodores, as we call the islands, Koxinga and subsequently his son established their own dominion. That came to and end in 1683 when a Mancu general invaded the island and defeated the Koxinga descendent there in power.
That invasion by a Manchu general did not resolve in Taiwan getting incorporated into the Chinese empire. The island remained a backwater, remote hinterland disregarded by the rule of Beijing. Two centuries later, in 1885 China's Ching Dynasty proclaimed Taiwan its province, obviously attempting to keep expansionist Japan at bay. But already in 1895, after the Sino Japanese War, China ceded Taiwan to Japan." In perpetuity as the treaty of Simonoseki put it.
By the end of the 2nd World War 1945, the allied Supreme Commander General MacArthur authorized a temporary military occupation of Taiwan by Chiang Kai-Shek army on behalf of the Allied. Mind the wording: on behalf of the Allied. That temporary presence has been turned over the years into a permanent rule by the Chinese Nationalist Party since the Allied powers were too absorbed in enormous post-war problems, thus unable to pay attention to Taiwan.
Between the Kuomingtang and^the local population, tensions developed sometimes up to the boiling point. Island wide demonstration ended in a clash on the last day of February 1947, with tens of thousands of people massacred. When in 1949, the Nationalist Chinese under the Chiang Kai-shek were defeated by Mao Zedong's Communist Red Army, the generalissimo and his followers took refuge in Taiwan.There declared Martial Law which was to last for almost four decades. Only after General Chiang and his son had passed away. Martial Law was lifted. And then in the second half of the 1980s democratization took off, as of then evolving at an unstoppable speed.
The Allied powers and Japan signed a peace treaty in 1951 San Francisco. A bilateral Peace Treaty between Japan and China came about in 1952 China at that time was embodied by the Republic of China, represented by the Nationalist Government. The PRC had no legal persona at all yet. In both treaties, 1951 and 1952, Japan renounced, I quote "all right, title and claim " to Taiwan. None of the two treaties did, however, identify a beneficiary of that renunciation. Thus, it is argued Taiwan was detached from Japan but attached to no one.
In which entity is sovereignty over Taiwan vested now? Who is measured by international law in charge of Taiwan nowadays? There are two schools of thought. Some take the view that the Republic of China as of 1912 Republic of China was a legitimate successor to the imperial Ching Dynasty. So some take the view of the Republic of China take the sovereignty over Taiwan after World War II. How did that happened? As I mentioned Japan relinquished sovereignty over Taiwan by signing the two peace treaties. And what Japan did in 1951, 1952 amounts to what is called the international law "dereliction" as a result of that "dereliction" Taiwan became "teras Nullius" A territory owned by no one, belonging to no one. Though such territory is subject to acquisition by another power.
So, why and how did the ROC acquire Taiwan after 1945? The answer is by acquisitive prescription. How does this come about? The protagonists of the view now under consideration point out that this is effected by "effective occupation." Which presents itself when two conditions are met: a - when the intention and will to act as a sovereignty are demonstrated as well as b - the actual exercise of such authority. Both conditions were realized in the ROC's occupation of Taiwan especially after the ROC government moved to Taiwan in 1949. YeT I wonder whether this doctrine fits Taiwan's post World War II history marked by an ever-smoldering and sometimes flaring opposition against a repressive regime and a waxing awareness, more and more frequently expressed, of Taiwan's xxxx identity. There is another view, another school of thoughts regarding the present status of Taiwan. This views holds that this country in a legal limbo. The proponents of this view emphasize that most of the participants of the conference which produced the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951 voiced the opinion that the wishes of the Taiwanese about their future should be taken into account prior to determining Taiwan's legal status. The British delegation for example stated that I quote " A solution must be found in accord with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter." That charter stipulates that self-determination should be a guiding principle of international relations (Article 1). In 1955, Anthony Eden, then Foreign Minister of UK, stated in the House of Commons, I quote "Under the Peace Treaty Japan renounced all right title and claim to Formosa and Pescodores have this did not operate as a transfer to Chinese sovereignty, whether to the PRC or to the Chinese Nationalist authorities, they further said that Formosa and the Pescadores are therefore, Mr. Eden said, territory, the "de jure" sovereignty ofwhich is uncertain, undetermined. Professor Arthur Waldron from the University of Pennsylvania, recalled not long ago that the US has never recognized Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan whether claimed by Beijing of or Chiang Kai-shek.
Fascinating as the confrontation of the different views on Taiwan's legal status, maybe from the viewpoint of international law, they converged since the heirs of Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan have dropped their claim on the mainland. All parliamentary groupings now share the view and subscribe to the thesis that Taiwan is a separate entity, not just a province of China. Opinions differ on whether Taiwan should seek unification with China or strive, however cautiously, for "de jure" independence.
A few notes on how a mutually acceptable solution of the structural crisis between the parties on either side of the Strait could conceivably be arrived at.
First a preliminary note. Any solution ought to be the outcome of the peaceful negotiations. China should stop browbeating the people of Taiwan, by deploying hundreds of missiles targeting Taiwan, by holding military exercises or in any similar way. And there cannot be a scintilla of doubt, that a military assault on Taiwan would not qualify as an internal matter, as a matter within China's domestic jurisdiction, but as an act of aggression endangering international peace and security, hence calling in the Security Council of the United Nationfe.
To put it boldly, the tide goes against Taiwan. The wealthier China, harboring one fifth of the world population, the wealthier China grows, the stronger its political clout. European presidents and prime ministers flock to Beijing often with a pack of eager businessmen in their wake. I am no longer surprised, I am rather embarrassed and sometimes even ashamed of watching European heads of state and government coaxing their hosts in Beijing. It is just kowtowing at times.
Admittedly, Taiwan still is a big trade partner for Europe. Taiwan's technological advances are most impressive. Taiwan's investments are greatly appreciated. But China! That becomes mesmerizing, not to say hallucinating. Political oppression , demonstrations crushed, human rights trampled , what about this major injustices? Alas in this new gold rush on China such moral inhibitions are readily crowded out. Political support from European Union countries for Taiwan's efforts to be accorded observer status in the Word Heath Organization and elsewhere is de facto paralyzed, simply because China groans us down. When Taiwan's democratically elected president goes on travel abroad, he is hardly permitted to make a stopover for refueling, as China would consider a fuss about granting hospitality to him. Since 1994, Taiwan has provided unilateral visa-exempt entry to the citizens of many European countries, but there is still no reciprocation from Europe. This is all about cajoling China, trying to reap economic advantages over the US and Japan, countries • that have been less obedient to Beijing's wishes and whims.
How could Taiwan be released from its ever tightening isolation? Since full-fledged " dejure" independence is out of reach, as far as we can look into the future, friends of Taiwan engage in a quest for an arrangement with China that would not hurt anyone's pride, secure far-reaching autonomy, safeguard Taiwan's democracy, freedom and rule of law. So, a Hong-Kong type of arrangement? One state two systems? It looked fairly promising at the time but the expectation that China-UK deal offered were not fully met. So what about a federation? That would, as it looks, grant Taiwan more autonomy than the Hong-Kong formula. Even so, establishing a Chinese federation comprising two equal components would still require the people of Taiwan to recognize Beijing as the center of the federal government. California and Delaware, a big state and a small one, have a broad latitude to mind their own business. But the federal government of Washington is yet powerful. The same goes for the German states in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Creating a confederation with mainland Chi^a would make for an even looser connection. The former Austro-Hungarian Empire which fell apart after World War I was a confederation. That country had a single name and a single head of state, but in actual fact each state, each part of the confederation, had its own government and armed forces. All the same, there this was unification. Transposing this construction to the problem now under discussion could anyway be face saving, to say the least.
The loosest connection I can think of is a commonwealth. Countries like Canada and Australia are still under the British crown. Copying that model would bring about the flimsiest form of unification. It remains to be seen of course if the rulers across the Strait would be content with such an outcome. I said the tide goes against Taiwan but this gloomy note needs to be complemented. There is a bright side to the developments too. China's spectacular transformation into a market economy with capitalistic overtones is bound to bring political liberalization along. There is no way for the ruling party in Beijing to stop this political process. China is heading, willing or unwilling, for democratization in the medium or long term. And that is a beckoning perspective for Taiwan. For two reasons even. First, China turned a democracy will become an interlocutor more willing to negotiate and to negotiate on reasonable terms. Secondly, Taiwan may not feel urged any longer to present demands that go to the outer limits of autonomy or beyond.
For the time being, I command my friends in Taiwan on perseverance in coping with recurring political adversities.
* Writed by Andreas van Agt , Former Dutch Prime Minister.