New Taiwanese Government Hopes to Improve Ties With China
The Taiwanese Parliament underwent a landslide administrative change on Sunday.
The opposition Kuomintang party won 72 percent of the seats in the legislative Yuan, almost doubling its parliamentary representation from the 38 percent of legislative seats it held after elections in 2005. This victory almost ensures that the Kuomintang will also sweep the presidential elections on March 22 and that the Taiwanese government will start working to develop closer ties with mainland China.
The Democratic Progressive Party (dpp) has been the ruling party of Taiwan since 2000. President Chen Shui-bian’s dpp is known for its hard-line pro-independence stance. “Taiwan is one country and the other side [mainland China] is another country and neither side exercises jurisdiction over the other,” Chen said in a bbc interview in 2004 following his re-election. “I think this important consensus has been reached during this election and it represents and signifies that the 23 million people of Taiwan, irrespective of their political affiliations or whether they are in the opposition parties or the governing party—they all refuse the one-country/two-systems formula.”
Maybe this was the view of the people in 2004, but it could be changing. The Kuomintang party is opposed to Chen’s confrontational approach to China. While it does not support Taiwanese unification with China by any means, it does put a high priority on improving cross-strait ties.
When asked how he would improve ties with Beijing, Kuomintang’s presidential candidate, Ma Ying-jeou, toldTime magazine, “We would not pursue de jure independence …. We would resume negotiations on the basis of the 1992 consensus [forged during talks in Hong Kong]—in short, ‘one China, different interpretations.’” While Chen adamantly opposes the idea that there is one China under two systems (the mainland system and the Taiwanese system), Ma has stated that the idea of “one China, different interpretations” will be the basis of his negotiations with Beijing. “I am Taiwanese as well as Chinese,” he claims.
To understand the “one country, two systems” formula, we have to look back at the history of the Chinese Communist Revolution. The island of Taiwan is the last remnant of the Chinese Kuomintang regime, which was overrun by Communist rebels under Mao Zedong in 1949. These Communist forces established the People’s Republic of China (prc) on the Chinese mainland, forcing the Kuomintang regime to become a government in exile on Taiwan, which it has remained ever since. The prc has never occupied the island of Taiwan, yet it still claims Taiwan as part of “one China.” Even so, Taiwan governs itself. This is Beijing’s “one country, two systems” formula. The prc claims that Taiwan is a part of “one China” but currently administered under a different governmental system.
This is the system Chen so adamantly opposes; he sees Taiwan as a separate, sovereign nation with no links to the Communist usurpers on the mainland. But “one country, two systems” is the system on which Ma will base his negotiations with Beijing in an effort to improve ties. Ma’s political party now controls the Taiwanese legislature; Ma will most likely be president of Taiwan in three months. Ma’s vision for Taiwan seems set to triumph over that of Chen and the dpp.
A jump from 38 percent to 72 percent of parliamentary seats represents a massive mindset change in the Taiwanese people. Why the change? Taiwan’s citizens, who enjoy a much higher standard of living than those on the mainland, definitely do not want to reunite with China. But they also realize they must avoid a confrontation with Beijing. Their support for the Kuomintang party reflects their desire to prevent such a confrontation.
China has threatened several times to invade Taiwan if the Taiwanese declare de jure independence. America has prevented China from conquering the island through arms sales to Taiwan and promises to defend Taiwan from military attack. The 1954 Mutual Defense Treaty and the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act both promise U.S. defense of Taiwan. In the past, the assurance that America has their backs has given the Taiwanese the security they needed to continue as an independent entity. “Without America’s military and psychological support, they would have already been conquered by mainland China,” wrote Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in “Taiwan Betrayal” in 1998.
Recent years have revealed cracks in the U.S.-Taiwanese alliance. In July 1998, Bill Clinton traveled to China and became the first U.S. president to publicly oppose Taiwanese independence in favor of the “one country, two systems” formula. Clinton would not endorse Taiwanese independence or Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan, but preferred that the situation remain in limbo. In December 2003, George Bush vocalized his commitment to the same ideal.
Over the past few months, U.S.-Taiwanese tensions have further escalated over Taiwanese President Chen’s call for a national referendum on whether or not Taiwan should again apply for UN membership—this time under the title of “Taiwan” instead of “Republic of China.” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the referendum “provocative” to China, and the Bush administration said it would not support such a move.
“We find it extremely regrettable that, under tremendous pressure from China, the United States and the European Union have expressed varying degrees of opposition to Taiwan’s referendum on joining the United Nations,” Chen responded. He went on to lament the fact that Washington was caving in to pressure from Beijing and putting national interest above democratic values.
America has since delayed the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, reportedly because of Washington’s displeasure with Chen’s referendum attempt.
With such tension rising, the Taiwanese are beginning to realize that America might not protect them from Beijing after all. “For decades, Taiwan has been a loyal and obedient partner of the United States,” Chen said. “Now we are left to ask what went wrong.”
Only a handful of Third World countries actually recognize Taiwan as an independent nation. Fractures in the Taiwanese-U.S. alliance leave Taiwan with no significant friends to rely on for protection from China.
Little wonder, then, that the Taiwanese voted to express their discomfort with Chen’s pro-independence, anti-Chinese policies. Pragmatically speaking, Kuomintang’s victory makes perfect sense. Ma and his Kuomintang party will put a priority on developing closer ties with mainland China. Many in Taiwan view closer ties with China as the only way to security.
The Kuomintang vision for Taiwan-China relations, however, will not guarantee Taiwan’s ongoing independence; in fact, it will bring Taiwan one step closer to complete reunification with the mainland. China verbally claims Taiwan as its own and has threatened military force to keep it from officially declaring otherwise. In the current fracas, it is being pretty quiet—likely in an attempt not to scare the Taiwanese away from their new, more pro-China stance. Taiwan’s new government represents progress toward China’s goal of reunification. China will let Taiwan get closer, but will not permit it to move further away.
Soon, Taiwan will find itself trapped, because America would not help it.
Herbert W. Armstrong, the late founder and editor in chief of the Trumpet’s predecessor, the Plain Truth, predicted Taiwan’s fate over 40 years ago. In a Sept. 19, 1958, letter, he wrote, “Will Red China invade and capture [Taiwan]? In all probability, yes …. The Red Chinese ‘save face,’ and the United States, with many American troops now on Taiwan, will again lose face!” In 1998, Gerald Flurry predicted, “These 21 million people are going to be forced into the Chinese mold; and it is going to happen for one reason: because of a pitifully weak-willed America.”