Taiwan’s New Direction
The Taiwanese mindset is changing. Nowhere is this clearer than in the drastic realignment of the nation’s political leadership.
On March 22, the Taiwanese people elected Kuomintang party candidate Ma Ying-jeou as their next president. Ma has promised to take Taiwan in a new direction—a direction radically different from that of outgoing Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian.
Chen’s position was that Taiwan was a sovereign and independent nation that should have its own seat in the United Nations. “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 2004 bbc interview 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 … all refuse the one-country/two-systems formula.”
If the consensus in 2004 was that Taiwan should move toward independence, the consensus has since changed.
Ma’s position is that Taiwan and mainland China are one country governed under two systems. Back in 2006, he said in an interview that if his party gained power, “We would not pursue de jure independence,” but would follow a “one China, different interpretations” model.
Ma seeks to dramatically improve Taiwan’s relationship with the mainland. In addition to resuming negotiations on Taiwan’s status, he intends to expand economic ties with the mainland by establishing direct airline transportation routes; lifting restrictions on Taiwanese businessmen operating in China; opening the economy up to Chinese investors; and allowing Chinese tourists into Taiwan. Ma has also broached the idea of establishing confidence-building measures with the mainland designed to scale back the armaments buildup along the Taiwan Strait.
This radical change goes beyond Taiwan’s new leader; it is rooted in the mind-set of the populace.
The core of the issue is that Taiwan’s relationship with America has deteriorated to the point where the Taiwanese people no longer feel safe from China. In a 2005 interview with Newsweek, Ma said, “[If] Taiwan makes a provocative move, [mainland China] would be left with no choice but to use force. So the most important thing for Taiwan is to maintain the status quo, not to provoke the mainland, but increase trade and investment and to relax cross-Strait relations.” With no friends to rely on for protection, the Taiwanese people are trying to patch up their differences with China in an effort to avoid invasion.
It must be remembered that the current government of Taiwan is the last remnant of the Chinese Kuomintang regime, which was overrun by Communist rebels under Mao Zedong in 1949. These forces established the People’s Republic of China on the Chinese mainland, forcing the Kuomintang regime to become a government in exile on the island of Formosa (now called Taiwan). Taiwan has at no time in its history been controlled by Communist China.
The U.S. originally supported Taiwan in an effort to oppose communism and champion democracy. It was this support that kept mainland China from overrunning the island long ago. Both the 1954 Mutual Defense Treaty and the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act promise U.S. defense of the island.
Recent years, however, have revealed cracks in this alliance. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have both publicly opposed Taiwanese independence, preferring that the situation remain in its current state of limbo.
America is afraid to stand too strongly at Taiwan’s side for fear of upsetting China. And the Taiwanese are beginning to realize it. Without American support, they feel they must cultivate closer ties with China if they are to survive. That is why they are turning to Ma Ying-jeou, a man who told Newsweek that his ultimate goal—once conditions are right—is reunification with the mainland (Oct. 16, 2007).
Ma’s vision for Taiwan-China relations will not protect Taiwan’s freedom, however. Beijing remains committed to establishing its dominance over the Taiwanese people. It will be happy enough to let Ma move Taiwan closer to China, but once he does that, the Taiwanese will never be allowed to move further away again.
Herbert W. Armstrong, the late founder and editor in chief of the Trumpet’s predecessor, the Plain Truth, predicted Taiwan’s fate almost 50 years ago. In a Sept. 19, 1958, letter, he wrote, “Will Red China invade and capture [Taiwan]? In all probability, yes …. The Red Chinese will ‘save face,’ and the United States, with many American troops now on Taiwan, will again lose face!” (To learn about the biblical prophecies on which Mr. Armstrong based that forecast, request our free publications Russia and China in Prophecy and The United States and Britain in Prophecy.)
Ma’s commitment to increase ties with China will only hasten Taiwan’s loss of freedom, and America’s loss of face.
As editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in August 1998, “These 21 million [Taiwanese] 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.”