Taiwan is not going back to China

Taiwan is not going back to China

By Jonathan Power

January 9, 2019

Those, like some highly placed people in the US government and Congress, who say it is inevitable that Taiwan with its population of 24 million will one day return as part of mainland China rather as Hong Kong did, have really missed a beat. There is simply no likelihood that an overwhelming majority of Taiwanese will ever agree to that.

The leader of the traditionally independence-minded Democratic Progressive party, President Tsai Ing-wen, now plays down independence and argues for the status quo.

President Xi Jinping’s recent speech reiterated China’s long held view that it would use force if necessary to prevent Taiwan formal independence. He is shooting down a bird that will never fly.

This toing and froing over the same words has been going on for many years. What has changed that pushes Xi to start being aggressive again? It is two things: the deteriorating relationship with the US and Ms Tsai’s clear repudiation of the so-called “1992 Consensus” that positioned Taiwan and China as being part of the same country with each side allowed its own interpretation of what China is.

Ms Tsai says that China these days is defining consensus as “one country, two systems”- its formula for Hong Kong. Even the opposition party, the Kuomitang, traditionally more pro-China, says that a Hong Kong style arrangement would not be supported by most Taiwanese.
In the Chinese government’s eyes, it has two rebellious provinces on its plate – Tibet and Taiwan. In Tibet, the Chinese occupation keeps expectations in check. In Taiwan there is no occupation but over 1000 Chinese missiles are pointed at its heart.
The Tibetans, by and large, no longer try and argue for independence, but even the notion of autonomy is not acceptable to Beijing.
During the last 20 years Taiwan’s China debate has matured at a fast rate. Ms Tsai’s predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, may not have won many converts to his independence line (which is supported by about 30% of the voters) but he undoubtedly shifted the terms of the debate.

He persuaded the electorate that they must never kow tow to China.

At the same time the electorate has been convinced by the present government that Taiwan should not provoke China and that Taiwan must continue increasing its economic links, its direct air flights and the encouragement of Chinese tourists.

In broad terms it might seem that this is the policy of keeping to the
status quo- neither independence nor union. In many aspects this is so. But it
is not the same status quo as 18 years ago – it is both more independent (not
independence) minded and more conciliatory.

is a great moral and political wrong that Taiwan is excluded from the UN, from
where it was summarily ejected when President Richard Nixon made his historic
peace with Mao Zedong. Nevertheless, Taiwan has carved out a great deal of
economic and even political space for itself.

It has become, despite a population less than half the size of Britain’s, an industrial and technological giant with over $150 billion of foreign exports each year.

Its investments of capital, machinery and personnel in China largely made possible China’s own technological revolution. It has a fine national health service, only second in the world to Sweden’s, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

However, its income distribution has worsened, as it has in nearly all the industrialised countries.

In political terms, Taiwan becomes more mature by the year. Its democracy appears to have put down deeper roots than many much older ones. The human rights abuses prevalent under the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek and his son are history. The press is sophisticated and the NGO sector thrives. Justice is honest, if at times erratic.

The Beijing dragon does growl. But it wouldn’t dare bite, despite China’s
arms’ build up and its missiles pointing at Taiwan. China surely knows it could
never swallow mighty, if small, Taiwan.

And it knows that the US with its off shore submarines and F-15s based in
nearby Okinawa would never let it try.

one day China does move towards democracy it could be that the Taiwanese will
be less fearful about a closer relationship although I doubt if they would ever
give up their independence. They might they accept a European Union-type

The Chinese, for their part, should think hard about their historical claim
to Taiwan. It is a tenuous one and would not pass muster in the International
Court of Justice (the World Court).

Taiwan does exceedingly well on its own. Its democracy flourishes. It is a
self-confident country. It is striding towards freedom.

No speech from President Xi can change this.

Copyright: Jonathan Power



3 Responses to "Taiwan is not going back to China"

  1. fjahanpour   January 12, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    I believe that the sentence towards the end of the article where you say “They might they accept a European Union-type relationship,” provides a workable solution. The time for one country gobbling up another country is long gone. The future trend is towards more cooperation and bridge building as in the EU, despite what President Trump thinks and what Brexit has sadly demonstrated. The same recipe can also provide a solution to the unending disputes and conflicts in the Middle East. An economic union comprising the Middle East Arab states, Iran, Turkey, and in time a democratic Israel can lead to a lasting solution to the current conflicts. None of the countries, with or without US backing for some such as the insane Arab NATO to confront Iran will have the capability of swallowing up all the others.

  2. Bente Petersen   January 10, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    I have a different viewpoint on Taiwan than this article… I have worked with, started and or advised social betterment projects in Taiwan for 12 years, been in Taiwan back and forth from my office in Sydney many many times – and spoken with many hundreds of people and talked with them about their country, culture, as well as pro and con ”going back” to China… and my experience or impression is that there is a majority who feel that its as desirable as inevitable that Taiwan will ”go back” to China…

  3. Alfred vierling   January 10, 2019 at 10:03 am

    Dear Sir, take note that Tibet is offially a self governing autonomous region within the People’s Republic of China. It has not been conquered by China but added to it by the Mogol rulers. It has not been occupied but freed from an archaic theocracy to the benefit of many young people now entitled to study scattered all over Chinese territory and also protected against mohammedanist theocracy unlike Europeans. Stop your USA agit prop which you nornally never adhere to.


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