Taiwan independence

Taiwan independence

Taiwan independence (zh-tsp|t=臺灣獨立運動|s=台湾独立运动|p=Táiwān dúlì yùndòng, Pe̍h-oē-jī: Tâi-oân To̍k-li̍p ūn-tōng; abbreviated to 台獨, Táidú, Tâi-to̍k) is a political movement whose goal is primarily to create an independent and sovereign Republic of Taiwan out of the lands currently governed by the Republic of China (ROC) and claimed by the People's Republic of China (PRC).

This movement is supported by the Pan-Green Coalition in Taiwan and opposed by the Pan-Blue Coalition which supports unification with mainland China at some point. Due to the PRC's claim of sovereignty over Taiwan and repeated threats made by the PRC, it is believed that a formal declaration of independence could lead to a military confrontation between the Taiwan's armed forces and the People's Liberation Army which might escalate and involve other countries such as the United States and Japan. [ [http://www.heritage.org/Research/AsiaandthePacific/hl808.cfm U.S.-Taiwan Defense Relations in the Bush Administration] , Heritage Foundation (noting the policy of President George W. Bush toward Taiwan's defense).]

De facto, Taiwan has been controlled by the ROC since 1945. The ROC has controlled only Taiwan and several small islands since 1949, when mainland China was brought completely under control by the People's Republic. Whether this control by the ROC makes Taiwan already independent or not is disputed.

History of the movement

The modern-day political movement for Taiwan independence dates back to the Japanese colonial period but only became a viable political force within Taiwan in the 1990s. Taiwanese independence was advocated periodically during the Japanese colonial period, but was suppressed by the Japanese government. With the end of World War II in 1945, Japanese rule ended, but the subsequent autocratic rule of the ROC's Kuomintang (KMT) later revived calls for local rule.

During the martial law era lasting until 1987, discussion of Taiwan independence was forbidden in Taiwan, at a time when recovery of the mainland and national unification were the stated goals of the ROC. During that time, many advocates of independence and other dissidents fled overseas, and carried out their advocacy work there, notably in Japan and the United States. Part of their work involved setting up think tanks, political organizations, and lobbying networks in order to influence the politics of their host countries, notably the United States, the ROC's main ally at the time, though they would not be very successful until much later.

Within Taiwan, the independence movement was one of many dissident causes among the intensifying democracy movement of the 1970s, which culminated in the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was eventually formed to represent dissident causes.

After the lifting of martial law in 1987, and the acceptance of multiparty politics, the Democratic Progressive Party became increasingly identified with Taiwan independence, which entered its party platform in 1991. At the same time, many overseas independence advocates and organizations returned to Taiwan and for the first time openly promoted their cause in Taiwan, gradually building up political support. By the late 1990s, DPP and Taiwan independence have gained a solid electoral constituency in Taiwan, supported by an increasingly vocal and hardcore base.

As the electoral success of the DPP, and later, the DPP-led Pan-Green Coalition grew in recent years, the Taiwan independence movement shifted focus to identity politics by proposing many plans involving symbolism and social engineering. The interpretation of historical events such as the 228 incident, the use of broadcast language and mother tongue education in schools, the official name and flag of the ROC, slogans in the army, orientation of maps all have been issues of concern to the present-day Taiwan independence movement. With the cross-straits political process stalled, this is likely to be the focus of the movement for the foreseeable future.

History of the Taiwan independence movement

Many supporters of independence for Taiwan view the history of Taiwan since the 1600s as a continuous struggle for independence and use it as an inspiration for the current political movement. [cite journal
author=Li, Thian-hok
journal=Free Formosans' Formosa Newletter
title= Our Historical Struggle for Liberty
publisher=Free Formosans' Formosa
date=April 15, 1956
] According to this view, the people indigenous to Taiwan and those who have taken up residence there have been repeatedly occupied by groups including the Dutch, the Spanish, the Ming, Koxinga and the Ming loyalists, the Qing, the Japanese and finally the Chinese Nationalists led by the Kuomintang. From a pro-independence supporter's point of view, the movement for Taiwan independence began under Manchu rule in the 1680s which led to a well known saying those days, "Every three years an uprising, every five years a rebellion". Taiwan Independence supporters compared Taiwan under Kuomintang rule to South Africa under the rule of Whites [ [http://www.taiwanus.net/news/shownews.php?id=72037 台灣海外網 ] ] . The Taiwan independence movement under Japan was ironically supported by Mao Zedong in the 1930s as a means of freeing Taiwan from Japanese rulecite journal
author=Hsiao, Frank
coauthors=and Sullivan, Lawrence
journal=Pacific Affairs
title=The Chinese Communist Party and the Status of Taiwan, 1928-1943
pages=455–467 | doi = 10.2307/2757657
. With the end of World War II in 1945, by issuing "Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers General Order № 1" the Allies agreed that the Republic of China Army under the Kuomintang would "temporarily occupy Taiwan, on behalf of the Allied forces." [cite web
url = http://www.taiwandocuments.org/sovereignty.htm
title = Methods of Acquiring Sovereignty: PRESCRIPTION
work = Related Topics: Sovereignty
publisher = Taiwan Documents Project

After the Kuomintang began to rule the island, the focus of the movement was as a vehicle for discontent from the native Taiwanese against the rule of "mainlanders" (i.e. mainland China-born people who fled to Taiwan with KMT in the late 1940s). The 228 incident in 1947 and the ensuing martial law which lasted until 1987 contributed to a so-called sense of White Terror on the island. In 1979, the Kaohsiung Incident, occurred as the movement for democracy and independence intensified.Between 1949 and 1991, the official position [cite journal
author=Li, Thian-hok
journal=Foreign Affairs
title=The China Impasse, a Formosan view
] of the ROC government on Taiwan was that it was the legitimate government of all of China and it used this position as justification for authoritarian measures such as the refusal to vacate the seats held by delegates elected on the mainland in 1947 for the Legislative Yuan. The Taiwan independence movement intensified in response to this and presented an alternative vision of a sovereign and independent Republic of Taiwan. This vision was represented through a number of symbols such as the use of Taiwanese in opposition to the school taught Mandarin Chinese. Taiwan independence has been some of the motivation behind the Taiwanese localization movement.

Support and opposition

The questions of independence and the island's relationship to China are complex and inspire very strong emotions among Taiwanese people. There are some who continue to maintain the KMT position that the ROC is the sole legitimate government for all of China (including Taiwan) and that the aim of the government should be eventual reunification of the mainland and Taiwan under the rule of the ROC. Some say Taiwan has been, and should continue to be, completely independent from China and should operate as a sovereign nation. Then, there are numerous positions running the entire spectrum between these two extremes.

The official position of the PRC is that Taiwan is a province of China, and has "always" been part of China. The PRC has repeatedly threatened to invade if Taiwan ever declares formal independence, and has sought to intimidate voters in Taiwan through activities such as test-firing missiles across Taiwan's northern coast when elections are due (notably just before the 1996 elections) and when subjects such as constitutional reform are being discussed. The PRC often claims independence is wanted by only a small group, and that this group is trying to brainwash the local population to support this objective. In the 2000 White Paper, the PRC government stated that the people of Taiwan do not have the right to determine their own fate by declaring independence through a referendum or otherwise because "The sovereignty over Taiwan belongs to all the Chinese people including Taiwan compatriots, and not to some of the people in Taiwan." [ [http://www.taiwandocuments.org/white.htm White Paper--The One-China Principle and the Taiwan Issue] ] The paper further stated that unification with mainland China is the only option. [ [http://www.taiwandocuments.org/white.htm White Paper--The One-China Principle and the Taiwan Issue] "The only future for Taiwan is reunification with the Chinese mainland, and certainly not separation."]

In Taiwan itself, the situation is much more complicated, and PRC's actions have often added to that complexity. Support has grown for the cause of total separation from China - but this does not always translate into support for formal independence, which still represents a minority within which there are factions advocating several different, often incompatible approaches.

The Pan-Blue Coalition and the PRC believe that Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian are intent on publicly promoting a moderate form of Taiwan independence in order to advance secretly deeper forms of Taiwan independence, and that they intend to use popular support on Taiwan for political separation to advance notions of cultural and economic separation.

Most Taiwanese of all political parties support the status quo, and recognize that this is de facto independence through sovereign self-rule. Even among those who believe Taiwan is and should remain independent, the threat of war from PRC softens their approach, and they tend to support maintaining the status quo rather than pursuing an idealogical path that could result in war with the PRC. When the two-states policy was put forward by President Lee Teng-hui, he received 80 percent support. A similar situation arose when President Chen Shui-bian declared that there was "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait. The parties disagree, sometimes bitterly, on such things as territory, name (R.O.C. or Taiwan), future policies, and interpretations of history.

Beijing's military actions in 1996 failed to influence the outcome of the elections. That and other actions such as the creation of the Anti-Secession Law that claimed the PRC had the right to use military force against Taiwan increased the view among ordinary Taiwanese that China is a hostile, enemy nation and therefore they do not want to be part of that nation.

At the same time, efforts to change names of official buildings, government organizations, tributary monuments by replacing "China" with "Taiwan" have met with opposition - whether this is due to a political view that Taiwan is part of China or out of concern that such actions may provoke violence from Beijing is unclear.

The complexity of this situation was demonstrated when on October 25, 2004, in Beijing, the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Taiwan is "not sovereign", provoking strong comments from both the Pan-Green and Pan-Blue coalitions - but for very different reasons. From the DPP's side, President Chen declared that "Taiwan is definitely a sovereign, independent country, a great country that absolutely does not belong to the People's Republic of China". The TSU, in addition to mocking Powell, questioned why the US sold weapons to Taiwan if it was not a sovereign state. From the KMT, Chairman Ma Ying-jeou announced that "the Republic of China has been a sovereign state ever since it was formed [in 1912] ". The pro-unification PFP Party Chairman, James Soong, called it "Taiwan's biggest failure in diplomacy". [cite web
url = http://www.pfp.org.tw/news/news_detail.php?id=732&p=960&j=2
title = The appropriate interpretation of Powell's statement
publisher = People First Official Website
language = Traditional Chinese
accessdate= 2008-05-10

It is also thought that if formal independence were declared, Taiwan's foreign policies would lean further towards Japan and the United States. Within the Taiwanese political spectrum, the right wing is considered to consist of staunch supporters of Chinese reunification (in the mold of Chiang Kai-shek) while the DPP is considered left leaning and the TSU bills itself as the centrist alternative to the DPP.dubious

:"See also: Political status of Taiwan - Slips of the tongue"


Domestically, the issue of independence has dominated Taiwanese politics for the past few decades. This is also a grave issue for mainland China.

Internationally, this movement is significant in that a formal declaration of independence is one of the five conditions the PRC has stated or implied under which it will take military action against Taiwan to force reunification — the other four being that Taiwan makes a military alliance with a foreign power, there is internal turmoil in Taiwan, Taiwan gains weapons of mass destruction, or Taiwan refuses to negotiate on the basis of "one China". (Recently, the PRC government warned that if the situation in Taiwan becomes "worse" it will not look on "indifferently." Given the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act, this raises the possibility of a superpower conflict in East Asia.) The United States would likely be obligated to come to the aid of Taiwan under the terms of the Act according to US domestic law. However, this interpretation of the Act is disputed. Constitutional law requires that a normal declaration of war be sought by the President of the United States in an act of Congress signed by the President.

Different interpretations

There are basically three major views of Taiwanese independence. The first view, put forward by the government of the PRC, defines Taiwan independence as "splitting Taiwan from China, causing division of the nation and the people." What PRC claims by this statement is somewhat ambiguous according to supporters of Taiwanese independence, as some statements by the PRC seem to identify China solely and uncompromisingly with the PRC, and others indicate a broader and more flexible definition suggesting a cultural and geographic entity in which both mainland China and Taiwan are part but divided politically due to the Chinese Civil War. The PRC considers itself the sole legitimate government of all China, and the ROC to be a defunct entity replaced in the Communist revolution in 1949. Therefore, assertions that the ROC is a sovereign state are construed as support for Taiwan independence while proposals to change the name of the ROC to Taiwan are paradoxically met with even more disapproval since this would be the equivalent of formally dropping the notion that Taiwan is part of the greater China entity (as a side of an unresolved Chinese civil war). Before the passing of UN resolution 2758 in 1971, the ROC was recognized as the legal government of China by the UN. Afterwards, the PRC became recognized as the legal government of China by the UN.

A second view is that Taiwan is already an independent nation with the official name ROC, which has been independent (i.e. de facto separate from China) since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, when the ROC lost control of mainland China, with only Taiwan (including the Pescadores/Penghu Islands), Quemoy/Kinmen, the Matsu Islands off the coast of Fujian Province, and some of the islands in the South China Sea remaining under its administration. Although previously no major political faction adopted this pro-status quo viewpoint, because it is a "compromise" in face of PRC threats and American warnings against a unilateral declaration of independence, the DPP combined it with their traditional belief to form their latest official policy. This viewpoint has not been adopted by more radical groups such as the Taiwan Solidarity Union, which favor only the second view and are in favor of a Republic or State of Taiwan. In addition, many members of the Pan-Blue Coalition are rather suspicious of this view, fearing that adopting this definition of Taiwan independence is merely an insincere stealth tactical effort to advance desinicization and the second view of Taiwan independence. As a result, supporters of pan-blue tend to make a clear distinction between Taiwan independence and Taiwan sovereignty, while supporters of Pan-Green tend to try to blur the distinction between the two.

The third view considers the move for Taiwan independence as a nationalist movement. This is the opinion, historically, put forward by such pro-independence groups on Taiwan as the tang wai movement (which later grew into the Democratic Progressive Party), which argue that the ROC under the Kuomintang has been in the past a "foreign regime" forcibly imposed on Taiwan. Since the 1990s, supporters of Taiwan independence no longer actively make this argument. Instead, the argument has been that in order to survive against the growing power of the PRC, Taiwan must view itself as a separate and distinct entity from "China". This involves removing the name of China from official and unofficial items in Taiwan, making changes in history books to focus mainly on Taiwan as a central entity, promoting the use of Taiwanese, reducing economic links with mainland China, and in general thinking of Taiwan as a separate entity. In this view, China is a foreign entity, and the goal of this movement is to create an internationally recognized country which is separate from any concept of China. Kinmen and Matsu off the coast of Fujian and some of the islands in the South China Sea, which are historically not part of Taiwan, are to be excluded from the proposed state of Taiwan. Some supporters of Taiwan independence argue that the Treaty of San Francisco [cite web |year=1951| title=Treaty of San Francisco| work=text of the treaty| url=http://www.uni-erfurt.de/ostasiatische_geschichte/texte/japan/dokumente/19/19510908_treaty.htm | accessdate=2007-03-10] justifies Taiwan independence by not explicitly granting Taiwan to either the ROC or the PRC. This legal justification is rejected by both the PRC and ROC governments.

Recent years

In more recent years, with the existence of democratic and direct elections, the focus of the movement has changed to that of insuring the independence and dignity of Taiwan against the possibility of rule by the PRC, and as such has been more willing to take on the symbols of the ROC. The movement, at its peak in the 70s through the 90s in the form of the Taiwan literature movement and other cultural upheavals, has moderated in recent years with the assimilation of these changes. Friction between "mainlander" and "native" communities on Taiwan has decreased due to shared interests: increasing economic ties with mainland China, continuing threats by the PRC to invade, and doubts as to whether or not the United States would support a unilateral declaration of independence. Since the late 1990s many supporters of Taiwan independence have argued that Taiwan, as the ROC, is already independent from the mainland, making a formal declaration unnecessary. In May 1999, the Democratic Progressive Party formalized this position in its "Resolution on Taiwan's Future".

During PRC President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States on 20 April 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush reaffirmed to the world that the U.S. would uphold its "one China" policy.cite news
first= Yun-ping
last= Chang
publisher=Taipei Times
title=Taiwan welcomes Bush remarks
date=Saturday, 22 April, 2006


Current status

"Taiwan independence" has been lately focused on what kind of political move can be seen as declaration of independence (and interpreted by China as a violation of the anti-secession law).

In February 2007, President Chen Shui-bian initiated the change of names of state-owned enterprises, nation's embassies and overseas representative offices. As a result Chunghwa Post Co. (中華郵政) has been renamed Taiwan Post Co (臺灣郵政), and Chinese Petroleum Corporation (中國石油) is now called "CPC Corporation, Taiwan" (臺灣中油) and the signs in Taiwan's embassies now display the word "Taiwan" under "Republic of China".cite news|url=http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2007/02/12/2003348683
name=Jewel Huang
publisher=Taipei Times
title=Analysis: Name changes reflect increasing 'Taiwan identity'
date=12 February, 2007

] In 2007, the recently renamed Taiwan Post Co. issued stamps bearing the name "Taiwan" in remembrance of the 228 Incident.

The Pan-Blue camp voiced its opposition to the changes and the former KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou () said that it would generate diplomatic troubles and cause cross-strait tensions. Later, U.S. Department of State spokesman Sean McCormack said that the U.S. does not support administrative steps that would appear to change Taiwan's status or move toward independence.

Former president Lee Teng-hui has stated that it is unnecessary to pursue Taiwanese independence. Lee views Taiwan as already an independent state, and that the call for "Taiwanese independence" could even confuse the international community by implying that Taiwan once viewed itself as part of China. From this perspective, Taiwan is independent even if it remains unable to enter the UN. Lee said the most important goals are to improve the people's livelihoods, build national consciousness, make a formal name change and draft a new constitution that reflects the present reality so that Taiwan can officially identify itself as a country.cite news
publisher=Taipei Times
title=Pan-green bickering takes focus off issues
date=10 March, 2007



See also

* 228 incident
* Republic of Taiwan
* Anti-Secession Law of the People's Republic of China
* Kaohsiung incident
* Treaty of San Francisco
* White Terror
* Chinese reunification
* Flag of the Republic of China
* Four-stage Theory of the Republic of China
* History of the Republic of China
* Free Area of the Republic of China
* Third Taiwan Strait Crisis
* Ryukyu independence movement
* Taiwanese literature movement
* Foreign relations of the Republic of China

Further reading

*Bush, R. & O'Hanlon, M. (2007). "A War Like No Other: The Truth About China's Challenge to America". Wiley. ISBN 0471986771
*Bush, R. (2006). "Untying the Knot: Making Peace in the Taiwan Strait". Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 0815712901
*Carpenter, T. (2006). "America's Coming War with China: A Collision Course over Taiwan". Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1403968411
*Cole, B. (2006). "Taiwan's Security: History and Prospects". Routledge. ISBN 0415365813
*Copper, J. (2006). "Playing with Fire: The Looming War with China over Taiwan". Praeger Security International General Interest. ISBN 0275988880
*Federation of American Scientists et al. (2006). [http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/china/Book2006.pdf Chinese Nuclear Forces and U.S. Nuclear War Planning]
*Gill, B. (2007). "Rising Star: China's New Security Diplomacy". Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 0815731469
*Shirk, S. (2007). "China: Fragile Superpower: How China's Internal Politics Could Derail Its Peaceful Rise". Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195306090
*Tsang, S. (2006). "If China Attacks Taiwan: Military Strategy, Politics and Economics". Routledge. ISBN 0415407850
*Tucker, N.B. (2005). "Dangerous Strait: the U.S.-Taiwan-China Crisis". Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231135645

External links

* [http://www.leksu.com/ Taiwan history]
* [http://www.taiwanyes.com/tvfilm_200604.php Yes to Taiwan]
* [http://www.taiwannation.com.tw/english.htm The True History of Taiwan]
* [http://www.taiwannation.com.tw/ecairo.htm San Francisco Treaty vs Cairo Declaration]
* [http://english.www.gov.tw/Yearbook/index.jsp?categid=24&recordid=52659 Taiwan population and languages]
* [http://www.taiwandc.org/history.htm Taiwan time line]
* [http://en.wildatheart.org.tw/archives/history_of_taiwan_in_comics.html?gclid=CIu94MuQ6ooCFRRlTAodlQrcmg Taiwan history in comics]
* [http://www.wufi.org.tw/enginitl.htm World United Formosans for Independence]
* [http://atimes.com/atimes/China/FB27Ad01.html Taiwan poll should ask about US sovereignty]
* [http://philip.pristine.net/formosa/falick.html America and Taiwan, 1943-2004]
* [http://www.taiwandocuments.org/ Taiwan Documents Project]
* [http://www.fapa.org/ Formosan Association for Public Affairs]

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