Political status of Taiwan

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The controversy regarding the political status of Taiwan hinges on whether Taiwan, including the Pescadores (Penghu), should remain the effective territory of the Republic of China (ROC), become unified with the territories now governed by the People's Republic of China (PRC), or become the Republic of Taiwan. The controversy over the political status of the Republic of China hinges on whether its existence as a state is legitimate and recognized.

Currently, Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen (Quemoy), Matsu and some other minor islands effectively make up the jurisdiction of the state known as the Republic of China. The ROC ruled mainland China, and claimed sovereignty over Outer Mongolia and Tannu Uriankhai (part of which is present day Tuva) before losing the Chinese Civil War and relocation of its government to Taipei in December 1949.

Since the ROC lost its United Nations seat in 1971 (replaced by the PRC), most sovereign states have switched their diplomatic recognition to the PRC, recognising or acknowledging the PRC to be the sole legitimate representative of all China, notably the United States in 1979. As of 2006, the ROC maintains official diplomatic relations with 24 sovereign states, although de facto relations are maintained with nearly all others. Agencies such as the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office and American Institute in Taiwan operate as de facto embassies with ambiguous diplomatic status.

The ROC government has in the past considered itself to be the sole legitimate government over China, as well as its former territories. This position started to be largely ignored in the early 1990s, changing to one that does not challenge the legitimacy of PRC rule over mainland China. However, the ROC's claims have never been renounced through a constitutional amendment; both the PRC and the ROC carry out cross-strait relations through specialized agencies (such as the Mainland Affairs Council of the ROC), rather than through foreign ministries. Different groups have different concepts of what the current formal political situation of Taiwan is. (See also: Taiwan independence, Chinese reunification, and Cross-Strait relations)

In addition, the situation can be confusing because of the different parties and the effort by many groups to deal with the controversy through a policy of deliberate ambiguity. The political solution that is accepted by many of the current groups is the following perspective of the status quo: that is, to unofficially treat Taiwan as a state and at a minimum, to officially declare no support for the government of this state making a formal declaration of independence. What a formal declaration of independence would consist of is not clear and can be confusing given the fact that the People's Republic of China has never controlled Taiwan since its founding and the fact that the Republic of China, whose government controls Taiwan, considers itself a de jure sovereign state. The status quo is accepted in large part because it does not define the legal status or future status of Taiwan, leaving each group to interpret the situation in a way that is politically acceptable to its members. At the same time, a policy of status quo has been criticized as being dangerous precisely because different sides have different interpretations of what the status quo is, leading to the possibility of war through brinkmanship or miscalculation.


[edit] Background

Main article: History of Taiwan

Taiwan was mostly ignored by the different Chinese governments throughout Chinese history. The Qing took interest in Taiwan and made it a province in 1887 because of Japanese interest in expanding to Taiwan[citation needed]. Taiwan, including the Pescadores, was ceded by China (then under the Qing Dynasty) to Japan in 1895. Japan surrendered it in 1945 at the end of World War II after 50 years of colonial rule, and it became a province of the Republic of China (ROC). Taiwan's resources were used to supply the ROC in the Chinese civil war ostensibly at the expense of the people living on Taiwan. An explosion of anger/resentment of ROC rule occured on February 27, 1947 which became known as the 228 incident. Martial law was declared by the ROC and the government functioned as a dictatorship until the lifting of martial law in 1987. Upon losing the Chinese civil war in 1949, the ROC government retreated to Taipei, and kept control over a few islands along the coast of mainland China and in the South China Sea. The People's Republic of China (PRC) was established on the mainland on October 1, 1949, claiming to be the successor to the ROC.

Quemoy, Matsu and Wuchiu on the coast of Fukien, and Taiping and Pratas in the South China Sea, are part of the ROC's present territory, but were not ceded to Japan. Some arguments supporting the independence of Taiwan do not apply to these islands.

[edit] Question of sovereignty over Taiwan

[edit] Cession, retrocession and self-determination of Taiwan

Image:Japan 1911.jpg
At the establishment of the ROC in 1912, Taiwan was de jure part of Japan.
The PRC (founded October 1, 1949) however denies the validity of Japanese sovereignty de jure during this time, arguing that the treaty of Shimonoseki was invalid due to it being manifestly unjust as one of several unequal treaties forced upon the Qing.

China, during the Qing Dynasty, ceded the island of Taiwan, including the Pescadores (Penghu), to Japan "in perpetuity" at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War by signing the Treaty of Shimonoseki. In the Cairo Conference of 1943, the allied powers agreed to have Japan restore "all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese", which included Taiwan and the Pescadores, to the Republic of China upon Japan's surrender. According to both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China, this agreement was given legal force by the Instrument of Surrender of Japan in 1945. The PRC's UN Ambassador, Wang Yingfan (Chinese 王英凡), has stated multiple times in the UN general committee: "Taiwan is an inseparable part of China’s territory since antiquity" and "both the 1943 Cairo Declaration and the 1945 Potsdam Declaration have reaffirmed in unequivocal terms China’s sovereignty over Taiwan as a matter of international law."

On the other hand, a number of supporters of Taiwan independence argue that Taiwan was only formally incorporated as a Chinese territory under the Qing Dynasty in 1683, and as a province in 1885. Subsequently, because of the Shimonoseki Treaty of 1895, Taiwan had been de jure part of Japan when the ROC was established in 1912 and thus was not part of the Chinese republic. However, the Unification supporters point out that "the Qing Dynasty" was universally accepted as a historical name for China. Thus, the ROC government was a succession of Qing China. Also, because the Cairo Declaration was an unsigned press communiqué, the independence advocates argue that the legal effectiveness of the Declaration is highly questionable. Furthermore, they point out that the Instrument of Surrender of Japan was no more than an armistice, a Modus Vivendi in nature, which served as a temporary or provisional agreement that would be replaced with a peace treaty. Therefore, the independence supporters assert that both the San Francisco Peace Treaty and Treaty of Taipei hold the legal supremacy over the surrender instrument and that these treaties did not transfer the title of Taiwan from Japan to China. According to this argument, the sovereignty of Taiwan was returned to the people of Taiwan when Japan renounced sovereignty of Taiwan in the San Francisco Peace Treaty (SFPT) in 1951, based on the policy of self-determination which has been applied to "territories which detached from enemy states as a result of the Second World War" as defined by article 76b and 77b of the United Nations Charter and also by the protocol of the Yalta Conference. However unification supporters counter that since neither the Republic of China (ROC) nor the People's Republic of China(PRC) signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty (SFPT), that treaty cannot affect the Chinese claims to Taiwan. Independence advocates point out that at the end of World War II, allied powers agreed that the Republic of China was to "temporarily occupy Taiwan, on behalf of the Allied forces" under the authorization from General Douglas MacArthur's General Order No. 1 of September 2, 1945. The Unification supporters refer to the fact that the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation were cited in both the Japanese Instrument of Surrender and The Treaty of Peace between Japan and the People's Republic of China, completing the returning of sovereignty from Japan to China. Therefore the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Proclamation, and the subsequent Japanese Instrument of Surrender and The Peace Treaty between Japan and China should take legal supremacy over General MacArthur's orders. Even though some people interpret the 1952 Treaty of Taipei as indirectly suggesting that Japan recognized the ROC government's sovereignty over Taiwan, Penghu, and "territories which are now, or which may hereafter be, under the control of its Government," Japan abrogated this treaty upon establishment of diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1972 by acknowledging the PRC's claim that Taiwan is part of China.

Although the interpretation of the peace treaties was used to challenge the legitimacy of the ROC on Taiwan before the 1990s, the introduction of popular elections in Taiwan has compromised this position. Except for the most extreme Taiwan independence supporters, most Taiwanese support the popular sovereignty theory and no longer see much conflict between this theory of sovereignty and the ROC position. In this sense, the ROC government currently administrating Taiwan is not the same ROC which accepted Japanese surrender because the ruling authorities were given popular mandate by different pools of constituencies: one is the mainland Chinese electorate, the other is the Taiwanese constituencies. In fact, current president Chen Shui-bian has been frequently emphasizing the popular sovereignty theory in his speeches.

Image:The Taiwan State.jpg
A shopping bag produced by an independence-leaning pastry establishment. The address uses "Taiwan Country/State" rather than "Taiwan Province" or "Republic of China."

However, as of 2005, the conflict between these two theories still plays a role in internal Taiwanese politics. The popular sovereignty theory, which the pan-green coalition emphasizes, suggests that Taiwan could make fundamental constitutional changes by means of a popular referendum. The ROC legal theory, which is supported by the pan-blue coalition, suggests that any fundamental constitutional changes would require that the amendment procedure of the ROC constitution be followed.

[edit] Position of the People's Republic of China (PRC)

The position of the PRC is that the ROC ceased to be a legitimate government upon the founding of the former on October 1, 1949 and that the PRC is the successor of the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China, with the right to rule Taiwan under the succession of states theory.<ref name = prc_wp>Template:Cite web</ref> Whether the ROC, on the other hand, still has the legitimacy to retake the mainland is not widely accepted, but disputed.

The ROC argues that it maintains all the characteristics of a state and that it was not "replaced" or "succeeded" by the PRC because it has continued to exist long after the PRC's founding. According to the Montevideo Convention of 1933, the most cited source for the definition of statehood, a state must possess a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. The ROC claims to meet all these criteria as it possesses a sovereign government exercising effective jurisdiction over well-defined territories with over 23 million permanent residents and a full fledged foreign ministry.

The Unification supporters in Mainland China argue that the ROC and PRC are two different factions in the Chinese Civil War, which never legally ended. Therefore both factions belong to the same sovereign country—China. Since Taiwan's sovereignty belongs to China, the secession of Taiwan should be agreed upon by 1.3 billion Chinese citizens instead of the 23 million Taiwanese citizens who currently live on the Republic of China (Taiwan). Furthermore, given the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, which states "Recognizing that the representatives of the Government of the People's Republic of China are the only lawful representatives of China to the United Nations", the PRC is formally granted the sovereignty of all of China, including Taiwan. Therefore, based on the PRC's sovereignty claim on Taiwan, it is well within the legal rights of the People's Republic of China to extend its jurisdiction to Taiwan, by military means if necessary.

In addition, the PRC argues that the ROC does not meet the fourth criterion of the Montevideo Convention, as it is recognized by only 25 (relatively small and poor) countries and has been denied access to international organizations such as the UN. The ROC counters that the pressure the PRC exerts<ref name = prc_wp /> prevents the ROC from being widely recognized and that Article 3 of the same Montevideo Convention specifically says, "The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by other states." This was accomplished because the PRC took many coercive steps to isolate the ROC diplomatically. Nevertheless, the Unification supporters point out the fact that the Montevideo Convention was only signed by 19 states at the Seventh International Conference of American States. Thus the authority of the United Nations as well as UN Resolutions should supersede the Montevideo Convention.

The current position of the People's Republic of China is that "the Government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government of China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China". This view is rejected by Taiwan's Republic of China government which holds the view that both PRC and ROC are two separate and sovereign Chinese governments that split during the Chinese civil war<ref name = prc_wp />. The PRC government is unwilling to negotiate with the Republic of China (Taiwan) under any formulation other than under a One-China policy, although flexibility in terms of defining that "one China" such as found in the 1992 consensus is allowed. The PRC government considers perceived violations of its One-China policy, or inconsistencies such as supplying the ROC with arms, a violation of its rights to territorial integrity.<ref name=pdaily041010>"China expresses strong indignation for "US-Taiwan defense conference": FM spokesman", People's Daily, 2004-10-10.</ref> International news organizations often report that "China considers Taiwan a renegade province that must be united with the mainland by force if necessary", even though the PRC does not explicitly say that Taiwan is a renegade province. However, official PRC media outlets and officials often refer to Taiwan as "China's Taiwan Province". (The PRC claims Quemoy, Wuchiu and Matsu as part of its Fujian Province, and the South China Sea Islands part of its Guangdong and Hainan provinces.)

[edit] Position of the Republic of China (ROC)

The position of the Republic of China (Taiwan) has always been that it is a de jure sovereign state.<ref name=mac>Mainland Affairs Council, ROC Executive Yuan (2005-03-29). The Official Position of the Republic of China (Taiwan) on China’s Passing of the Anti-secession (Anti-Separation) Law. Press release.</ref> The ROC government under Kuomintang rule actively maintained that it was the sole legitimate government of China, until 1991, when President Lee Teng-hui claimed that the government would no longer challenge the rule of the Communists on the mainland. However, the now defunct National Assembly never officially changed the national borders, as the People's Republic of China claims this would be "a precursor to Taiwan independence". The task of changing the national borders now requires a constitutional amendment passed by the Legislative Yuan and ratified by an absolute majority of all eligible ROC voters.

On the other hand, though the constitution of the Republic of China promulgated in 1946 does not state exactly what territory it includes, the draft of the constitution of 1925 did individually list the provinces of the Republic of China and Taiwan was not among them, since Taiwan was de jure part of Japan as the result of the Treaty of Shimonoseki of 1895. The constitution also stipulated in Article I.4, that "the territory of the ROC is the original territory governed by it; unless authorized by the National Assembly, it cannot be altered." However, in 1946, Sun Ke, son of Sun Yat-Sen and the minister of the Executive Yuan of the ROC, reported to the National Assembly that "there are two types of territory changes: 1. renouncing territory and 2. annexing new territory. The first example would be the independence of Mongolia, and the second example would be the reclamation of Taiwan. Both would be examples of territory changes." Japan renounced all rights to Taiwan in the San Francisco Treaty in 1951 and the Treaty of Taipei of 1952 without an explicit recipient. While the ROC continuously ruled Taiwan after the government was directed to Taiwan by the General Order No.1 to receive Japanese surrender, there has never been a meeting of the ROC National Assembly in making a territory change according to the ROC constitution, though the Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China have mentioned Taiwan "Province." Thus, many pro-Independence advocates point out that the ROC constitution in fact denies its own legality governing Taiwan. [1]

The now defunct National Assembly passed constitutional amendments that give the people of the "Free Area of the Republic of China", comprised of the territories it controls, the sole right to exercise the sovereignty of the Republic through elections<ref name=mac /><ref>"Taiwan assembly passes changes", BBC, 2005-06-07.</ref> of the President and the entire Legislature as well as through elections to ratify amendments to the ROC constitution. Also, Chapter I, Article 2 of the ROC constitution states that "The sovereignty of the Republic of China shall reside in the whole body of citizens." For some, this suggests that the constitution implicitly admits that the sovereignty of the ROC is limited to the areas that it controls even if there is no constitutional amendment that explicitly spells out the ROC's borders.

In 1999, Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui proposed a two-state theory (or a special state-to-state relations theory, zh:兩國論) in which both the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China (PRC) would acknowledge the reality that they are two separate countries with a special diplomatic, cultural and historic relationship, and gained immense support within Taiwan.<ref name=2states_1>Bunnag, Sanya. "Understanding Taiwan's tactics", BBC, July 20, 1999.</ref><ref name = 2000vote>Template:Cite journal</ref> This however drew an angry reaction from the PRC who believed that Lee was covertly supporting Taiwan independence.<ref name=2states_2>"Beijing media ups the ante", BBC, July 20, 1999.</ref>

President Chen Shui-bian, the current Taiwanese President, fully supports the reality that the "Republic of China (Taiwan) is an independent, sovereign country" but holds the view that "Taiwan is the Republic of China" and not the People's Republic of China. This is suggested in his Four-stage Theory of the Republic of China. Due to the necessity of avoiding war with the PRC however, President Chen has been deliberately silent as to the issue of whether Taiwan is or is not part of China and the meaning of the term "China". Government publications have implied that Taiwan refers to the ROC, and "China" refers to the PRC.<ref name=mac /> President Chen has repeatedly refused to endorse the One China Principle the PRC requires for negotiations to begin. There have been thus far unsuccessful attempts to restart semi-formal negotiations through formulations that refer to the 1992 consensus or the spirit of 1992. After becoming chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party in July 2002, Chen appeared to move toward a two states theory and in early August 2002, he stated that Taiwan may "go on its own Taiwanese road" and that "it is clear that the two sides of the straits are separate countries." These statements were strongly criticized by opposition parties in Taiwan.

The position of supporters of Taiwan independence is that Taiwan is not part of China and the PRC is the sole legitimate government of China. Until the mid-1990s, supporters of Taiwan independence opposed the Republic of China and supported the creation of an independent Republic of Taiwan. Since the mid-1990s, a compromise has been reached between most supporters of Taiwan independence and Chinese reunification on Taiwan to support the continuation of the Republic of China but as a government that administers only Taiwan and other islands. The Taiwan Solidarity Union, the junior party within the pan-Green coalition, opposes this compromise.

The position of supporters of Chinese reunification in Taiwan is that Taiwan is part of China but the PRC is not the sole legitimate government of China, and that reunification does not necessarily have to occur under the communist regime. Within Taiwan, support for Taiwan independence and Chinese reunification exists as part of a political spectrum with most people in the middle. Traditionally, reunification has more support among "mainlanders" (the descendants of those who fled the mainland after the civil war), while support for independence is rooted in the "Taiwanese" majority "ethnic" group (those who have lived on the island since before the civil war). However, both groups were reconciled because of the coercive measures that the PRC took in an effort to force reunification or annexation.

[edit] Position of other countries and international organizations

See also Foreign relations of the Republic of China

Because of anti-communist sentiment at the start of the Cold War, the Republic of China was initially recognized as the sole legitimate government of mainland China by the United Nations and most Western nations. The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 505 passed on 1 February 1952 has considered the Chinese Communists rebels against the Republic of China. However, the 1970s saw a switch in diplomatic recognitions from the ROC to the PRC. On 25 October 1971, Resolution 2758 was passed by the UN General Assembly, which in effect expelled the Republic of China and replaced the China seat on the Security Council (and all other UN organs) with the People's Republic of China. It declared "that the representatives of the Government of the People's Republic of China are the only lawful representatives of China to the United Nations." Multiple attempts by the Republic of China to rejoin the UN, no longer to represent all of China but just the people of the territories it governs, have not made it past committee, largely due to diplomatic maneuvering by the PRC, which claims Resolution 2758 has settled the matter. (See China and the United Nations.)

The PRC refuses to maintain diplomatic relations with any nation that recognizes the ROC,<ref name = prc_wp /> but does not object to nations conducting economic, cultural, and other such exchanges with Taiwan that do not imply diplomatic relation. Therefore, many nations that have diplomatic relations with Beijing maintain unofficial quasi-diplomatic offices in Taipei. For example, the United States maintains the American Institute in Taiwan. Similarly, the government in Taiwan maintains quasi-diplomatic offices in most nations under various names, most commonly as the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.

The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan recognize that there is one China and that the People's Republic of China is the sole legitimate government of China. However, the U.S. and Japan acknowledge rather than recognize the PRC position that Taiwan is part of China. In the case of Canada and the UK, the bilateral written agreement stated that the two respective parties take note of Beijing's position, but the word support was not used. The UK government position has been stated several times that "the future of Taiwan be decided peacefully by the peoples of both sides of the Strait." Although the media in the PRC claim that the United States opposes Taiwanese independence, the United States takes advantage of the subtle difference between "oppose" and "does not support". In fact, a substantial majority of the statements Washington has made says that it "does not support Taiwanese independence", not "opposes". Thus, the US currently does not take a position on the political outcome except for one explicit condition that there be a peaceful resolution to the differences between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.<ref name= state>U.S. Department of State (2004-04-21). Overview of U.S. Policy Towards Taiwan. Press release.</ref> All of this ambiguity has resulted in the United States constantly walking on a diplomatic tightrope with regard to the China/Taiwan issue.

The ROC maintains formal diplomatic relations with 24 countries, mostly in Central America and Africa. Interestingly, the Holy See also recognizes the ROC, a largely non-Christian/Catholic state, mainly out of protest of the PRC's suppression of the Catholic faith on the mainland. Vatican City has repeatedly stated its intention to break relations with Taiwan as soon as the PRC grants more religious liberty.<ref>Spencer, Richard. "Vatican ready to sacrifice Taiwan for China", Daily Telegraph, May 16, 2005.</ref> During the 1990s, there was a diplomatic tug of war in which the PRC and ROC would attempt to outbid each other for diplomatic support of small nations. However, by 2001, this effort seems to have ended as a result of the PRC's growing economic power and doubts on Taiwan as to whether this aid was actually in the Republic of China's interest. In March 2004, Dominica switched recognition to the PRC, in exchange for a large package of aid.<ref>Painter, James. "Taiwan's 'Caribbean headache'", BBC, March 30, 2004.</ref> However, in late 2004, Vanuatu briefly switched recognition from Beijing to Taipei,<ref>Vurobaravu, Fred. "Parliament debates Vanuatu-Taiwan deal", Vanuatu Daily Post, November 24, 2004.</ref> leading to the ousting of its Prime Minister and a return to its recognition of Beijing.<ref>"Vanuatu gov. reshuffled after Taiwan controversy", China Radio International, December 11, 2004.</ref> On January 20, 2005, Grenada switched its recognition from Taipei to Beijing, in return for millions of dollars of aid (US$1,500 for every Grenadan).<ref>"Grenada picks China over Taiwan", BBC, January 21, 2005.</ref> On October 26, 2005, Senegal also broke off relations with the Republic of China and established diplomatic contacts in Beijing.<ref>"Senegal picks China over Taiwan", BBC, October 26, 2005.</ref> On August 5, 2006, Taipei ended relations with Chad when Chad established relations with Beijing.<ref>"Taiwan Breaks Off Relations With Chad", Voice of America, August 5, 2006.</ref>

Currently, the countries who maintain formal diplomatic relations with the ROC include:

The political status of the Republic of China often leads to complicated situations. The 2006 World Baseball Classic saw the ROC team compete under the name Chinese Taipei. Their flag was prominently absent from the tournament's logo, instead stretching the Italian flag to double length to cover the entire background (top middle)

Under continuing pressure from the PRC to bar any representation of the ROC that may imply statehood, international organizations have different policies toward the issue of Taiwan's participation. In cases (such as the UN and the World Health Organization under it<ref>Klapper, Bradley. "Taiwan fails in 10th bid for WHO observer status", Associated Press, May 23, 2006.</ref>) where almost all UN members or sovereign states participate, the ROC has been completely shut out while in others, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) the ROC participates under unusual names: "Chinese Taipei" in the case of APEC and the IOC, and the "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kimmen and Matsu" (often shortened as "Chinese Taipei") in the case of the WTO. The issue of Taiwan's name came under scrutiny during the 2006 World Baseball Classic. The organizers of the 16-team tournament intended to call Taiwan as such, but reverted to "Chinese Taipei" under pressure from China. The Taiwanese protested the decision, claiming that the WBC is not an IOC event, but did not prevail.<ref>"Major League Baseball succumbs to Beijing", WorldNetDaily, February 1, 2006.</ref> The ISO 3166 directory of names of countries and territories registers Taiwan (TW) separately from and in addition to the People's Republic of China (CN), but lists Taiwan as "Taiwan, Province of China" based on the name used by the UN with PRC pressure. In ISO 3166-2:CN, Taiwan is also coded CN-71 under China, thus making Taiwan part of China in ISO 3166-1 and ISO 3166-2.

Naming of the ROC and Taiwan continues to be a contentious issue in non-governmental organizations. One organization which faced a huge controversy in this respect was the Lions Club.<ref>Yeh, Lindy. "Taiwan's Lions Club gets another temporary name", Taipei Times, July 12, 2002, pp. 3.</ref>

[edit] Slips of the tongue

Many political leaders who have maintained some form of One-China Policy have committed slips of the tongue in referring to Taiwan as a country or as the Republic of China. United States presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have been known to have referred to Taiwan as a country during their terms of office. Although near the end of his term as U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell said that Taiwan is not a state, he referred to Taiwan as the Republic of China twice during a testimony to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 9, 2001.<ref>"US scrambles as Powell learns the art of 'diplospeak'", AFP, March 15, 2001.</ref> In the People's Republic of China Premier Zhu Rongji's farewell speech to the National People's Congress, Zhu accidentally referred to Mainland China and Taiwan as two countries.<ref>"China and Taiwan `two countries': Zhu", Taipei Times, March 6, 2003, pp. 3.</ref> There are also those from the PRC who informally refer to Taiwan as a country.<ref>Gluck, Caroline. "Taiwan struggles with Chinese dissidents", BBC, August 17, 2005.</ref> South Africa delegates once referred to Taiwan as the "Republic of Taiwan" during Lee Teng-hui's term as President of the ROC.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> In 2002, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, referred to Taiwan as a country.<ref>"NY mayor stands up for Taiwan", Taipei Times, May 2, 2002.</ref> Most recently, former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated in a local Chinese newspaper in California in July 2005 that Taiwan is "a sovereign nation". However, the People's Republic of China discovered the statement about three months after it was made.[citation needed]

In a controversial speech on February 4, 2006, Japanese Foreign Minster Taro Aso called Taiwan a country with very high education levels because of previous Japanese colonial rule over the island.<ref>"Good schools due to Japan: Aso", Taipei Times, February 6, 2006, pp. 2.</ref> One month later, he told a Japanese parliamentary committee that "[Taiwan's] democracy is considerably matured and liberal economics is deeply ingrained, so it is a law-abiding country. In various ways, it is a country that shares a sense of values with Japan." At the same time, he admitted that "I know there will be a problem with calling [Taiwan] a country".<ref>"Japan's Aso calls Taiwan a `country'", Taipei Times, March 10, 2006, pp. 1.</ref> Later, the Japanese Foreign Ministry tried to downplay or reinterpret his remarks.

[edit] Possible military solutions and intervention

Until 1979, both sides intended to resolve the conflict militarily. Intermittent clashes occurred throughout the 1950s and 1960s, with escalations comprising the First and Second Taiwan Strait crises. In 1979, with the U.S. change of diplomatic recognition to the PRC, the ROC lost its ally needed to "recover the mainland." Meanwhile, the PRC's desire to be accepted in the international community led it to promote peaceful unification under what would later be termed "one country, two systems," rather than to "liberate Taiwan" and institute socialism (in other words, to make Taiwan a Special Administrative Region).

[edit] PRC's condition on military intervention

Notwithstanding, the PRC government has issued triggers for an immediate war with Taiwan. These conditions are:

  • if events occur leading to the separation of Taiwan from China in any name, or
  • if Taiwan is invaded and occupied by foreign countries, or
  • if Taiwan refuses reunification negotiations indefinitely, or
  • if Taiwan develops nuclear weapons (see main article Taiwan and weapons of mass destruction).

Much saber-rattling by the mainland has been done over this, with Jiang Zemin, after assuming the mantle of the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, becoming a leading voice.

The third condition has especially caused a stir in Taiwan as the term "indefinitely" is open to interpretation. It has also been viewed by some as meaning that preserving the ambiguous status quo is not acceptable to the PRC, although the PRC stated on many occasions that there is no explicit timetable for reunification.

Concern over a formal declaration of de jure Taiwanese independence is a strong impetus for the military buildup between Taiwan and mainland China. Some people believe that Taiwan will attempt a declaration of independence during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Others point out that the current US administration has publicly declared that given the status quo, it would not aid Taiwan if it were to declare independence unilaterally.

According to ROC President Chen Shui-bian, China has accelerated the deployment of missiles against Taiwan to 120 a year, bringing the total arsenal to 706 ballistic missiles capable of being fitted with nuclear warheads that are aimed at Taiwan. These missiles are believed to have a CEP (Circular Error Probability) of more than 100 meters, which implies they could do little damage in a likely conventional war scenario because of poor accuracy. Some believe that their deployment is a political tool on the part of the PRC to increase political pressure on Taiwan to abandon unilateral moves toward formal independence, at least for the time being, although PRC government herself never declares such deployment publicly.

[edit] Balance of power

The possibility of war, the close geographical proximity of ROC-controlled Taiwan and PRC-controlled mainland China, and the resulting flare-ups that occur every few years, conspire to make this one of the most watched focal points in the Pacific. Both sides have chosen to have a strong naval presence. However, naval strategies between both powers greatly shifted in the 1980s and 1990s, while the PRC assumed a more a more defensive attitude by building and buying frigates and missile destroyers, and Taiwan a more aggressive posture by developing long-range cruise missiles and supersonic SSMs

The PRC's air force is considered large and powerful, although it is not yet capable of controlling Taiwan's airspace in the event of a conflict as most of them are outdated J-7 variants (localized Mig-21 and Mig-21bis). The ROC's airforce relies on Taiwan's second generation fighters. The ROC has approximately 150 US-built F-16s, approximately 60 French-built Mirage 2000-5s, and approximately 130 locally developed IDFs (Indigenous Defence Fighters). All of these ROC fighter jets are able to conduct BVR (Beyond Visual Range) combat missions with respective BVR missiles, while only a handful of PRC fighter airplanes were able to conduct such tasks. Since mid-1990s China has been purchasing, and later localizing SU-27 based fighters. These Russian fighters and its Chinese localized variants J11A (estimated number goes up to more than 170)have increased the effectiveness of PLAAF's BVR capability, also the introduction of the new generation fighter J10A by the PRC will increase PRC's air-power significantly. China's acquisition of Russian Su33MKKs further enhanced PLAAF's air-to-ground support ability.

In 2003, the ROC made a purchase of four missile destroyers—the former USS Kidd and three sister ships, and expressed a strong interest in the Arleigh Burke class. But with the growth of the PRC navy and air force, some doubt that the ROC could withstand a determined invasion from mainland China in the future. This also leads to a view that Taiwanese independence, if it is to be implemented, should be attempted as early as possible while the ROC still had the capacity for an all-out military conflict. Over the last three decades, estimates of how long Taiwan can withstand a full scale invasion from across the Strait without any outside help have<ref>Chang, Rich. "War simulations reveal communication problem", Taipei Times, May 1, 2006, pp. 3.</ref> decreased from three months to only six days. Given such estimates, the US Navy has continued practicing "surging" its carrier groups, giving it the experience necessary to respond quickly to an attack on Taiwan.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The US also collects data on the PRC's military deployments, such as through the use of spy satellites. It would take days, if not weeks, for China to prepare for a full assault on Taiwan, so the US and Taiwan would have some time to prepare for an attack.

However, numerous reports issued by the PRC, ROC and US militaries make wildly mutually contradictory statements about the possible defense of Taiwan.

Naturally, the possible war is not being planned in a vacuum. In 1979, the United States Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, a law generally interpreted as mandating U.S. defense of Taiwan in the event of an attack from the Chinese Mainland (the Act is applied to Taiwan and the Pescadores, but not to Quemoy and Matsu). The United States maintains the world's largest permanent fleet in the Pacific Region near Taiwan. The Seventh Fleet, operating primarily out of various bases in Japan, is a powerful naval contingent built upon the world's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. Although the stated purpose of the fleet is not Taiwanese defense, it is safely assumed from past actions that that is one of the reasons why the fleet is stationed in those waters.

Since 2000, Japan renewed its defense obligations with the US and also embarked on a rearmament program, partly in response to fears that Taiwan would be invaded. Some analysts believed that the PRC could launch pre-emptive strikes on military bases in Japan to deter US and Japanese forces from coming to Taiwan's aid. Japanese strategic planners also see an independent Taiwan as vital, not only because Taiwan controls valuable shipping routes, but its capture by China would make Japan more vulnerable. Historically, in World War II, although the US captured the Philippines, another viable target would have been Taiwan (then known as Formosa) as that would enable a direct attack on Japan. However, critics assert that the PRC would not wish to give Japan and the US such an excuse to intervene.

[edit] Third Taiwan Strait Crisis

In 1996, the PRC began conducting military exercises near Taiwan, and launched several ballistic missiles over the island. The saber-rattling was done in response to the possible re-election of then President Lee Teng-hui. The United States, under then President Clinton, sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the region, sailing them into the Taiwan Strait. The PRC, unable to track the ships' movements, and probably unwilling to escalate the conflict, quickly backed down. The event had little impact on the outcome of the election, since none of Lee's contestants were strong enough to defeat him, but it is widely believed that the PRC's aggressive acts, far from intimidating the Taiwanese population, gave Lee a boost that pushed his share of votes over 50 percent.

The possibility of war in the Taiwan Straits, even though quite low in the short-term, requires the PRC, ROC, and U.S. to remain wary and vigilant. The goal of the three parties at the moment seems to be, for the most part, to maintain the status quo.

[edit] Recent developments & future prospects

[edit] Political

Although the situation is confusing, most observers believe that it is stable with enough understandings and gentlemen's agreements to keep things from breaking out into open warfare. The current controversy is over the term one China, as the PRC insists that the ROC must recognize this term to begin negotiations. Although the ruling Democratic Progressive Party has moderated its support for Taiwan independence, there is still insufficient support within that party for President Chen Shui-bian to agree to one China. By contrast, the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) appear willing to agree to some variation of one China, and observers believed the position of the PRC was designed to sideline Chen until the 2004 presidential election where it was hoped that someone who was more supportive of Chinese reunification would come to power. Partly to counter this, Chen Shui-bian announced in July 2002 that if the PRC does not respond to Taiwan's goodwill, Taiwan may "go on its own ... road."

With Chen's re-election in 2004, Beijing's prospects for a speedier resolution were dampened, though they seemed strengthened again following the Pan-Blue majority in the 2004 legislative elections. However, public opinion in Taiwan reacted unfavorably towards the anti-secession law passed by the PRC in March 2005. Following two high profile visits by KMT and PFP party leaders to the PRC, the balance of public opinion appears to be ambiguous, with the Pan-Green Coalition gaining a majority in the 2005 National Assembly elections, but the Pan-Blue Coalition scoring a landslide victory in the 2005 municipal elections.

[edit] Public opinion

Public opinion in Taiwan regarding relations with the PRC is notoriously difficult to gauge, as poll results tend to be extremely sensitive to how the questions are phrased and what options are given, and there is a tendency by all political parties to spin the results to support their point of view.

According to a November 2005 poll from the Mainland Affairs Commission, 37.7% of the population favors maintaining the status quo until a decision can be made in the future, 18.4% favors maintaining the status quo indefinitely, 14% favors maintaining the status quo until eventual independence, 12% favors maintaining the status quo until eventual reunification, 10.3% favors independence as soon as possible, and 2.1% favors reunification as soon as possible. According to the same poll, 78.3% is opposed to the one country, two systems model while 10.4% is in favor.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> However, there is also between 70-80 percent support for the view that Taiwan is an independent nation under the name of Republic of China with a special relationship to the People's Republic of China, as set forth by former President Lee. [citation needed] A recent poll in December 2004 shows, given a referendum vote on independence, unification or becoming a state of the U.S., 41 percent of Taiwanese residents support independence, 24 percent choose unification and 15 percent would be in favor of becoming a 51st state of the United States. 68 percent say they would fight to defend Taiwan if a declaration of independence results in war.<ref>"台湾民调:15%受访者愿台湾成为美国一州", Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved on 2006-10-18.</ref>

[edit] Changing Taiwan’s status with respect to the ROC constitution

From the perspective of the ROC constitution, which the mainstream political parties such as the KMT and DPP currently respect and recognize, changing the ROC’s governing status or completely clarifying Taiwan’s political status would at best require amending the ROC constitution. In other words, if reunification supporters wanted to reunify Taiwan with the mainland in such a way that would effectively abolish the ROC or affect the ROC’s sovereignty, or if independence supporters wanted to abolish the ROC and establish a Republic of Taiwan, they would need to amend the ROC constitution. Passing an amendment requires an unusually broad political consensus, which includes approval from three-quarters of a quorum of members of the Legislative Yuan. This quorum requires at least three-quarters of all members of the Legislature. After passing the legislature, the amendments need ratification from at least fifty percent of all eligible voters of the ROC, irrespective of voter turnout.

Given these harsh constitutional requirements, neither the pan-greens nor pan-blues can unilaterally change Taiwan’s political and legal status with respect to the ROC’s constitution. However, extreme Taiwan independence supporters view the ROC’s constitution as illegal and therefore believe that amendments to the ROC constitution are an invalid way to change Taiwan’s political status.

[edit] Note on terminology

[edit] Political status vs. Taiwan issue

Some scholarly sources as well as political entities like the PRC refer to Taiwan's controversial status as the "Taiwan question", "Taiwan issue", or "Taiwan problem", all which can be translated in Chinese as 臺灣問題/台湾问题. The ROC government does not like these terminologies, emphasizing that it should be called the "Mainland issue" or "Mainland question", because from the ROC's point of view, the PRC is making an issue out of or creating a problem out of Taiwan. Others use the term "Taiwan Strait Question" because it implies nothing about sovereignty and because "Cross-Strait Relations" is a term used by both the ROC and the PRC to describe their interactions. However, this term is also objectionable to some because it still implies that there is an issue, which they feel is created only by the PRC. To avoid siding with any viewpoint on whose issue or problem this is, this article uses the neutral term "Political status of Taiwan".

[edit] De-facto vs. de-jure

The use of the terms de-facto and de-jure to describe Taiwan's as well as the Republic of China's status as a state is itself a contentious issue. This partially stems from the lack of precedents regarding derecognized, but still constitutionally functioning states. For instance, it has been debated if the Republic of China changed from a de-jure to a de-facto state in 1971 because it lost its UN seat. This lies in the controversy on whether UN membership or recognition by the UN alone rather than the Montevideo Convention can determine if a state "legitimately" or "illegitimately" exists. From the 1990's onwards, media wire services sometimes describe Taiwan as having de-facto independence, whereas the Republic of China has always considered itself as a continously functioning de-jure state.

[edit] See also

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[edit] References and notes


[edit] External links

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Image:Flag of the Republic of China.svg Politics of the Republic of China (Taiwan)  
Constitution of the Republic of China - Three Principles of the People
President - Vice President - Premier
Executive Yuan | Legislative Yuan | Judicial Yuan | Control Yuan | Examination Yuan
Political parties | Elections
Pan-Blue Coalition: Kuomintang | People First Party | New Party
Pan-Green Coalition: Democratic Progressive Party | Taiwan Solidarity Union
Political status | Legal status | Chinese reunification | Taiwan independence
Image:Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg Politics of the People's Republic of China  
Constitution of the People's Republic of China
President - Vice President - Premier
Communist Party of China | National People's Congress | State Council | PLA
Political parties | Elections

es:Estatus político de la República de China fr:Statut de Taïwan he:הסטטוס הפוליטי של טאיוואן ja:台湾問題 simple:Political status of Taiwan vi:Vị thế chính trị Đài Loan zh:台灣問題

Political status of Taiwan

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