WEDNESDAY, 25 JUNE 2014
The question of whether Taiwan has to declare independence or wait to one day be incorporated into the People’s Republic of China is a controversial topic in Taiwan. Here is how I see the matter.
Taiwan was a colony of Qing China for 200 years. Then it became a colony of the Japanese Empire for the next 50 years. After Japan was defeated in 1945, areas that had been annexed by Japan again came under the control of their former colonial masters. In Taiwan’s case it was no longer Qing China, but the Republic of China. Then the Chinese Civil War forced the republican government in 1949 to make Taiwan its headquarters. Despite the government of the Republic of China ruling Taiwan with an iron fist for the next 50 years, democracy slowly took root. By the late 1980s, Taiwan had her first home-born president. By the end of the 1990s, Taiwan had grown into a full-fledged multi-party democracy.
Just like Indonesia and India and Vietnam and Kenya and Algeria and other former colonies had gained their independence or had taken it with force after the Second World War, so too, I believe, the time has come for Taiwan to be recognized for what it is – a politically developed, independent, democratic state that had long ago thrown down her colonial chains.
The government in Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is still part of their national territory is about as ridiculous as it would be if France claimed Algeria as part of their national area, or if Britain made such an argument over India. Taiwan was never an integral part of Chinese territory. Taiwan never fell within the natural boundaries of China. And unlike areas such as Guam which has also never been part of American territory, Taiwan has never been conquered by the current Chinese state.
So, on what does the government in Beijing base their claim over Taiwan? On the grounds that Taiwan was a colony of Ching China for 200 years, and for five years after World War II came under the nominal control of the Chiang Kai-shek administration, which was regarded as the government of China for technical reasons but in practice only had control over parts of China.
Imagine the following historical situation: In 1946, a rebel group took over the government in London. The ousted UK government escaped to India, made New Delhi their new headquarters, and continued to reign over India as a colony for the next 50 years. After decades of one-party rule in India, the old “colonial” government is voted out in a democratic election.
Imagine now the next generation of leaders of the organisation that took over the British government in 1946 still claiming India as part of the British Empire after 60 years. The situation in Taiwan is in my opinion not too dissimilar.