Election victory significance

Washington, 29 November 1997

Ending the "status quo"

The election results in Taiwan show that the people on the island are not satisfied with the Kuomintang's status quo, and want change. They want change on the island itself, away from the corruption and lack of public safety which characterizes the Kuomintang's rule. Earlier this year, thousands demonstrated in Taipei against the Kuomintang's inability to stem violent crime.

The elections also show an underlying trend that the people on the island want to be accepted by the international community as a full and equal member. Prominent advocates of Taiwan independence and Taiwan's entry into the United Nations, such as Tainan City Mayor George Chang and Taoyuan County Magistrate Lu Hsiu-lien were all elected. In a separate by-election in Chiayi City, UN-membership advocate Chai Trong-rong also regained his seat in the Legislative Yuan.

At a victory celebration in Taipei, the DPP's likely candidate for the Presidential Elections in 2000, Mr. Chen Shui-bian appealed for multi-party cooperation to raise the island's international stature.

The underlying issue is thus that the "One China" policy is no longer valid. As we have emphasized before, the policy as enunciated by the Clinton Administration is ambiguous and confusing, and doesn't reflect present day reality.

Towards the "Fifth policy"

An examination of the various interpretations of the "One China" policy shows that there are actually four "One China" policies:

  1. The policy as it was formulated in 1971-72, when the authorities in Beijing were accepted as the representatives of China in the UN -- taking the seat held until that time by the Kuomintang regime. The US and other nations at that time "acknowledged" (=took note of) the Chinese position that there was but one China, and that the regime in Beijing considered Taiwan part of their China. This "acknowledgement" was never meant to be a permanent policy, but was intended to be a temporary holding position. It was hoped that time would somehow solve the issue.
  2. A second "One China" policy is the one which evolved in the minds of some academics and policymakers over the past 25 years: the original "acknowledged" became fuzzy, and -- in a peculiar definition-creep -- came to mean "accepted" or "recognized." This second "One China" policy is much closer to the PRC-position than the original one.
  3. The third "One China" policy is the one taken by the PRC-authorities in Beijing themselves: this one bases itself on the mistaken fiction that historically Taiwan is somehow an integral part of China. In fact Taiwan has never been part of the PRC, but was occupied after World War II by the losing side in China's Civil War. According to the distorted PRC view, the issue of Taiwan's future is a "internal, domestic" Chinese matter, and other nations should stay out of it.
  4. The fourth "One China" policy is the one promoted by the Kuomintang authorities in Taiwan, who maintain that there is "One China", but that within this "One China" there are two equal political entities, the PRC and their ROC. This policy boils down to a "Two China" policy.

The Fifth Policy is the "One China, One Taiwan" policy. This one recognizes the reality that Taiwan and China are two separate nations, which can coexist as two friendly neighbors without claiming sovereignty over eachother. In this policy, the PRC is recognized as being the sole China, and Taiwan is accepted by the international community as a full, equal and independent member.

We believe strongly that the Fifth Policy is the only realistic, rational and reasonable one. It would mean that both the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communists end their Civil War, and that the 21 million people of Taiwan are finally accepted by the international community as a free, democratic, and independent nation.

Taiwan independence is good for China

We make the argument here that Taiwan independence would be good for China, and that it would be helpful if policymakers and academics would convince the Chinese leadership that it is in China's own interest if they would accept peaceful coexistence with Taiwan as a friendly neighbor, instead of perpetuating an old Civil War.

Until now, the Chinese leaders in Beijing -- and a number of Western policymakers and academics -- have been rather paranoid about Taiwan independence. They either do not wish to discuss the issue in a fair and evenhanded manner, or hit the ceiling upon hearing the words.

As we have argued before, the Taiwanese were just as much -- or even more -- a victim of that Civil War when the Kuomintang moved its repressive regime to the island. The "February 28th Incident" of 1947, in which between 20,000 and 28,000 Taiwanese were murdered by the Chinese Nationalist troops, is a vivid proof of this fact. The Chinese should learn to distinguish between their old enemies (the Kuomintang) and their possible new friends and neighbors (the Taiwanese).

Coming to terms with the reality of a new and independent Taiwan would bring stability and new prosperity to East Asia. It would enhance trade, cultural and social exchanges between Taiwan and the coastal provinces of China, and would remove an old sore which the people on both sides have already long forgotten.

The latter point was illustrated in interviews which International Herald Tribune writer Richard Halloran held in China during the first weeks of November 1997. In discussions with people on the streets of Beijing, he discovered little interest in Taiwan. The topic was hardly brought up. When he questioned people on their views, they said things such as:

"Let the Taiwanese decide for themselves what they want to do", said a teacher in Shanghai....."

A scholar from Beijing agreed: "Nobody really cares about Taiwan. They have too much else on their minds trying to get better jobs."

"I'd like to see Taiwan become part of China," said an intellectual, "but it's not worth fighting over."

"The Taiwan obsession isn't for everyone", Richard Halloran, International Herald Tribune, 28 November 1997.

China can thus come to an accomodation with Taiwan in which it recognizes Taiwan and established diplomatic ties with the island, just like the United States and Canada live peacefully next to eachother (who nowadays remembers the War of 1812 or the fact that in 1776 thousands in the American Colonies didn't want Independence and fled to the British-held territories in the North ?), or the Dutch and Germans peacefully coexist as two independent nations in spite of the fact that Germany harshly occupied the Low Countries only 45 years ago.

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