On 3 February 1999, U.S. Congressmen Robert E. Andrews (D-NJ, shown here addressing a Taiwanese crowd on Capitol Hill) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) introduced a bipartisan resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives strongly urging the Clinton Administration to seek a public renunciation by China of any use of force, or threat of use of force, against Taiwan, and stressing that the United States should help Taiwan in case of threats or a military attack by China.
The resolution H.Con.Res.22. is very timely in view of the renewed signs that China is stepping up its threats to Taiwan, and has significantly increased the number of missiles trained at the island.
The resolution refers back to March 1996, when China used provocative military maneuvers, including missile launch exercises in the Taiwan Strait, in an attempt to intimidate the people of Taiwan during their historic, free and democratic presidential elections.
It also refers to the June 1998 House resolution, which was passed by a vote of 411-0, and which the President to seek, during his July 1998 summit meeting in Beijing, a public renunciation by the People's Republic of China of any use of force, or threat of use of force, against democratic Taiwan.
Finally, it refers to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which states that "[i]t is the policy of the United States ... to consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States".
On Wednesday, 20 January 1999, Alaska Senator Frank Murkowski introduced a resolution in the US Senate supporting Taiwan's membership in the World Health Organization. The measure was cosponsored by five influential Senators, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Craig Thomas (R-Wyo) and Robert Torricelli (D-NJ). The move follows a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives in October 1998, with the same purpose.
In the "Resolved" part, the resolution states that it is the sense of the Senate that Taiwan and its 21 million people should have appropriate and meaningful participation in the World Health Organization. It also calls for a report by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright by April 1, 1999 on the efforts of the Secretary to fulfill the commitment made in the 1994 Taiwan Policy Review to more actively support Taiwan's membership in international organizations and to look for ways to have Taiwan's voice heard in international organizations.
It also requests the Secretary of State to report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by April 1, 1999 on what action the United States will take at the May 1999 World Health Organization meeting in Geneva to support Taiwan's meaningful participation.
Taiwan Communiqué comment: While we are happy that Senator Murkowski and his colleagues took this initiative, the text still has some weaknesses: the major one is that it only talks about Taiwan's "participation" in international organizations, and sidesteps that Taiwan has a right to be a full and equal member in the international community.
Another weakness is that in one section, it still refers to Taiwan as the "Republic of China on Taiwan". This change was slipped in at the last minute by Senator Jesse Helms at the request of the TECRO office in Washington. Mr. Helms and the Kuomintang authorities in Taiwan should realize that clinging to this outdated name will only make it more difficult to enter international organizations. It's clear and simple: Let Taiwan be Taiwan.
The PBS documentary, "the Tug of War: the Story of Taiwan", which was aired in December 1998, gave a concise overview of Taiwan's history in the 20th century. It is an important contribution to the understanding of Taiwan's history in the past century, In general it gives a balanced and objective perspective.
Having said that, we would like to point out a number of areas, where it is either inaccurate or shows omissions. While it is impossible for an 80-minute documentary to shed light on every major event in Taiwan's 20-century experience, it is our hope that this critical review would make the over-all picture more complete.
By design, the documentary starts in 1895. Virtually the only statement about history prior to that date is that "Chinese emperors claimed the island for China." In fact, the only real Chinese claim did not come until 1887, when the Manchu Emperor in a futile attempt to stop the Japanese expansion towards the south declared the island a province of China.
Before that, the Chinese claims were rather thin. In fact, Dutch historical records show that when the Dutch East India Company landed the island in 1624, there were hardly any Chinese living on the island, and there was no Chinese administrative structure at all, whatsoever.
Starting the documentary's perspective in 1895 also leads to an under-representation of the island's aboriginal heritage. Recent genetic studies in New Zealand show that Taiwan may have been the homeland of all Maori and Polynesian aboriginal groupings. We realize though that it is difficult to obtain visual / pictorial information about that period.
In the documentary's evaluation of Taiwan's colonial experience under Japan from 1895 to 1945, it suggested that Japanese colonial rule was highly regimental in that the colonial administration controlled and regulated all aspects of colonial life. Even though there is a great deal of truism in this assessment, the documentary did not counterbalance this negative reality with some of Japan's major colonial achievements in Taiwan. The only positive contribution of Japanese colonial rule that the documentary had acknowledged was that the Japanese colonizers regimented the Taiwanese populace into law-abiding citizens who did not have to worry about crimes in the society.
To be a more balanced and objective evaluation of Taiwan's colonial experience, Japanese colonial authority's achievements in building the basic infrastructure of Taiwan, such as railways, should have been mentioned in the documentary. Historians argued that Taiwan's infrastructure under Japanese colonial rule was a major factor that facilitated the rapid industrialization of Taiwan in the post-WWII era.
In addition, Taiwan's high literacy rates under Japanese colonial rule should be acknowledged. According to the estimate of Edward I-Te Chen, professor of Japanese history, around 60 percent of Taiwanese populace were literate in Japanese; about 20 percent of the populace were literate in Chinese. In other words, the vast majority of Taiwanese already enjoyed full literacy at the latter stage of Japan's colonial rule. This did not necessarily mean that the Japanese colonizers had the best interests of the Taiwanese in mind when they implemented this educational policy.
Perhaps the Japanese had the intention of training the Taiwanese to be a more productive colonial workforce for the Japanese empire. It is also true that most Taiwanese and Japanese pupils in Taiwan attended schools in racially segregated settings. Nevertheless, the achievements of Japanese colonial authority's educational policies in Taiwan should not be overlooked.
The documentary states that after the end of World War II, China and Japan "...signed an agreement returning Taiwan to China." This is factually incorrect. The Chinese left all contacts with the Japanese to the American forces under McArthur. In fact, Taiwan was occupied by Chiang Kai-shek's forces "on behalf of the Allied Forces" under an Executive order signed by McArthur.
In relation to this, the documentary has an important omission: it does not refer at all to the decisions at the 1951 San Francisco Peace Conference, when Japan formally ceded its sovereignty over Taiwan. It is important to note that at San Francisco no beneficiary was named: this was left to a future decision by the people of Taiwan, "...in accord with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations." In 1951-52, this could have only one meaning: independence.
The best source for information on this whole period is "Formosa Betrayed" by the former American diplomat George Kerr. Regrettably, the WGBH webpage article about "Tug of War" fails to mention this monumental work about Taiwan's recent history.
George Kerr also extensively discusses the numbers of mainlanders who came over with Chiang Kai-shek. He arrives at an estimate of slightly over 1 million, and not at the 2 million mentioned in the documentary. His figure would lead to a mainlander-taiwanese ratio of about 15% versus 85%, which is about correct.
The documentary states that during the February 28th incident of 1947 "Chiang's troops killed an estimated 10,000 people." This is based on a very early and very incomplete estimate. A 1992 study commissioned the Kuomintang authorities themselves came up with a much higher figure: between 18,000 and 28,000. The study was done by a group of five scholars headed by Academia Sinica member Dr. Lai Che-han. See our Taiwan Communiqué, no 53 and no. 54 on the Internet for further information on this point.
Lastly, the documentary mentioned that there has been no security treaty between the governments of Taiwan and the United States since the U.S. severed her relationship with the KMT government on Taiwan. Nevertheless, the U.S. government decided to send two carrier groups to the Taiwan Strait when the Communist Chinese government threatened Taiwan with the missile tests during Taiwan's first presidential election in 1996. While this statement is true, the documentary should have also mentioned the Taiwan Relations Act.
When the Carter Administration recognized the government of Beijing as the legitimate government of China and severed the United States' diplomatic relations with the government in Taipei in 1979, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act to reaffirm the cultural and economic ties between the U.S. and Taiwan. Equally important, the Taiwan Relations Act stated that the U.S. would continue to sale arms of defensive nature to Taiwan, and Taiwan's political future should only be determined through peaceful means. If Taiwan's security were to be threatened, the U.S. President and the Congress should make decisions on the appropriate actions to take.
Based on the wording of the act, it is probable that the Taiwan Relations Act was one of the important factors that had provided the legal backing for the U.S. government to send the two carrier groups to the Taiwan Strait during China's missile tests near Taiwan.
In the final analysis, "the Tug of War: the Story of Taiwan" provides a good overview of Taiwan's history in the past century.
Hopefully, this critical review provides the audience of the documentary with a more complete overall picture of Taiwan's history.
Back to: Table of Contents
Copyright © 1999 Taiwan Communiqué