Taiwan Communiqué No. 95, February 2001

Back to which Constitution?

Three real realities and four recommendations

Half horse

DPP to Lee Yuan-tseh (on his half-horse): "Come back you son of a ...!!"

In order to attempt to come to a national consensus on Taiwan's relations with China, President Chen Shui-bian instituted a Task Force on cross-Strait relations in September 2000, headed by Taiwanese Nobel Price winner Lee Yuan-tseh.

The 25-member group -- later renamed Presidential Advisory Group on Cross Strait Relations -- was supposed to be joined by representatives from all political parties in Taiwan, but in their drive to undermine the president, the major opposition parties, PFP and KMT, boycotted the Group (see "Cross-Strait Task Force vs. National Unification Council" in Taiwan Communiqué no. 93, pp. 20-23).

Still, the Group was filled with people from across the political spectrum, and went to work. At the end of November 2000, it came up with its conclusions.

Shrouded in a fuzzy concoction of "Three realities and Four recommendations" the Group basically advised president Chen should deal with the so-called "one China" issue "…in accordance with the ROC Constitution."

Here follows the text of the recommendation:

Three Realities and Four Recommendations

The Supraparty Task Force maintains:

  1. The current status of crossstrait relations is the result of developments in history.
  2. Taiwan and the People's Republic of China neither represent one another nor belong to each other. As Taiwan has established a democratic system, any change in status quo must be approved by its citizens through democratic procedures.
  3. The people are the core of a nation, and the purpose of a nation is to protect the security and welfare of its people. With geographic proximity as well as similar languages and cultures, the people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should be able to enjoy longterm and common interests.

Based upon the aforementioned acknowledgments, the Supraparty Task Force recommends that the President:

  1. Promote crossstrait relations, handle crossstrait disputes, and respond to Beijing's "one China" stance in accordance with the ROC Constitution.
  2. Establish a new mechanism or adjust the existing system, in order to continue integrating the opinions of different parties and sectors on national development and crossstrait relations.
  3. Call on the PRC government to respect Taiwan's dignity and right to survival in the international community, renounce the threat of force, and work toward a peace agreement, so that it can win the confidence of the Taiwan people and thereby create a winwin situation for both sides.
  4. Make known to the world that the Taiwan government and people will contribute to the international community under the convictions of peace, democracy and prosperity, and that upon the same base, Taiwan wishes to construct a new crossstrait relationship with the greatest sincerity and patience.

Taiwan Communiqué comment: Well, perhaps somebody should remind the group that according to that "ROC Constitution" the ROC is the "One China" and the mainland is part of that "One China" — a far cry from any present-day reality. The ROC Constitution is thus outdated and should be discarded (see below).

Instead of dodging the issue like it did, and — in the words of one prominent American commentator — "bringing forth a mouse", Mr. Lee's group should have arrived at the following real three realities and four recommendations:

Three real realities

  1. The Civil War between the Kuomintang and the CCP is over;
  2. Taiwan has never been under the sovereignty of the PRC;
  3. Taiwan is now a free and democratic nation, which deserves international recognition in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

Four real recommendations

  1. Taiwan and China should accept each other as two friendly neighboring countries;
  2. Taiwan and China should build mutual trust, and establish diplomatic relations;
  3. Taiwan should normalize its relations with the United States and nations of Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Australian continent.
  4. The international community should accept Taiwan as a full and equal member of the family of nations.

The 1947 anachronism

Terra cotta general
The terra cotta "ROC Constitution general"

The "Constitution" referred to in the above mentioned conclusion is the one adopted by the Kuomintang authorities when they were still in China, holed up in Nanking, desperately fighting off the Communists of Mao Tse-tung. It was adopted by the National Assembly in Nanking on 25 December 1946, and promulgated by Chiang Kai-shek's regime on 1 January 1947.

From April 1948 through April 1991, the ruling Kuomintang authorities had a set of "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion" in place, which severely restricted personal freedoms and human rights in Taiwan. It also provided for the perpetuation of the National Assembly and Legislative Yuan elected in China in 1947. By the end of the 1980s this led to preposterous scenes of old legislators in their 90s _ many on an infuse and too senile to know what was going on — being wheeled or even carried into the legislative chambers.

The political reforms pushed through by then-President Lee Teng-hui in the early 1990s gradually dismantled this system, and provided for popular elections for all seats in the Legislative Yuan and National Assembly, and by 1996 for direct election of the President and Vice-President.

While in the second half of the 1990s, the National Assembly and the Taiwan Provincial government (also an anachronistic leftover from the ROC days) were gradually phased out, the main "Republic of China" shell, the Constitution, name, flag and anthem were left in place.

Taiwan Communiqué comment: If Taiwan wants to gain international recognition, it needs to discard these trappings of the old regime. They lack any relation to the present-day reality of Taiwan.

They are, of course, being kept alive artificially by the Kuomintang and other mainlander-dominated opposition parties that held power until last March 2000, when the DPP's Chen Shui-bian was elected as Taiwan's president.

Sure, there is one China…

....and one Britain and one France

As we have argued before, "one China" has become a confusing concept. After the establishment of the PRC in October 1949, the United States and most of the rest of the Western world clung to the idea that the defeated Kuomintang regime which had fled to Taiwan was the real "One China" and recognized it as the government representing China. From 1945 until 1971, the Nationalists even maintained a seat in the UN Security Council.

That position became untenable in the late 1960s, when an increasing number of newly independent nations in Africa and Asia started to support the PRC's position, which eventually led to the 1971 switch of the UN seat from the "representatives of Chiang Kai-shek" to those of the Communist authorities in Beijing.

After the US established diplomatic ties with the PRC at the end of 1978, one of the key points _ emphasized during the hearings and meetings between the Carter Administration and Congress regarding the Taiwan Relations Act _ was that recognition of the government in Beijing did not entail any recognition of sovereignty of Beijing over Taiwan. The key element of US policy was that it needed to be a peaceful process: the US did not take any position on the eventual outcome of that process.

There was the now well-known phrase of the 1972 Shanghai Communiqué that the US acknowledged the Chinese position which held that "all Chinese on either sides of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China." As emphasized by many in- an outside the successive US administrations, this was simply and acknowledgement and not a recognition. Most importantly, it also did not take account of the position of the native Taiwanese themselves (85% of the island's population).

The US position — of emphasis on the peaceful process and studious neutrality on the eventual outcome _ was maintained well during the Reagan and Bush Administrations, but the Clinton Administration allowed itself into drifting much closer to the PRC position by reiterating time and again that it had a "One China" policy, without explaining how this differed from the position of the Communist regime in Beijing.

Taiwan Communiqué comment: The Beijing authorities are now using the "One China" concept as a blunt tool to drive Taiwan with its back into a corner. It is time for the United States and the rest of the Western world to realize what a monstrous concoction "One China" has become.

The US and the rest of the West must put new emphasis on the idea that recognition of the government in Beijing as the rightful government of China in no way implies recognition (or acknowledgement for that matter) of their claims to sovereignty over Taiwan.

Sure there is one China, and there is also one France, one Germany and one United Kingdom. But recognition of the government in Paris does not imply that Belgium is part of France, although part of Belgium is French-speaking and at various points in history France ruled over Belgium.

By the same token, recognition of one Germany doesn't imply that the Netherlands is part of Germany, although Dutch history books start out with Germanic tribes coming down the Rhine River in dugout canoes, and in the darkest days of the 20th Century the German flag flew over the Low Countries.

Another cogent example: recognition of one Great Britain does not imply recognition of British sovereignty over Ireland, although for an extended period of time in the previous centuries the British ruled over Ireland.

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Copyright © 2001 Taiwan Communiqué