White Paper Regarding Taiwan and its Future (2001)
Third Printing, Washington D.C., September 2001
Purpose and summary
Through this White Paper 2001, the overseas Taiwanese community in
Canada, Europe and the United States - as represented by the
organizations listed at the end of this Paper - wishes to promote a
better understanding in North America and Europe of our homeland
Taiwan, and to gain support for acceptance of Taiwan as a full and
equal member in the international community.
On the following pages we first give a brief historical
background. Then we present our arguments from a legal and political
perspective, and conclude with a policy recommendation based on the
fundamental principles of democracy, respect for human rights,
universality of UN membership, self-determination, and peace and
Taiwan is at a crossroads. During the past two decades,
the people on the island of Taiwan, with the support of the overseas
Taiwanese community, have transformed the island from a repressive
one-party dictatorship to a blossoming multi-party democracy.
This transformation culminated in March 2000 in the election of
Mr. Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party as President,
ending 50 years of Kuomintang Party rule. It was the first peaceful
transfer of political power on the island, signifying a maturing of
This peaceful transition is the result of the vision, persistence,
and hard work of the native-Taiwanese democratic movement, both on
the island and overseas, which has worked for more than five decades
to promote self-determination, independence, and acceptance of
Taiwan in the international family of nations.
In spite of this progress, Taiwan has not been accepted yet by the
international community as a full and equal member. China continues
to block its membership in international organizations, and
threatens to attack if the island moves further in the direction of
de jure independence.
Recent developments, such as President George W. Bush's forceful
statements regarding U.S. intent to defend Taiwan if attacked by
China, the US Administration's robust 2001 arms package, and support
for Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization, have
given encouragement to the people of Taiwan.
Democracy is now firmly entrenched in Taiwan. The December 2001
parliamentary elections will be a test of balance of political
forces on the island, and all observers firmly believe that the
election process will be orderly, fair and respectful of all
The next several years will be of crucial importance to the future
of our beautiful island. At this critical juncture, we as Taiwanese
citizens of the world, appeal to the international community
and in particular to the United States, Canada and European nations
1. Affirm that the people of Taiwan have the right to
determine their own future under the principle of
self-determination as enshrined in the Charter of the United
2. Urge China to renounce the use of force and accept Taiwan
as a friendly neighboring state instead of perpetuating the
hostility and rivalry dating from the Chinese Civil War which they
fought against the Kuomintang five decades ago; and
3. Accept Taiwan as a full and equal member of the
international family of nations, including the United Nations.
From 1600s through 1949
At issue is whether Taiwan should be considered part of China -
as is contended by the authorities in Beijing. This has also been
the traditional position of the Kuomintang authorities in Taipei,
who came over from China after 1945.
A brief survey of Taiwan's almost 400 years of recorded history
shows that Taiwan was never an integral part of China.
The most comprehensive historical records on Taiwan go back some
350 years, to the period of the Dutch occupation of Taiwan
(1624-1662). These show the presence of the original
Malayo-Polynesian aborigine population, but no signs of any
significant Chinese settlement or any Chinese administrative
In fact, recent research in New Zealand has shown that the
Polynesian and Maori populations of Australia, New Zealand and
Polynesia in all probability originated from Taiwan.
Subsequent to the Dutch period and the rule of Ming loyalist
Koxinga and his son (1662-1683) there was increasing migration from
the coastal provinces of China to Taiwan. However, these people came
to flee the wars and famines in the Chinese coastal provinces, and
did not come to settle Taiwan on behalf of the Chinese authorities.
The successive Ch'ing Imperial Governments paid scant attention to
For a brief period, from 1887 to 1895, the Manchus declared Taiwan
a province of China, in a vain attempt to stop Japan's expansion in
a southerly direction. After losing the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese War,
the Ching Imperial government ceded Taiwan to Japan in
perpetuity in the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki.
The Taiwanese didn't like the idea of incorporation into Japan,
and on 25 May 1895 established with the assistance of
disenchanted Manchu officials the Taiwan Democratic Republic,
the first independent republic in Asia.
Shortly thereafter, on 29 May 1895, a Japanese military force of
over 12,000 soldiers landed in Northern Taiwan, and started to crush
the movement. On 21 October 1895, Japanese imperial troops entered
Tainan, the southern capital of the Taiwan Democratic Republic,
ending its short life. For the next 50 years, until the end of World
War II, Taiwan was a colony of Japan.
In 1945, Taiwan was not "returned to China" but
was occupied on behalf of the Allied Forces. General Douglas
McArthur, as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, authorized
a temporary military occupation of Taiwan by Chiang
Kai-shek's army on behalf of the Allies. They started exercising
administrative control over the island as a "trustee on behalf
of the Allied Powers."
Initially, the Taiwanese were glad to get rid of the Japanese, but
soon their joy turned into sorrow and anger: the newcomers from
China turned out to be corrupt and repressive, looting the island
and treating the Taiwanese as conquered, second-class citizens.
The tension burst into the open in the February 28 massacre of
1947, when an incident of police brutality in Taipei led to
island-wide demonstrations. The Kuomintang was initially taken
aback, but secretly sent troops from China, which started to round
up and execute a whole generation of leading figures, students,
lawyers and doctors. In all, some 28,000 to 30,000 people were
killed. During the "white terror" of the following years,
thousands of people were arrested, imprisoned, tortured and murdered
by the KMT's highly repressive KGB-style security apparatus, the
Taiwan Garrison Command.
In 1949, Taiwan did not "split off from China",
but was occupied by the losing side in the Chinese Civil War. In
that year, Chiang Kai-shek lost the war in China to the Communists,
and fled to Taiwan. There he established the remainder of his
regime. The contention that Taiwan "split off" from China
is thus false: it was not part of China in the first place, but
officially still under Japanese sovereignty (see below). It only
became a bone of contention when two warring parties -- Nationalists
and Communists -- perpetuated a Civil War in which the Taiwanese
themselves never had any part.
1949 - 1987: Occupation by Chinese Nationalists, 38 years of
For the next four decades, the people of Taiwan lived under
Martial Law, while the KMT authorities attempted to maintain the
fiction that they ruled all of China, and would some day recover
the mainland. The Chinese mainlanders who came over with Chiang
Kai-shek constituted only 15 percent of the population of the
island, but were able to maintain themselves in a position of power
over the 85 percent native Taiwanese through tight control of the
political system, police, military, educational system and media.
The 1971 UN acceptance of the Beijing regime as the representative
of China, the 1972 visit by President Nixon to China, and
particularly the decision by the US in December 1978 to switch
recognition from the Kuomintang regime to the regime in Beijing hit
hard in Taiwan. At the same time, it gave impetus to the growth and
evolution of Taiwans democratic opposition movement in the
late 1970s and early 1980s.
The Kaohsiung Incident of December 1979 galvanized the Taiwanese
on the island and overseas into political action. The Tangwai
(outside-the-party) democratic opposition started to
question the KMTs anachronistic claim to represent all of
China, and began to work towards ending the 40-year old Martial Law.
In September 1986, this movement culminated in the formation of the
Democratic Progressive Party, which soon grew into a full-fledged
1987 - 1992: Transition to a democratic political system
Martial Law was finally lifted in 1987. This was largely due to
international pressure as well as pressure from within Taiwan, where
the democratic opposition became increasingly organized and vocal.
Of special importance were the efforts by U.S. Senators Edward M.
Kennedy and Claiborne Pell, and Congressmen Jim Leach and Stephen
Solarz, who _ prompted by the Taiwanese-American community _ held
numerous hearings questioning the lack of human rights and democracy
In 1987, Martial Law was replaced by a less-stringent National
Security Law, but it wasnt until 1991 that the KMT dropped the
claim to rule all of China, and that aging Chinese Nationalist
legislators elected on the mainland in 1947 were sent
into retirement. Since then the island has made major strides in the
direction of a fully democratic political system. However, the
Kuomintang party and other groups associated with the Chinese
Nationalists continue to cling to the outdated claim that Taiwan
is part of China, creating a political schism on the island.
1992 - present: Democracy, and yet no international
Since 1992, Taiwan continued to evolve into a free nation with
democratic institutions. This process of democratization culminated
in the election of Mr. Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive
Party as Taiwan's President in the March 2000 Presidential election.
This ended 50 years of Nationalist Party rule of Taiwan, and was the
first peaceful transfer of political power on the island.
The system of political checks and balances functions relatively
well, but is complicated by the fact that in the legislature, the
old Kuomintang and two other opposition parties aligned with it,
jointly still have a majority. This imbalance may be corrected in
the December 2001 legislative elections if the newly-formed Taiwan
Solidarity Union (TSU) -- established in August 2001, can win enough
seats to help a DPP-TSU alliance gain a majority.
The Judiciary is increasingly exerting its influence as an
independent institution, but the Control Yuan, a body with the power
of impeachment, has hardly functioned, leading to increasing calls
for its abolishment.
Although newspapers and magazines are increasingly objective in
their reporting, the influence of the Kuomintang is still pervasive
in the written media. Also in the electronic media, the influence of
the pro-unificationist mainlanders is widespread. There are,
however, increasingly influential stations, such as Formosa TV
(Channel 4), the Chinese-language Liberty Times, and the
English-language Taipei Times and Taiwan News, which
are speaking out on behalf of the native Taiwanese majority on the
This increasingly vibrant democratic nation-state is asking to be
accepted as a full and equal member of the international community.
International legal perspective
From an international legal perspective, four defining events
during the past century are of major importance to the status of
The first event took place in 1895, when the Japanese
defeated the Manchus in the Sino-Japanese War, and China ceded
Taiwan to Japan in perpetuity through the Treaty of Shimonoseki.
The second defining event was the 1945 "temporary
occupation" of Taiwan by the forces of Chiang Kai-shek. As was
clearly stated in Allied documents from that period, this was done "on
behalf of the Allied Forces". As time went on, this occupation
became rather permanent, but as the deliberations at San Francisco
(see below) illustrate, it did not change the formal legal status of
The third defining event was the 1951 San Francisco Peace
Treaty Conference, whereby the Allied Powers and Japan formally
ended World War II. That treaty is important for the discussion on
Taiwan's future, because it decided that Japan gave up sovereignty
over Taiwan, but it did not specify a recipient. The majority of the
conferees voiced the opinion that the views of the people of the
island needed to be taken into account.
The British delegate stated that "In due course a
solution must be found in accord with the purposes and principles of
the Charter of the United Nations."
The Egyptian delegate stated that specifying the
recipient is to afford the opportunity to take into consideration
the principle of self-determination and the expressed desire of the
inhabitants of Taiwan."
The French delegate stated that: "Taiwan's legal
status must be determined one of these days, taking the wishes of
the Formosan population into consideration."
The Charter of the UN contains article 1.2 which states that it is
a purpose of the UN "To develop friendly relations among
nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and
self-determination of peoples..." The conclusion must be
drawn that it was the intention of the attendants of the San
Francisco Peace Conference that the people of Taiwan should
determine the future status of the island based on the principle of
self-determination. The San Francisco Peace Treaty is thus
the one and only international treaty of the 20th
Century which deals with the status of Taiwan.
The fourth defining event was the 1971-1972 switch of
representation at the United Nations and the subsequent
derecognition of the Kuomintang authorities as the government
representing China. Contrary to general perception, this did not
alter the status of Taiwan, because UN General Assembly Resolution
2758 dealt with the question who was the rightful representative of
"China" in the United Nations, not with Taiwan's status.
The subsequent 1972 U.S.-China Shanghai Communiqué and
other communiqués - which are quoted so often as the basis
for U.S. policy on this matter - cannot be determining factors in
the debate on Taiwan's future, for the following reasons:
Firstly, because they were simply statements at the end of a
meeting, and were not ratified, either by the US Congress or agreed
upon by the international community, and thus do not have
the weight of a treaty.
Secondly, and most importantly, the communiqués were
arrived at without any involvement or representation of the people
of Taiwan, and can thus not have any validity in determining the
future of the island.
From an international legal perspective, it is thus essential
that the debate about Taiwan's future is based on the fundamental
principles enshrined in the UN Charter and the conclusions of the
San Francisco Peace Treaty Conference.
The present "One China" policy of the United States and
other Western nations dates from the early 1970s. In the formulation
of the Shanghai Communiqué it states that "The
United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the
Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is
part of China." However, the policy must be seen against
the background of the fact that in those days both the government in
Beijing and the one in Taipei presented themselves as the legitimate
rulers of all of China, and maintained the fiction that China
The policy glaringly fails to take into account the views of the
Taiwanese people, and thus violates the basic principles of
democracy and self-determination. It also totally neglects the
democratization and Taiwanization of the island's political
structure which has takes place between 1972 and the present.
- The "One China" policy is at odds with democratic
principles, because in the early 1970s, Taiwan was under the harsh
rule of the Kuomintang's martial law, and the people of the island
could not voice their views on the status of the island. Their
voice was not heard, neither in the decisions at the United
Nations, nor on the occasion of the Shanghai Communiqué,
which was arrived at without any involvement or representation of
the people of Taiwan.
- The "One China" policy also fails to consider that
Taiwan of 2001 is totally different from the "Republic
of China" of 1972: after four decades of martial law
under the Chinese Nationalist regime, the people on the island
have crafted a democratic system with a distinct Taiwanese
signature, and they have indicated clearly and by a large majority
that they do not wish to live under Chinese Communist rule.
Through hard work and ingenuity, they have also achieved one of
the most prosperous and stable economies of East Asia, with a per
capita income of over $13,000 or 20 times that of China. The
Taiwanese will not peacefully give up their hard-won democratic
freedom and their economic achievements.
Opinion surveys show that an increasing majority of Taiwans
23 million people identifies itself as Taiwanese (as
opposed to Chinese), and that support for Taiwan
independence is growing. Opinion polls over the past year show an
increasing majority on the island considering Taiwan to be a
sovereign state separate from China and desiring their country to be
a full, equal, and independent member of the international
It should thus be clear that the Kuomintang's traditional position
that Taiwan and China are somehow part of a divided China is losing
support in Taiwan itself, and is unacceptable to the overseas
Communist ideology, on the other hand, has lost all credibility
in China itself. The Chinese Communist Party relies on strident
nationalism to legitimize its authoritarian rule. China's aggressive
policy towards Taiwan is based partly on nationalism and partly on
the weakened civilian control over the Chinese military.
Security and Strategic Considerations
Because of its location, straddling the major sea-lanes from Japan
and Korea in Northeast Asia to Southeast Asia, Taiwan is of great
strategic importance for free trade in the region.
Over the past decade, the island has evolved as a stable economic
and political player in the region, increasing its role in regional
organizations and strengthening its bilateral ties with Japan and
Korea and with the nations in Southeast Asia.
However, China's increasing propensity to bully its neighbors and
ride roughshod over their concerns is causing deep concern in East
Asia. China is also increasing its capabilities to project its
military power: it has acquired advanced SU-27 fighter aircraft and
Kilo-class submarines as well as destroyers from Russia. It is
increasing its arsenal of missiles, and developing a new generation
of high-speed and more accurate missiles that threaten Taiwan as
well as U.S. forces deployed in the Far East.
In view of this buildup, the April 2001 decision by the Bush
Administration to sell Taiwan a robust package of defensive weapons,
as well as Mr. Bush's pronouncement that he will do "whatever
it takes" to help defend Taiwan if it is attacked by China are
welcome signs of renewed US resolve and determination to resist
Chinese pressure against the democratic nation.
If Taiwan would be absorbed by China, the major waterways in East
Asia would be under Chinese control - an unattractive prospect for
the United States, Japan and nations such as South Korea. One result
is that nuclear proliferation could well spread to Japan and the two
1. Status quo approach
The approach presently followed by the United States and most
other Western nations is recognition of the authorities in Beijing
as the government of China, and of unofficial -- mainly economic and
cultural -- relations with the authorities on Taiwan.
It preaches "don't-rock-the-boat", and practices a
minimalist involvement in the political debate between Taiwan and
China It hopes that the status quo will somehow evolve into a
peaceful resolution of the differences.
However, this approach is at odds with reality, since it ignores
the major advances Taiwan has made as a democratic nation, and the
fact that present-day Taiwan is fundamentally different from the "Republic
of China" of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
It also neglects the aggressive and confrontational posture by
China. If continued, this approach will increasingly allow China to
push Taiwan into a corner, and isolate Taiwan in preparation of a
Chinese push to "recover" the island. While during the
next ten years, China may not have the capability yet to overwhelm
Taiwans defenses with a blitzkrieg, it will attack when it
perceives it has a chance.
In reality, the status quo thus represents a steady drift
into greater isolation for Taiwan, and an increasing risk that China
will attempt to bully Taiwan into submission through military,
political and other types of intimidation.
2. Geo-political approach
According to the Kissingeresque geo-political thinking, China's
importance as a global political player and as a market for Western
goods supersedes any other considerations. Taiwan should not get in
the way, and should be pressured to start unification discussions
This approach would sacrifice the rights of a small nation, whose
people have worked hard to gain their freedom, and who only very
recently achieved democracy.
It would put democracy in East - and Southeast Asia as a whole at
risk by accepting and condoning China's military threats and
intimidation against its neighbors.
It would undermine the confidence that nations such as Japan and
South Korea still have in American trustworthiness as an ally, and
reduce the confidence in the credibility of its forward military
presence in particular.
Such American softness on the Taiwan issue might well lead Japan
and South Korea to reassess their posture, leading either to a
hardening of their position (and increasing tension) or a softening,
and thus to a lack of balance of power in the region.
Both approaches 1 and 2 should be discarded, and a clear and
unequivocal choice should be made in favor of the third approach:
3. Democracy and self-determination approach
This approach emphasizes adherence to the basic principles of
democracy, respect for human rights, universality of UN membership
and self-determination, and peace and stability.
The people of Taiwan have achieved a remarkable transition from a
repressive regime under the Kuomintang to a free and vibrant
democracy at present. It would be a blatant violation of basic
democratic principles if they were forced to "unify" with
an undemocratic and repressive Chinese regime.
Respect for Human Rights
Chinas human rights record is blemished at best. There are
still 1,100 forced labor camps in China with an estimated population
of 6 to 8 million, including many political dissidents and religious
believers, in particular the Falung Gong. Repression of Tibetans and
Muslims continues unabated. The Peoples Liberation Army
engages in systematic harvesting and marketing of human organs
extracted from executed prisoners.
This larger picture should not be forgotten when the Chinese
government releases a few prominent dissidents for political effect.
China's willingness to sign the UN Covenant on Political and Civil
Rights is a hollow, cosmetic gesture when it denies the right of
self-determination to the 23 million freedom-loving people of
China claims it has a right to take Taiwan by force, even though
the Taiwanese people have indicated that they wish to keep their
hard-won freedom and democracy. Giving in to Chinese pressure would
be a major step backwards for human rights, not only for the people
of Taiwan but for the people of Asia as a whole, including China.
Universality and Self-determination
The Charter of the United Nations defines universality
and self-determination as guiding principles for
relations between peoples and nations.
Article 1(2) of the UN Charter states: "The purposes of
the United Nations are: to develop friendly relations among nations
based on respect for the principle of self-determination of peoples,
and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal
Also, UN Resolution 2625 (XXV) of October 24, 1970 states that
"…all peoples have the right freely to determine
without external interference, their political status and to pursue
their economic, social and cultural development." So, the
UN not only supports the right of self-determination, it encourages
Taiwan fulfils all requirements for being accepted as a full and
equal member in the international community. With 23 million people,
Taiwan meets all three criteria for statehood specified in
international law: it has a defined territory, a defined population
and the ability to enter into -- and keep international agreements.
Furthermore,Taiwan is eminently qualified to be a member. Art. 4
(1) of the UN Charter reads: "Membership is open to all ...
peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the
present Charter ...". Taiwan has not threatened or
intimidated its neighbors, it is willing to accede to the UN and
accept all obligations under the Charter.
If the U.S. and other democratic nations accede to Chinese
demands, and deny the Taiwanese people their right of
self-determination, and their right to join international
organizations such as the United Nations, this will constitute a
violation of a basic principle enshrined in the Charter of the
United Nations, not to mention betrayal of the values of freedom and
Peace and Stability
Peace and stability in East Asia can only be maintained if there
is a balance of power in the region. However, over the past decade
China has been increasingly aggressive in laying territorial claims
outside its borders. In addition to targeting Taiwan with a growing
number of missiles and threatening the island with invasion, China
has claimed the whole South China Sea as its territorial waters, and
has occupied and fortified islands claimed by its neighbors.
A firmer and more consistent U.S. and European policy is thus
needed, ready to assert U.S. and European interest in the peace and
stability of the Asia-Pacific region, and the right of free passage
through international waterways and airspace. This approach, rather
than the present accommodation approach, will help Chinas
civilian leaders in adopting more moderate and peaceful policies.
The policy of constructive engagement with China is dominated by
the drive of corporate America and Europe for access to the Chinese
market. The risk is that such a policy tends to turn into a policy
of appeasement, resulting in undesirable consequences.
The U.S. and European nations thus need to adopt a more prudent
China policy which gives long range peace and security interests as
much weight as short-term commercial profit.
We as Taiwanese citizens of the world, appeal to the international
community and in particular to the United States, Canada, the
European nations, and other nations that adhere to democratic
- Affirm that the people of Taiwan have the right to
determine their own future under the principle of
self-determination as enshrined in the Charter of the United
- Urge China to renounce the use of force, and accept Taiwan
as a friendly neighboring state instead of perpetuating the
hostility and rivalry dating from the Civil War China fought
against the Kuomintang five decades ago; and
- Accept Taiwan as a full and equal member of the
international family of nations, including the United Nations.
Peaceful coexistence between Taiwan and China as two friendly
nation-states is the only way through which peace and stability in
East Asia can be guaranteed.
This is in the interest of the United States and others nations --
both those in the East Asia region and around the world -- because a
China which respects its neighbors is more likely to develop
a rule of law, to honor international agreements and commercial
The United States and other democratic nations around the world
thus need to ensure that the people of Taiwan receive the
opportunity to peacefully determine Taiwan's future by
themselves, without any Chinese pressure -- military, political
Organizations endorsing this White Paper:
- World Taiwanese Congress
- World Federation of Taiwanese Associations
- Taiwanese Canadian Association
- Taiwanese Association of America
- Federation of Taiwanese Associations in Europe
- World United Formosans for Independence
- North American Taiwanese Women's Association
- North America Taiwanese Professors' Association
- North American Taiwanese Medical Association
- Taiwanese American Citizens League
- Society of Taiwanese Americans
- Formosan Association for Human Rights
- Formosan Association for Public Affairs
- Center for Taiwan International Relations
- Taiwan Communiqué
- Taiwanese Collegian
- Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Student Association
- Professor Chen Wen-chen Memorial Foundation
- Dr. Wang Kang-lu Memorial Foundation
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