White Paper Regarding Taiwan and its Future
Second Printing, Washington D.C., January 1999
Purpose and summary
Through this White Paper, the overseas Taiwanese community in Canada,
Europe and the United States - as represented by the organizations listed
at the end of this Paper - wish 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
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 stability.
Taiwan is at a crossroads. During the past decade, 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.
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
In 1995-1996, during the run-up to the first direct presidential
elections in Taiwan, the Communist Chinese militarily threatened Taiwan
and launched missiles at the island, which finally prompted the Clinton
administration --after a considerable delay -- to take action and send
two aircraft carriers to the area.
In mid-1998, during his visit to China, Mr. Clinton went significantly
beyond the careful ambiguity of earlier U.S. formulations, and pronounced
the so-called "Three no's": no support for "Two Chinas"
or "One China, One Taiwan", no support for an independent
Taiwan, and no support for Taiwan membership of any organization "for
which statehood is a requirement".
Mr.. Clinton's statements regarding Taiwan were subsequently rejected by
the Congress and repudiated by almost unanimous votes in the U.S. House
and Senate. They were also criticized by numerous commentaries in
virtually all major U.S. publications. Still, they were a slap in the face
of Taiwan's democratic movement, which has worked for more than four
decades for self-determination, independence, and acceptance of Taiwan in
the international community.
The next several years will be of crucial importance to the future of
the island. At the end of 1998, elections for 225 seats in the Legislative
Yuan (Taiwan's parliament) and the mayorships of Taipei and Kaohsiung were
held. They showed that democracy is now firmly entrenched in Taiwan. Just
over a year later, in March 2000, presidential elections will be held. At
that time, the DPP may win the presidency.
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 other nations that profess to adhere to democratic principles
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 Nations;
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
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 authorities. The successive Ch'ing Imperial
Governments paid scant attention to the island.
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. This failed, and after the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese
War, through the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki, the Ch'ing Imperial
government ceded Taiwan to Japan in perpetuity.
The Taiwanese didn't like the idea of incorporation into Japan, and
established -- with the assistance of disenchanted Manchu officials -- the
Taiwan Democratic Republic, the first independent republic in Asia, on 25
A few days later, 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
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 a small incident 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, between 18,000 and 28,000
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
December 1978 United States switch in recognition from the Kuomintang
regime to the Beijing regime hit hard in Taiwan. At the same time, it gave
impetus to the growth and evolution of Taiwan's 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 KMT's 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 Taiwan.
In 1987, Martial Law was replaced by a less-stringent National Security
Law, but it wasn't until 1991 that the KMT dropped the claim to rule all
of China, and that aging Nationalist Chinese 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. To this day, however, the KMT authorities continue to cling to
their outdated claim that "Taiwan is part of China."
1992 - present: Democracy, and yet no international recognition
Since 1992, Taiwan has evolved into a free nation with increasingly
democratic institutions. Although elections are still marred by vote
buying, the election process as a whole is increasingly fair and open.
Checks and balances do not function fully yet, but the Legislative Yuan
does play an increasingly influential role in checking the powers of the
Executive Yuan and the President. While the Judiciary is still
significantly under the control of the ruling Kuomintang, it is
increasingly exerting its influence as an independent institution.
Although newspapers and magazines are increasingly objective in their
reporting, the influence of the ruling Kuomintang is still pervasive in
the written media. In the electronic media, however, the control of the
Kuomintang is still predominant: the three major national TV stations are
respectively owned by the Kuomintang, the military, and the Provincial
Government. Two other stations are making inroads: one is owned by Hong
Kong interests, and the other is leaning towards the opposition DPP.
This increasingly vibrant democratic nation-state is asking to be
accepted as a full and equal member of the international community.
Prompted by the democratic opposition of the DPP, the ruling Kuomintang
started in 1993 to address the issue of membership in the United Nations.
International legal perspective
From an international legal perspective, four defining events during
the past century are of major importance to the status of Taiwan.
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 illustrate
(see below), it did not change the formal legal status of the island.
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
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
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 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
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
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 included Taiwan.
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 1998 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
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.
The increase in popular support for the DPP, the opposition party whose
party charter includes Taiwan independence, illustrates that Taiwan is
moving towards de jure independence. The local elections of
November 1997 resulted in a DPP victory in virtually all major population
centers. At the local level some 72 percent of the population in Taiwan is
governed by DPP county- and city administrators.
As indicated in the introduction: in legislative elections in December
1998 showed that democracy is here to stay in Taiwan, and that in
presidential elections in March 2000, the DPP will have a good chance of
winning the presidency.
Opinion surveys show that an increasing majority of Taiwan's 21.8
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 and equal member of the international community.
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 us in the overseas Taiwanese
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.
While during the next five to ten years, China will not have the
capability yet to overwhelm Taiwan's defenses, it will attack when it
perceives it has a chance.
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 Koreas.
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
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"
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 with China.
This approach would sacrifice the rights of a small nation, whose
people have worked hard to gain their freedom, and who only very recently
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
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. "Basic principles" and "peace and stability"
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
Respect for Human Rights
China's 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.
Repression of Tibetans and Muslims continues unabated. The People's
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 21.8 million freedom-loving people of Taiwan.
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 gives "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 peace."
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 it.
Taiwan fulfils all requirements for being accepted as a full and equal
member in the international community. With just under 22 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
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
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. This approach, rather than the present
accommodation approach, will help China's civilian leaders in adopting
more moderate and peaceful policies.
The current 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 recent nuclear
tests by India and Pakistan are an example.
The weakening of the U.S.-Japan alliance is another. The U.S. and
European nations need to adopt a more prudent China policy which gives
long range peace and stability interests as much weight as short-term
We as Taiwanese citizens of the world, appeal to the international
community _ and in particular to the United States, Canada and other
nations that profess to adhere to democratic principles _ to:
- 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 Nations;
- 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 contracts.
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 outside pressure
-- military, political or otherwise.
Organizations endorsing this White Paper:
- 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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