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Monday, November 01, 2004


Dealing with China: What the Taiwanese really want

Laurence Eyton, deputy editor-in-chief of Taipei Times, writes that the fundamental divide in Taiwan "is an argument about eventual goals; it is not an argument about current status":

The unificationists think of Taiwan as the continuing Republic of China, founded in 1912, forced to move to Taiwan in 1949 but never out of business as a sovereign state. "The communists, by founding a new country in 1949, have in effect created two current Chinas, and the world needs to accommodate itself to this reality".

The independence lobby maintains that Taiwan, occupied by Imperial Japan in 1895, was not returned to China by treaty at the end of World War 2 and "that it was illegally occupied by the Chinese Nationalist Party regime until the early 1990s, when democratic elections were held, in effect constituting an act of self-determination that established a new and sovereign country".

The current Democratic Progressive Party government tends to a middle course between the two positions "but if there is one thing that all sides are agreed upon it is that the Taipei regime is independent and sovereign".

The main problem for any Taiwanese government dealing with the Peoples Republic of China's demand for (re)unification, Eyton states, is what the people of Taiwan want:

"And in fact they overwhelmingly don't want it. The most recent poll by Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council - the government ministry that deals with China policy - indicates that fewer than 2% of Taiwanese want unification now and only about 11% want it at all. (This is compared with 6% who want a formal declaration of independence immediately and 18% who want it some time in the future.) Forty percent of all Taiwanese prefer the status quo now/decision later option, while 18% want the status quo to last forever".

So, apropos of Colin Powell's recent statements on eventual (re)unification, Eyton summarises: not all parties are seeking it; 43% of Taiwanese (pro-independence plus pro-status quo forever) don't want it at any price; and another 40% don't even want to consider it until the Peoples Republic of China has changed into a democracy.

He warns that Powell's comments severely shocked the Taiwanese public who now fear that the US is going flaky on their security. So much so that a radical move is being mooted in Taiwan to provide a "sharp reminder" to the US and Japan as to "where their strategic interest lies".

Much more in Taiwan Reels from Powell's Anti-Sovereignty 'Goof'

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