Mon, Jun 28, 2004 - Page 8 News List

US should recognize its true ally

By Chen Ching-chih陳清池

"Mr. Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), dump your `one China' principle!" It would be fitting for US President George W. Bush to thus echo his predecessor in office, the late president Ronald Reagan, who in 1987 told the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. For China to end its "one China" principle is the only way to ensure genuine and long-lasting peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing's principle that "there is only one China and Taiwan is a part of that China" is a fiction. Taiwan has never been a part of the People's Republic of China, which was established in 1949. In 1895, China ceded Taiwan to Japan in a peace treaty signed by the two countries. For the next half-century Taiwan was a Japanese colony. After Japan's defeat in 1945 it renounced sovereignty over Taiwan. This renouncement of sovereignty was officially confirmed in the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty signed by Japan and over 50 allied nations. Even the subsequent 1952 treaty between Japan and Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government only repeated Japan's renunciation of its claim to Taiwan. Neither treaty designated a specific country as the recipient of the renounced sovereignty. Therefore, Taiwan has been an independent country for the past half-century.

Indeed, until 1979 the US recognized Taiwan as a sovereign country. Unfortunately for the people of Taiwan, the process of US derecognition of Taiwan began in 1972. Seeking to detach the PRC from the Soviet camp during the Cold War and to gain Beijing's help in ending the Vietnam War, then US president Richard Nixon agreed to "acknowledge" that the Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait had claimed Taiwan to be a part of China. The US government switched its diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979, and in the process began a stampede of nations severing their diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Taiwan had earlier been kicked out of the UN, and consequently has been isolated diplomatically since the 1970s.

The Cold War was over by the late 1980s, when the Soviet-led communist camp broke up and the Soviet Union dissolved, leaving the US as the world's sole superpower. China's leaders wisely decided to occupy themselves primarily with economic development. Yet while China has claimed that it is striving to "rise up peacefully," it has nevertheless continued to threaten Taiwan militarily.

Taiwan has been undergoing rapid and drastic changes also. In the late 1960s the nation accelerated its economic development process and by the late 1980s it had become one of Asia's four newly industrialized countries. However, it remained under the KMT government's authoritarian rule, which had begun in the 1945 aftermath of Japan's surrender when US General Douglas MacArthur entrusted Chiang and his government with the occupation and administration of Taiwan.

Under the rule of Chiang and later his son, the people of Taiwan had no real voice. But a long and painful process of democratization resulted in Taiwan being listed by the US-based Freedom House conservative think tank as one of Asia's two freest countries, Japan being the other.

Less than 10 percent of Taiwanese consider themselves Chinese. An even smaller percentage of the nation's population would want Taiwan to become part of undemocratic China. What people really want is an independent country in which they are masters of their own destiny. Having elected their president since 1996, the people of Taiwan are indeed the owners of national sovereignty. In this age of human rights, the US and other democratic nations are obligated to support Taiwan, which shares their liberal democratic values, such as respect for human rights and the rule of law.

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