There is no doubt that Taiwan is a sovereign state, but it has yet to become a normal one. If it is to do so, there are three prerequisites. First, abandon the name "The Republic of China" (ROC) in favor of "Taiwan." Second, establish a Taiwanese constitution. Third, become an official member state of the UN.
As soon as Taiwan succeeds in becoming a normal state, we will no longer have to panic whenever a politician makes noises regarding the issue of sovereignty. A case in point is US Secretary of State Colin Powell's comments during an Oct. 25 press conference in Beijing. It should be understood that these words were spoken with the political interests of a politician facing an election.
Taiwan is Taiwan, and China is China. They are different countries, and Taiwan is not a part of China. There has not been a single day in the 55 years since the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 that China has had effective control of Taiwan.
Taiwan can be considered a nation in today's world -- it fulfills all requirements for nationhood according to international law. Taiwan has a population of 23 million people and has sovereignty over, and effective control of, the defined territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu. These areas are controlled by a government which has the right to form policies and the ability to conduct diplomatic, economic and other types of exchanges with other countries throughout the world.
From the perspective of international law, Taiwan ceased to be a part of China in 1895. Over the years Taiwan has evolved into a country in its own right. During the course of this development there have been a number of important milestones.
Between 1895 and 1945, Taiwan was a Japanese colony. Afterwards, it became an occu-pied territory under the control of the Allied forces until 1952. Japan gave up claims to Taiwan and Penghu as part of the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951, and since this time, Taiwan's status in the eyes of international law has remained undefined. This issue was left unaddressed in the UN Resolution 2758 in 1971. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) controlled Taiwan illegally under martial law from 1949 to 1987.
The final stage is encapsulated in the period between 1988 to now, during which localization, democracy and the people's ability to decide their own fate have taken root in Taiwan. From its former undefined status in international law, Taiwan has evolved into a sovereign state independent of the PRC. This is the result of its democratization; the development of a Taiwan out of the ROC and the unique political, economic, social and cultural systems which have given it autonomy.
However you look at it, Taiwan is an independent, sovereign state. If it wishes to remain as such, it must have the courage to work toward becoming a normal nation. In this way, the so-called "one China" policy will become a more realistic "one China and one Taiwan" policy, which will herald a new era where the people of Taiwan and China can both live in peace and prosperity.
Chen Lung-chu is chairman of the Taiwan New Century Foundation.
TRANSLATED BY PAUL COOPER