Beijing has successfully brow-beaten many countries into accepting it dubious claims of sovereignty of the territory and people of Taiwan. In an ill-advised attempt to placate Beijing, US Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that Taiwan is not a sovereign state and that the US supports Taiwan's eventual unification with China.
His remarks exceeded the Shanghai communique of 1972, wherein Beijing's position that "there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China" was acknowledged. They also went beyond former US president Bill Clinton's statements that changes in the future status of Taiwan should be taken with the consent of the Taiwanese people.
The Clinton administration kowtowed to China's autocrats by issuing a de facto acceptance of the policy known as "Four Noes." In relations with Taiwan, China insists that other countries accept the following: no independence for Taiwan, no "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan," and no to participation by Taiwan in international forums in which statehood is a prerequisite.
During negotiations with former US president George Bush in 1992, China convinced the US to agree to conditions under which Taiwan should be allowed into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and by implication into the WTO. The condition was that Taiwan would have to wait until China had gained admission.
Bowing to China's authoritarian rulers involves considerable disadvantages to democratic Taiwan. This delay imposed on the nation's membership is unjustified because its economy and legal structure satisfy the preconditions for entry. A more erroneous submission to Beijing's will was that Taiwan would only be admitted as a "customs territory" instead of as a sovereign country.
There are several problems with Powell's recent remarks on Taiwan's status in the international community. First, they contradict US claims of promoting democracy and human rights around the world. Second, a Chinese takeover of the nation would give them control over the Taiwan Strait and the East and South China seas, which could impede the freedom travel in this area of the Pacific.
In any case, Beijing's claims that Taiwan is or has been an integral part of China and its insistence on "one China" have very little historical or factual support. In the first instance, the Chinese Communist Party has never exercised control over Taiwan.
The reality is that Taiwan and China are two countries on opposite sides of the Taiwan Strait. After all, Taiwan has its own territory, citizens, government and diplomatic relations -- which all conform to the criteria defining a sovereign state under the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648.
It turns out that Taiwan has never been an inalienable part of China. The island of Formosa was originally inhabited by Aboriginal peoples that were not of Han Chinese descent. Before the Qing dynasty's brief legal claim on Taiwan in 1895 when it ceded Taiwan to Japan, the Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish were in command.
Since 1949, Taiwan and China have been ruled separately after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) fled to the island. Then, the Republic of China (ROC) under the KMT government of Chiang Kai-shek (