A three-day international academic symposium titled, "Rethinking the History of Modern China," was held from Tuesday to yesterday.
No one at this time publicly advocates Beijing standpoint, which is: "There is only one China in the world, Taiwan is a part of China and The People's Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing China."
Instead, the issue of Taiwan's international status, discussed at the symposium, is approached from the perspective of either the ROC or Taiwan independence. The controversy between these two standpoints has been discussed for many years.
From the ROC perspective, the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration must be mentioned first. In those documents, three World War II allies -- the US, the UK and Chiang Kai-shek's (
Article 2 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty stipulates that "Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores," but left unsettled the question of who would assume sovereignty over those territories.
The ROC perspective also emphasizes the importance of the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty, signed between the ROC and Japan in 1952, which reiterated Article 2 of the San Francisco Treaty but also did not elaborate on who assumed Taiwan's sovereignty.
Because only Japan and China have the right to determine to whom Taiwan belongs, the ROC argument goes, the US position as stated in the San Francisco Peace Treaty was not legally binding. Although the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty did not explicitly settle Taiwan's sovereignty, the signatory act and other relevant provisions effectively handed it over to the ROC.
The Taiwan independence perspective, on the other hand, emphasizes that the Cairo and Potsdam declarations were not treaties and therefore not legally binding. The reasons why the San Francisco treaty intentionally left open the question of Taiwan's sovereignty were complex, and were related to the Korean War and the Beijing and Taipei's struggle to win recognition as the only legitimate government of all of China and Taiwan.
But there was another reason for the ambiguity: it was a respond to the strong and clear voice from the Taiwanese public, particularly after the 228 Incident, which demanded that Taiwan be placed under a UN trusteeship, with a referendum to be held at a later date to determine Taiwan's future. That demand was put in a petition to the US consulate.
Furthermore, say those who take a Taiwanese independence perspective, the US was a victor in World War II, the key power in the Far East and the big power enforcing the military occupation of Taiwan. How could one claim, then, that the US has no say on the issue of Taiwan's sovereignty?
Academic disputes are one thing, but the reality of political development is another. The reality is that today's ROC is not the same as the ROC in the day of Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (
If you agree that Taiwan's future should be determined by its people, it becomes clear which disputes will lead to a productive outcome and which will only result in meaningless domestic bickering and exhaustion.
Chen I-shen is an associate researcher in the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica and deputy chairman of the Northern Taiwan Society.
TRANSLATED BY LIN YA-TI
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