Wed, Oct 26, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: An odd event across the Strait

China's "united front" campaign against Taiwan moved into new territory when Beijing marked Retrocession Day yesterday. Over decades , China has ignored this day, but this year Beijing invited members of Taiwan's opposition parties and senior Chinese leaders to take part in three days of festivities.

When the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was in power, Retrocession Day was a big event in Taiwan, but after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took the presidency, this changed. The new government's interpretation is that Oct. 25 signifies no more than the end of the Sino-Japanese War, and is not related to Taiwan's sovereignty. For this reason, commemorative activities in Taiwan were much more low key this year.

It is awkward for Beijing to celebrate the victory in the Sino-Japanese war, as the KMT led efforts in the war against Japan, not the Chinese Communist Party.

But China's celebrations are also a jab at Japan. With tensions between the two countries on the rise, China can use the event to remind the international community of Japan's World War II atrocities and consolidate its image as a victor in the war. Beijing achieves the double goal of obstructing Japan's bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat and consolidating its superpower status on diplomatic, military and economic fronts.

China also aims to create the impression that Taiwan is a part of China.

In fact, the sovereignty of Taiwan and that of China are completely unrelated. The 1951 San Francisco Treaty states that Japan renounces all right, title and claims to Formosa and the Pescadores. But nowhere does it specify that sovereignty was returned to the Republic of China (ROC), let alone the People's Republic of China.

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was referring to this when he said during his recent visit to the US that the ROC ceased to exist after it was driven out of China in 1949. After 1949, the ROC sojourned on Taiwan, but at no stage did it ever possess sovereignty.

Sovereignty is vested in Taiwan's inhabitants. It has therefore long existed as a sovereign nation. All that remains is for this to be recognized by a change of the national title and constitutional amendments.

When Chen Yi (陳儀), under orders from former generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), took over Taiwan on Oct. 25, 1945, he was acting simply as a representative of the Allied forces. It did not mark a transfer of sovereignty.

The early days of KMT rule in Taiwan were characterized by the 228 Incident and then the White Terror, with 38 years of martial law. The initial wave of sentiment in Taiwan about returning to the embrace of the ancestral country was destroyed by these events. But the idea of Taiwan's retrocession was inculcated into the collective memory of the Taiwanese people by its masters. It was only after the KMT lost power in 2000 that the people of Taiwan were able to adequately reflect on the true situation.

On Oct. 25, 1945, Taiwan saw the end of 50 years of Japanese colonial government and World War II hostilities, but it was immediately plunged into yet another period of rule by foreign overlords. Now, Oct. 25 is seen as the end of the war, and a cause for neither joy nor sorrow. One thing is certain: The fate of this nation now rests solely in the hands of its citizens.

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