Twenty years after the lifting of martial law, Taiwan continues to struggle.
The nation has gradually transformed itself into a dynamic democracy. However, this new democracy faces many challenges.
The nation is under continuous threat from China, which aims close to 1,000 missiles at it.
China has even passed an "Anti-Secession" Law in an attempt to legalize the use of force against Taiwan for the purpose of unification. Taiwan's attempts to join international organizations such as the UN and the WHO have failed, largely because of China's objections.
All these obstacles can be traced back to an unsigned press communique, the Cairo Declaration of 1943, which has since been used by both the Republic of China (ROC) under dictator Chiang Kai-shek (
Under Chiang's rule, no one dared challenge the legality of his government on Taiwan. However, with the democratization of Taiwanese society, academics and researchers began to realize that Taiwanese had been duped by Chinese politicians.
Despite previous and subsequent press communiques, the highest level of international agreement governing the future status of Taiwan rests on the San Francisco Peace Treaty.
After the Qing Dynasty's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War, it signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki on April 17, 1895, wherein China ceded Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands (Penghu Islands) to Japan in perpetuity. As a result, when the ROC was founded in 1912, Taiwan was legally governed by Japan.
As a Japanese colonial territory, Taiwan was attacked by US warplanes during World War II.
Although, at the end of the war, Chiang's Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) troops were ordered by US General Douglas MacArthur to temporarily take control of Taiwan on behalf of the Allied forces, Taiwan's status was not addressed at the international treaty level until the signing of the San Francisco treaty on Sept. 8, 1951.
This treaty, which took effect on April 28, 1952, stipulates that Japan renounced all rights and titles toward Taiwan and Pescadores Islands.
But no receiver was ever designated.
The US knew of the situation in Taiwan, of the 228 Incident of 1947, in which some 25,000 Taiwanese were executed by KMT troops. The top US diplomat in Taiwan at the time, George Kerr, even wrote a book titled Formosa Betrayed to describe the situation.
However, US interest in stopping communism led to the decision to support Chiang and his government, and consequently the wish of Taiwanese for democracy and independence was ignored and delayed for some 40 years.
If UN had taken over the administration of Taiwan after the signing of the San Francisco treaty, Taiwanese would not have lived under the hardship of martial law imposed by Chiang's government.
Furthermore, Taiwan would have had no further involvement with the Chinese Civil War and the identity crisis it faces now would not have arisen in the first place.
Contrary to what US President George W. Bush said during a recent speech in Prague -- "As our relationships with South Korea and Taiwan during the Cold War prove, America can maintain a friendship and push a nation toward democracy at the same time" -- Taiwan's democracy came 40 years later because of US support for Chiang and his regime.