This year marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. The treaty was the start of a new era for Taiwan, as Japanese rule over the island and the Penghu Islands was formally brought to an end, so it is not hard to understand why Taiwan-centric organizations are planning to hold a string of events to commemorate the anniversary.
This year is also marks 40 years since the right to represent China in the UN was passed from one government to another. How are Taiwanese to commemorate this latter anniversary?
As expressed in UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, the UN decided to “expel forthwith the representatives of [former president] Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it.” The resolution does not mention Taiwan at all. Nevertheless, many people lament that “our Taiwan” became an international orphan from that day on and that Chiang’s rigid insistence that a legitimate government (his own) could not coexist with bandits (the Chinese Communist Party) did a lot of harm to Taiwan. In response to such ideas, some people might ask when “our Taiwan” ever joined the UN in the first place.
Martial law under Chiang and his son, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), led Taiwanese, or at least those involved in the overseas Taiwan independence movement, to clearly differentiate themselves from the country known as the Republic of China (ROC). Given the historical background, it is easy to understand why they were antagonistic toward it. However, martial law was eventually lifted and Taiwan became much freer and more democratic under president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).
Thereafter, all members of the legislature were elected by Taiwanese, who also got to choose the president through direct election. The “Republic of China on Taiwan,” which came into being through constitutional practice, as embodied by the Additional Articles of the ROC Constitution, may by now have become a “status quo” that most people would like to preserve.
In this situation, it becomes very difficult to cut oneself off and stand in opposition to the idea of the ROC, in contrast with the way things were when the two Chiangs were in power. One can continuously argue in favor of such a position yet still not convince many people. The main difficulty is not the theory, but the reality and perception of life for the majority of people.
If we want to commemorate “that incident” in 1971, then the blame for it really does lie on the shoulders of Chiang Kai-shek.
On Oct. 18, 1971, Chiang Kai-shek wrote in his diary: “The United Nations has turned into a den of traitors and criminal invaders. We should keep well clear of it and not associate with such undesirables anymore. I have decided that we should withdraw from the United Nations of our own accord so as to preserve our glorious history.”
On Oct. 26, 1971, he wrote: “Today we formally announced our withdrawal from the United Nations. This is one example of how that scoundrel [US president Richard] Nixon is plotting against us, but it is not enough to kill us off.”
The fact that Chiang Kai-shek called Nixon a “scoundrel” shows how prejudiced he was, while in reality Washington had kept trying to find ways of keeping a seat at the UN for the ROC government while accepting Beijing’s admission to the organization at the same time. The US’ efforts in this regard are attested to by numerous diplomatic files.
With Taiwan’s policies in the hands of such a stubborn and prejudiced old man, the outcome could hardly have been a good one.
Chen Yi-shen is an associate research fellow in the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica.
TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG
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