When President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) demanded that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) recognize the Republic of China (ROC), Tsai responded by saying that the ROC is Taiwan and Taiwan is the ROC. Tsai’s comments drew immediate criticism from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), with officials saying that Tsai’s idea is a repackaged form of Taiwanese independence and that cross-strait relations have never been and can never be “state-to-state” relations. Obviously, for China, the ROC is merely a living corpse and it will never allow the ROC to change in any way or exist in the international community.
This shows that there are three ROCs: Ma’s ROC, Tsai’s ROC and the ROC as perceived by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Tsai’s ROC merely adopts the name of the ROC, which was established in 1912, to refer to present-day Taiwan. It can thus be understood as referring to “the sovereign country made up of 23 million people and which currently uses the name ROC.” This viewpoint is well in line with reality, although saying that “Taiwan is the ROC” inevitably leads to complications relating to the Chinese Civil War.
In contrast to Tsai’s comments about the ROC being Taiwan and Taiwan being the ROC, Ma says the ROC stretches across the entirety of China and that Taiwan is part of China. In other words, Ma thinks Taiwan is simply a part of China that still has not been unified with it. Although Ma is Taiwan’s president voted in by Taiwanese voters, he does not see Taiwan as a country.
If we look back at what has happened since 1912, we will see that the ROC has never ruled the whole of China and that after it was chased out of China in 1949, it started to occupy Taiwan, a place that never belonged to it, but which it has occupied ever since. Therefore, Ma’s ROC is not only a flat-out refusal to recognize that the ROC is in fact Taiwan, but also includes daydreams about the ROC government owning all of China’s territories. In short, it’s a pipe dream.
Apart from fantasizing that the ROC’s territory overlaps with that of the PRC, Ma has expanded this fantasy by insisting that the PRC agrees that there is “one China, with each side having its own interpretation.” Ma has taken this to the point where he says that the ROC is not something of the past, but exists in the present continuous tense. This, however, does not sit well with China.
At China’s centennial celebrations of the Wuchang Uprising, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) did not mention a single word about the ROC. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) mouthpiece the Global Times said the ROC that exists today is but a temporary historical enclave and that the real ROC died in 1949. It was against that backdrop that TAO officials criticized Tsai’s ideas as a repackaged form of Taiwanese independence.
The idea that the ROC is Taiwan and that Taiwan is the ROC is quite similar to the view that China held during the times of former presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), when China said the two Chiangs occupied Taiwan in the name of the ROC, thus blocking China from completing the great task of unifying China — eliminating the ROC and annexing Taiwan — and in effect creating an independent ROC, although the process was different from the formation of Taiwanese independence.
Today, the PRC would neither allow Taiwan to use the name ROC to assert its independence nor the ROC to use Taiwan to breathe life back into the ROC. From a Taiwanese viewpoint, the independent ROC of the two Chiangs or Taiwanese independence has the same aim: to resist annexation by China. This is what a “Taiwan consensus” must be based on.
The PRC should be rejoicing. The Chiangs’ effort that was so strongly criticized by China as creating an independent ROC has, in the hands of Ma, turned into a unification effort. The reason Ma supports the ROC is not because he opposes annexation — as the two Chiangs did — but because he wants to prevent Taiwanese independence and obstruct Taiwan developing into a normal nation. Thus, despite knowing full well that the PRC has replaced the ROC and won the right to represent China, Ma still uses the idea of “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” to deceive Taiwanese into believing that the PRC will tolerate the ROC — whose sovereignty stretches across the whole of China — and allow some fuzzy existence of “two Chinas.”
Reality has been quite brutal to Ma as of late. As the ROC was celebrating its centenary, the PRC started sending signals aimed at dampening his excitement. The TAO’s criticism of Tsai’s remarks as another guise of Taiwanese independence was also a reminder to Ma that cross-strait relations have never been and can never be “state-to-state” relations.
So, Mr President, given China’s statement, how can there be room for the ROC to exist and what does having your own interpretation of “one China” mean?
Translated by Drew Cameron
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