The French delegate stated: “Taiwan’s legal status must be determined one of these days, taking the wishes of the Formosan population into consideration.”
However, the harsh reality was that during the “temporary occupation” of 1945-1952, Chiang’s regime had started to harshly repress the local population (the 228 Massacre of 1947), and in 1949, the Nationalists had had to flee China to escape the communist onslaught. The following decades thus saw very little possibility to take the wishes of the Formosan population into account. On the contrary, Taiwan suffered under 38 years of martial law.
During the following decades, Chiang’s pretense of representing China of course became increasingly untenable, which led to the ouster of his representatives from the UN in 1971, and the break of relations with the US in 1979.
Taiwan’s transition to democracy during the late 1980s and early 1990s provided the first opportunity for Taiwanese to voice their views on their future. The main conclusions are that they want to remain a free and democratic nation, and that they want to join the international community as a full and equal member.
To return to the arguments laid out in the beginning of this essay: Trying to use the Cairo Declaration to either imply it was a “legal” basis for Chiang’s occupation of Taiwan, or to claim that it justifies the PRC’s claim to Taiwan simply does not hold water. The historical facts prove otherwise.
Gerrit van der Wees is editor of Taiwan Communique, based in Washington.