Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said: “Taiwan is the Republic of China, the Republic of China is Taiwan.”
Recently, she said her formulation should be the basis of a “Taiwan consensus” with which the DPP may engage the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Strictly speaking, Tsai’s statement makes no sense. The Republic of China (ROC) is a government, not a state.
The Chinese state, founded 3,500 years ago along the banks of the Yellow River, is a permanent entity, as opposed to various dynasties and governments which are transitory.
Taiwan is a geographical designation describing an island in the middle of the first island chain in the Western Pacific. It is incorrect to equate two disparate things, a government and an island.
Perhaps Tsai’s statement is her shorthand way of saying that the ROC government exercises effective control of Taiwan and that its control is limited to Taiwan.
Narrowly interpreted, the statement does reflect reality.
However, to claim that the ROC is Taiwan and vice versa may mislead many people to believe that the ROC government is sovereign over Taiwan, or that Taiwan is part of a greater China.
After all, the ROC was founded in China and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) claims that ROC territory encompasses both Taiwan and China.
The ROC has no sovereignty over Taiwan.
In the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki, China conceded to Japan in perpetuity full sovereignty over the islands of Formosa and the Pescadores.
In the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty, Japan renounced all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores, but no beneficiary of Taiwan’s sovereignty was named.
The ROC government may claim sovereignty over Quemoy [Kinmen] and Matsu.
It has no legitimate claim over Taiwan and the Penghu islands.
The official position of the US is that the international status of Taiwan is undecided and that Taiwan is not part of China.
Although the US government does not often enunciate this position for fear of offending Beijing, it has on occasion made its position clear.
In March 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in an official letter that in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, the UN considers “Taiwan for all purposes to be an integral part of the People’s Republic of China [PRC].”
In August 2007, the US sent a demarche to Ban stating: “If the UN Secretariat insists on describing Taiwan as a part of the PRC... the United States will be obliged to disassociate itself on a national basis from such a position. It is crystal clear of US policy on Taiwan.”
Although the US has severed diplomatic relations with the ROC, it adopted the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) on April 10, 1979, to regulate relations between the US and the people of Taiwan.
The TRA affirmed the preservation and the enhancement of the human rights of all the people on Taiwan as US objectives.
It states that any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means is a threat to the security of the Western Pacific and of grave concern to the US.
Further, it states that it is US policy “to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.”