The presidential debates have revealed the prevailing misunderstandings between political leaders regarding the nation’s relationship with China.
No such thing as the so-called “1992 consensus” took place in 1992. Former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) admitted making up the term in 2000 and it was not until the 2001 legislative election that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), led by then-chairman Lien Chan (連戰), began emphasizing the “1992 consensus.” Beijing repeatedly denounced the term until 2005, when it accepted the “1992 consensus” during Lien’s visit to Beijing.
Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has said that the “1992 consensus” was not necessary for the discussions that took place between Taiwan and China from 1992 to 2005.
The “1992 consensus” — a tacit understanding between the KMT and the Chinese government that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means — is dangerous for Taiwan, because of its emphasis on “one China.”
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) demonstrated how real this danger is when he neglected to mention the phrase “with each side having its own interpretation” during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore on Nov. 7 last year.
China unlawfully claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has 1,500 missiles aimed at the nation.
The KMT, under Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), has claimed, as Beijing claims today, that Taiwan and China have always been united.
However, Taiwan was only ruled by a Han Chinese regime based in China for only four years from 1945 to 1949; the worst four years in the nation’s history, when troops systematically killed more than 20,000 elites, students and other people.
Seventeenth century Dutch and Spanish documents show that Taiwan had no permanent Han Chinese communities until the Dutch started bringing Chinese workers in 1624.
Cheng Cheng-kung’s (鄭成功) family, which succeeded the Dutch in 1662, did not bring the nation under Ming Dynasty rule. The last Southern Ming emperor had died in Yunnan 18 years after the Manchus succeeded the Ming, the same year Cheng conquered Taiwan. Cheng died within six months of his arrival in Taiwan and his family maintained an independent administration, separate from the Manchu empire, which at the time ruled China.
The Manchus invaded Taiwan when the Cheng family joined the rebels. Twice the size of the Ming empire, the Manchu empire was not Chinese, and it turned China into a colony, just as it colonized Taiwan and many other central Asian territories.
Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) has said that he saw the Manchus as foreigners who invaded China.
Afterwards, the Japanese established colonial rule in Taiwan from 1895 to 1945.
Chiang Kai-shek’s and Chiang Ching-kuo’s regime was similar to that of the Japanese in six ways:
First, both regimes considered Taiwanese to be second-class citizens and discriminated against them. Neither regime permitted Taiwanese to hold key political offices.
Second, both regimes cracked down on dissent, killing tens of thousands of people. Various sources estimate that the Japanese killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people during the early years of their rule, while at least 20,000 died in the 228 Incident and the following events.
Third, both regimes relied on oppression for about 25 years. Under the Chiangs, the period of oppression became to be known as the White Terror era.
Fourth, owing to international and domestic circumstances, both regimes “liberalized” after about a quarter of a century. The liberalization under “Taisho democracy” allowed public discussion in Japan, which began to influence Japan’s colonial policies in Taiwan and led to the appointment of civilian governors from 1919 to 1936. While police repression continued, the period saw many Taiwanese, often in cooperation with liberal Japanese, engage in political movements.
Similarly, under the KMT, in the early 1970s, following the Republic of China’s ouster from the UN, through the Diaoyutai movement, the activities of The Intellectual Magazine and the appointment of Chiang Ching-kuo as premier, Taiwan began to liberalize.
Fifth, as both regimes came under pressure, they again stepped up repression. Under Japanese rule, the repression came with World War II, the appointment of military governors in 1936 and the push toward assimilation under the kominka movement. Under Chiang Ching-kuo’s rule, repression reappeared following the Kaohsiung Incident on Dec. 10, 1979.
Finally, both regimes forced their own languages on Taiwanese as part of their plans to turn them into second-class Japanese or Chinese.
Therefore, Taiwan has never been a part of China. Any attempt to appease Beijing by promulgating the “one China” framework would only increase China’s appetite to “swallow” Taiwan and impose a dictatorship over the nation, just as it is doing in Hong Kong.
Taiwan must refuse the false historical claims made by China, Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo. The Chinese Communist Party and the KMT have said that Taiwan had belonged to China in 1942. This claim was false then and it is false today.
Taiwan is a middle power with a vibrant democracy, an advanced economy and a substantial military. It should be supported by the world’s democratic nations, such as the US, Canada, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand, as well as European nations to maintain its sovereign status.
Bruce Jacobs is an emeritus professor of Asian languages and studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
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