Gerrit Van der Wees’ latest article in the Taipei Times detailed, chronologically, Taiwan’s history; by itself, it was an admiral achievement, but he did not use the term “China” correctly (“When Taiwan was China’s (for Seven Years),” Feb. 27, page 13).
The meaning of “China” (中國) has changed since its first use during the Zhou Dynasty (周朝). It referred to the Kingdom of Zhou as the center of power, since it was regarded the emperor of all kingdoms in that part of East Asia at that time.
However, “China” also referred to each kingdom’s capital. “China” meant the center of power, rather the name of the state.
We should look at dynastic names as the name of the governments and “China” as the territory that the dynasty ruled.
The Yuan Dynasty (元) referred to itself as “China” when dealing with foreign countries. It was the same for other dynasties, such as the Ming (明) and Qing (清).
Similarly, in the West, India was territory, but it was ruled by the British empire before gaining independence after World War II.
Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia and numerous British colonies were the same.
New Zealand and Australia were British colonies, but when the British left, New Zealand chose not to join the Commonwealth of Australia and became an independent nation. Ceylon, which was not part of India, also became an independent nation after the British left.
Modern academics of East Asian studies have begun to study the history of Manchus on their own merits and not as a part of Chinese history.
I will not repeat the excellent chronology of Taiwan’s rulers as spelled out in Van der Wees’ article, but I will look at Taiwan’s history from the point of view of the Manchus who ruled China for 267 years.
In 1644, with only 120,000 men, Manchus began the conquest of the Ming Dynasty and by 1673, they completed their mission and its “Two Capital Cities and Thirteen Provinces” formed part of the Qing Dynasty’s “China Proper Eighteen Provinces,” which did not include other Qing territories like Manchuria, Mongolia, East Turkestan and Tibet, all of which, except Manchuria, were Qing colonies.
In 1683, after defeating Ming loyalist Cheng Ke-shuang (鄭克塽), the Qing nominally, without effective control, included Taiwan as part of its colonial territory.
In 1887, fearful of Japanese annexation of Taiwan, the Qing declared Taiwan a province as one of its colonial possessions.
Then, in 1895, the Qing officially ceded Taiwan to Japan and Taiwan became a Japanese colony.
After World War II, US General Douglas MacArthur, as a representative of the Allied Powers, ordered Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) to receive the Japanese surrender in Taiwan.
After being defeated by the Chinese Communist Party, Chiang’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) fled to Taiwan without the permission of the Allied Powers or the consent of Taiwanese.
Even while supporting the Republic of China government in Taiwan before 1979, the US has never recognized the Republic of China’s sovereignty over Taiwan.
The US’ position on Taiwan’s status, to this day, is still “undetermined.”
The legitimate government of China, the People’s Republic of China, has never ruled Taiwan even for a day.
Taiwan and China were colonies of the Qing Dynasty, they did not belong to each other.
Taiwan then became part of the Japanese empire, followed by the occupation by the Allied Powers represented by Chiang, who illegally occupied Taiwan after being defeated by the Chinese Communist Party.
Taiwan is a now fully fledged liberal democracy with freedom of speech and a prosperous society.
Taiwan has never been a part of “China,” not for seven years, not even for a day.
Sebo Koh is a former chairman of the World United Formosans for Independence, USA and a former publisher of the Taiwan Tribune (US).
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