Thu, Dec 27, 2018 - Page 8 News List

It is time for Taiwan to be Taiwan

By Jerome Keating

As the year draws to a close and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) prepares for her next two years in office, it remains important for Taiwanese to continue to take stock of the nation’s progress in democracy, and to observe and review the changing narratives that have accompanied it.

Taiwan’s democratic progress can be framed into three distinct stages. Each stage in turn has had key events that impacted and shaped its direction.

The first stage, from 1945 to 1987, was the one-party state rule of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). That stage includes the initial exploitation of the island, and the period of White Terror and martial law.

It can further be divided into two phases, that of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) from 1945 until his death in April 1975 and that of Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) from 1975 until his death in January 1988.

In the Chiang Kai-shek phase, as the KMT fought the Chinese Communist Party in the Chinese Civil War, the island was denuded of rice, steel and anything else that might help the KMT in its losing effort. When the KMT finally lost the war in 1949, many fled to Taiwan and proclaimed rule over the island.

Whether the communists could have pursued them like they did those that fled to Hainan is a debatable point. That possibility was eliminated when Mao Zedong (毛澤東) decided to enter the ongoing war on the Korean Peninsula and then-US president Harry Truman put the US’ Seventh Fleet in the Taiwan Strait.

The 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty marked the “official end” of World War II, but it did not give Taiwan to the KMT and Chiang or Mao; Taiwan’s status was left undetermined.

In turn, a more definitive blow to KMT dreams of a return to China happened later when the Republic of China (ROC) was cast out of the UN on Oct. 25, 1971.

With UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, the UN clearly recognized the People’s Republic of China as the only legitimate representative of China and voted “to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it.” Taiwan, then under martial law, remained in its “undetermined” status.

In the Chiang Ching-kuo phase, the KMT’s hopes for an ROC suffered a further blow, but not for Taiwan. The US extended its belated support for Resolution 2758 and moved its embassy from Taiwan to Beijing on Jan. 1, 1979.

Nonetheless, in keeping with Taiwan’s undetermined status, the US also immediately created the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and set up the American Institute in Taiwan. The TRA recognized matters with these words, stating that the US terminated relations with “the governing authorities on Taiwan recognized by the United States as the Republic of China prior to January 1, 1979.” The ROC was finally and officially dead as far as the US was concerned.

In December of the same year, Taiwanese who were dangwai (黨外, “outside the party”) followed with human rights protests and promoted democracy in the Kaohsiung Incident.

Chiang Ching-kuo would finally lift martial law in July 1987, ending stage one. Upon his death on Jan. 13, 1988, his Taiwanese vice president, Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), took over to guide Taiwan through its transition stage to full democracy. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), formed in 1986, would soon become visibly active in politics.

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