ROC, Taiwan, independence
Misconceptions about UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 abound, and not always due to disinformation by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Take the statement “Taiwan left the UN in 1971” (UN should rescind 2758 interpretation, Sept. 22, page 1): How could Taiwan have left the UN if it had never joined? In international law, the state that left the UN was the Republic of China (ROC), not Taiwan.
In contrast, Taiwanese as a people have the right to self-determination. “One Taiwan, one China” was a known option even before the UN resolution. It had been an ironclad fact, as Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) wrote in his 1964 Declaration of Formosan Self-Salvation (“Liberty Times Editorial,” Apr. 16, 2022, page 8). Likewise, Chen Lung-chu (陳隆志) and Harold Lasswell produced a book-length proposal in 1967 — Formosa, China and the United Nations: Formosa in the World Community.
Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) refused any such offer during his dictatorship, resulting in the expulsion of his regime — the ROC — from the UN (“Righting Chiang Kai-shek’s wrongs,” Sept. 12, 2007, page 8). So conflating Taiwan with the ROC is a dead end for any meaningful participation in the UN.
Knowing this, PRC foreign minister Wang Yi (王毅) demanded that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) respect “their own constitution” in 2016 (“China’s mention of ROC Constitution no landmark: academic”, March 1, 2016, page 3).
The ROC fantasy survives for three reasons:
One: “Taiwan’s government has not made an official proclamation of independence — because China regards that as a casus belli,” as the British House of Commons foreign committee recently summarized this “‘status quo’ at gunpoint” (“Taiwan has right to choose its destiny: UK lawmaker,” Oct. 5, page 1).
Two: The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) enjoys perpetuating the ROC playing field tilted in its favor (“KMT accuses government over National Day phrase,” Oct. 5, page 2).
Three: hard-right Cold Warriors pipe dream about “free China retaking the mainland,” Chiang-style.
However, as international support grows for Taiwan, an opportune time might come to found a new and independent state — one the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan prophesied in 1977 (“Taiwan in Time: The devout dissidents,” Jan. 5, 2020, page 8). All elected representatives — not just the president — may play a key role then: The International Court of Justice’s 2010 advisory opinion on Kosovo’s declaration of independence hints that the legislators may act not as members of the ROC Legislative Yuan, but as “persons who acted together in their capacity as representatives of the people of [Taiwan] outside the [ROC constitutional] framework” (paragraph 109).
There would be implications to consider, which have so far been veiled by the ROC framework: For example, how to defend Taiwan with only 12 nautical miles of territorial waters and a new status for Kinmen and Matsu (“Ian Easton on Taiwan: Why Taiwan’s frontline islands matter,” July 31, page 8); what is the appropriate posture in the East and South China seas — less as a sidekick for Chinese claims, more as a good neighbor in the Indo-Pacific.
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