THE "shooting war" between forces loyal to Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong ended 43 years ago with the Nationalists' retreat to Taiwan. But a global diplomatic battle between the rival Chinese regimes, each claiming sole legitimacy to rule the Middle Kingdom, has survived the death of both leaders. Recent developments suggest that Taiwan now may try to change the rules of the game.
South Korea's diplomatic recognition of the People's Republic of China (PRC) on Aug. 24, accompanied by Seoul's agreement to break relations with Taipei, is a watershed in Taiwan's political isolation. It leaves the island - the world's 14th largest trading economy - without diplomatic allies in Asia and recognized by only 29 nations worldwide, compared to 137 for China.
Reformers within Taiwan's ruling Nationalist (KMT) party, spurred by Seoul's turnabout, have begun to openly question Taipei's one-China policy.
"What does `one China' mean?" asks KMT legislator Huang Chu-wen. "Basically, I think `one China' is ... an historic, cultural, and traditional China, not the China of today." `Try two Chinas'
Many KMT liberals now say Taipei should adopt the so-called "divided-nation model," whereby China would be redefined as a country with two political systems. As in cold-war Germany and present-day Korea, rival Chinese regimes would function internationally as independent states while preserving reunification as a future goal.
"With this concept, we can pursue dual recognition without violating the one-China principle," says Wei Yung, president of the Vanguard Institute for Policy Studies and KMT candidate in legislative elections this December.
More radical calls for recasting Taiwan's diplomatic focus have come from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Since its inception in 1986 the DPP has pushed for grass-roots Formosan nationalism. Last year, the DPP added a "one-China, one-Taiwan" plank to its platform, dropping all claims to territory across the Taiwan Strait and declaring the island an independent state.
Ruling KMT conservatives reject the DPP-style independence and the liberal KMT notion of dual-recognition. They say Beijing would use its international clout to stymie either initiative. Taiwan's isolation, conservatives say, is not the result of a Taiwanese foreign policy failure but rather the product of China's emergence as a powerful nation.
"When China establishes ties with other countries, they all accept that Taiwan is part of China. This is a fact, so how can we change it?" says KMT lawmaker Yok Mu-ming, echoing a position favored by Taiwan's military establishment. …