The Struggle across the Taiwan Strait: The Divided China Problem

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The Struggle Across the Taiwan Strait: The Divided China Problem, by Ramon H. Myers and Jialin Zhang. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2006. xii +168 pp. US$15.00 (paperback).

This is a poor book that claims to analyze the divide across the Taiwan Strait. Rather, it simply gives the perspectives of the Chinese side and could have been as easily published in Beijing as in Stanford, California. Its one possibly useful attribute is that it gives China's "feelings" and responses to various situations that have arisen over the years.

The unremitting, underlying theme is that Taiwan is Chinese. The book argues that the division between Mainlanders and Taiwanese "did not constitute a source of conflict in Taiwan's politics unless instigated by powerful, influential local elites" (p. 48). This ignores the facts that no such powerful local élites existed under a dictatorial regime that systematically discriminated against Taiwanese in all crucial spheres of the political system. From the movement of the Kuomintang government from China to Taiwan in late 1949 until the death of Chiang Ching-kuo in early 1988, Mainlanders always accounted for a majority of the members of the government's cabinet and the Kuomintang's Central Standing Committee despite accounting for less than 15 per cent of the population. A Taiwanese never held the position of premier or minister of foreign affairs, national defense, economics, education, finance or justice until after Lee Tenghui became president in 1988.

Some of assertions made are simply laughable. In no way did "[t]he majority of Taiwan's people welcome[] Jiang's conciliatory eight points" of 30 January 1995, which the authors provide in Appendix 6 (pp. 149-55). Further, although China rejected the so-called "1992 Consensus" ("One China, each defining it in their own way") at the time, the book now treats the so-called " 1992 Consensus" as fact, even though the originator of the term, Su Chi, has admitted that he made it up.

Basically, all of the blame for the division across the Taiwan Strait is laid on former President Lee Teng-hui and on President Chen Shui-bian. The book says, "From 1999 until 2006 the two regimes have not held direct talks" (p. 114). Yet the authors repeatedly fail to note that China refuses to talk unless Taiwan agrees to a "one China" policy first. Of course, such an agreement from the Taiwan side would give the game away before the discussions even started, something the book fails to note.

As a polemic, this book is filled with contradictions. Chapter 4 starts, "Taiwan's politics are not ethnic in nature as some Taiwan experts assert" (p. 45), yet a few pages later the book asserts, "By November 1999 it is clear from Table 1 that a decisive shift in ethnic identity had occurred after 1991" (p. 53). Later the book says, "At this time [2004], however, there was no immediate threat to Taiwan because missiles had been stationed across the strait for many years" (p. 89), but on the same page it says "Mainland Chinese officials then responded that if Taiwan's leadership held their referendum, that could cause a war" (pp. …