Taiwan's History - and Destiny - of Freedom from China ; Democratic Nations Must Stand Up for Taiwan's Right to Determine Its Own Future without China's Military Threats

Article excerpt

The recent close mayoral elections in Taipei and Kaohsiung, Taiwan's two largest cities, remind us that Taiwan remains a thriving democracy. Along with South Korea, Taiwan is one of two former Asian dictatorships that have made a true transition to democratic rule.

This democratization has won Taiwan many friends around the world, including the United States, Australia, Japan, and Britain. But this support doesn't change the fact that Taiwan faces a severe threat from China.

At this moment, China has more than 800 missiles aimed at the island. Its military often conducts exercises relevant to an invasion of Taiwan. That kind of power makes some observers in government, business, and academic circles wary of upsetting China. Yet China has shown that it respects strong, principled stands rather than a submissive, begging attitude.

The US and other democratic nations must stand up for Taiwan's right to determine its own future without China's military threats. Taking this stand means welcoming Taiwan's representation in more international organizations - and yes, rethinking their approach toward the so-called One-China policy, which declares Taiwan to be part of China.

China's bogus historical claims

China claims Taiwan as its own even though the People's Republic of China has never controlled the island.

Even Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, in his interview with Edgar Snow on July 16, 1936, made very clear that Taiwan should be independent.

Historically, Taiwan belonged to China only during the short period between 1945 and 1949, when the Chinese Nationalists occupied the island and killed some 20,000 Taiwanese who demonstrated for democracy. The Ching Dynasty, which ruled parts of Taiwan from 1683 to 1895 was Manchu, not Chinese. At that time, China, too, was a Manchu colony.

The One-China policy is unfair to Taiwan - and it forces nations that want to keep relations with both China and Taiwan to walk a diplomatic tightrope. That's why Taiwan's allies need to revise their policies toward China and Taiwan.

Take the US. Like many nations, it has two large "officially unofficial" diplomatic missions in Taiwan, while Taiwan has many missions in America. Both sides enjoy diplomatic privileges such as immunity and tax waivers. With its Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which treats Taiwan as a state, the US has partially overcome the One-China policy. But many US bureaucrats still treat Taiwan as inferior. And many US allies have accepted the claim that the island is a province of China.

In international relations, one of the closest parallels to Taiwan is East Timor, although Taiwan is much more prosperous and maintains a vigorous democracy. Only with the fall of Indonesian President Suharto in 1998 - after nearly a quarter century of oppressive military rule - did the East Timorese people gain the right to vote on their future, choosing independence and freedom overwhelmingly. …