After the end of World War II in 1945 and the Chinese Civil War in 1949, two countries in Asia started to go by the name of China: the “Republic of China”, in Taiwan, which claims all Chinese territory since the defeat in the civil war, and the “People’s Republic of China”, proclaimed by Mao Zedong in Beijing in 1949 and which sees Taiwan as a province rebel. These views are supported by constitutions of the two territories to this day.
The Chinese Communist Party, which rules the mainland, has never ruled under the island of Taiwan since. Taiwan, on the other hand, has never been able to dictate the course of politics beyond its territory – the region has had democratic elections and alternation of government since the 1990s.
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For a while, no one wanted to change this situation.
Until in 2005 Beijing passed the Anti-Secession Law, which allows the Chinese “Liberation Army” to repress, with force of arms, a possible declaration of independence from Taiwan. The Chinese regime has been aiming thousands of missiles at Taiwan for years, whose closest territory to the People’s Republic of China is less than two kilometers away. Military tensions on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have frequently grown.
Chinese military helicopters fly over Pingtan Island, one of the closest points to mainland China from Taiwan, in Fujian province (Photo: Héctor Retamal / AFP Photo)
Isolated from the international community
Until the early 1970s, Taiwan was recognized by the international community as the “Republic of China”. In 1971, however, the United Nations decided that Beijing would represent China in all its bodies. As a result, the “Republic of China” was “replaced” by the communist People’s Republic of China.
The following year, the German government resumed diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China. The decision at the time was based on the Chinese unity policy, which recognized Beijing as China’s only legitimate government and vetoed diplomatic relations with the Taiwanese side, an understanding that continues to this day. At the moment, only 14 States in the international community recognize Taiwanamong them the Vatican.
Taiwan – Webstory — Photo: Chiang Ying-ying/AP
Shortly thereafter, in 1979, after a few years of rapprochement, it was the turn of the United States to sever its relations with Taiwan and recognize the People’s Republic of China. In the same year, the US Congress passed a law, the “Taiwan-Relations-Act”, which authorizes the sale of modern weapons systems to the island and requires the US government to maintain peace in and around Taiwan.
US wants to strengthen democracy in Asia
In Washington, politics prevails the opinion that the US, for historical reasons, cannot leave Taiwan to Beijing’s mercy. For much of the Cold War, Taipei and Washington were allies in the fight against Communist China. Later, however, the US moved closer to communist China as it distanced itself from the former Soviet Union. More recently, Americans have come to view the rise of the Beijing regime with great distrust and the Chinese as rivals; Taiwan, on the other hand, is an important ally that shares the same values.
In her visit to the island, the Speaker of the US House, Nancy Pelosi, was emphatic: she wants to “make it very clear that the US will not give up on the commitments made with Taiwan”. observed the movements of all Chinese ships and warplanes in the Pacific region.
Chinese unity principle
For the Chinese Communist Party, the principle of Chinese unity has a clear message and objective: Taiwan must be reintegrated into the mainland under Beijing’s leadership. In Taiwan, this principle gains different interpretations. For the main opposition party there, the KMT, the two sides of the dispute agreed in a 1992 round of talks in Hong Kong that there is only one China – whether Taiwanese or communist, that depends on the interpretation of each stakeholder. The agreement in question later became known as the “1992 Consensus”.
For Beijing, the “1992 Consensus” is the political basis for peaceful relations. In practice, the government has never publicly commented on the possibility that the word “China” could refer to any country other than the People’s Republic of China. .
The ruling party in Taiwan, DPP, of President Tsai Ing-wen, is not a big fan of the “1992 Consensus”. “In 1992, both sides reached some common ground,” the president said in her 2016 inaugural address. “I respect that historic fact.” She said she was willing to maintain peace and stability, but without disregarding Taiwanese democracy and popular will.
Public opinion in Taiwan is deeply divided between independence or reintegration with China due to the historic migratory flows it has received from the mainland, especially since the end of the Second World War.
Beijing’s Zero Tolerance
The fact that the government in Taipei refers to itself as “Taiwan” rather than the “Republic of China” is already seen by Beijing as a step ahead of the declaration of independence, as the new nation would be called Taiwan and the China itself does not recognize the “Republic of China”, nor its national anthem and flag.
Chinese civil servants learn in their first introduction to the service that Taiwan does not have a “president”, but a “local administrative head”.
Beijing blocks Taiwan’s access to international organizations, which is why the island was unable to participate in the World Health Organization during the Covid-19 pandemic. Germany also has no diplomatic mission in Taiwan, just a German institute in Taipei. The “Republic of China” has a diplomatic representation of Taipei in Berlin. At the Olympic Games, Taiwanese athletes participate in competitions as “Taipei Chinese”.