The Taiwan Issue and Sino-U.S. Relations

Author:Zhengyuan Fu
Position:Former Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford and a former Senior Research Profe

I Introduction - II The Rise of China's Nationalism - III The Return of Taiwan to China - IV The Establishment of PRC-Us Relations - V Cross-Strait Relations - A Evolution of PRC's Taiwan Policy - B The Thawing of Cross-Strait Relations - C The Rise of Advocates for Taiwan's Independence and the PRC Response - D Taiwan's Growing Ties with the Mainland - VI Conclusion -


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    Zhengyuan Fu: He is the author of AUTOCRATIC TRADITION AND CHINESE POLITICS (1994) and CHINA?S LEGALISTS: THE EARLIEST TOTALITARIANS AND THEIR ART OF RULING (1996). He is now a freelance author. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are by the author.
I Introduction

In the Twenty-First Century, China's relations with the United States will be its most important foreign relationship. For the United States, no other country will have a greater influence on its future global status than China. For the world, the Sino-U.S. relationship in the coming decades will become increasingly significant. A stable and cooperative relationship between the two countries would be a cornerstone for a more harmonious world; however, the corrosion of this relationship would have tremendously harmful consequences not only for the two peoples, who account for more than one-fourth of mankind, but for the rest of the world as well.

While many political elites in both countries proclaim their satisfaction with the present condition of the Sino-U.S. relations, there are issues that constantly cause tension and distrust between the two countries. The most crucial issue among these is the Taiwan issue, which is whether and how Taiwan would be reunited with China. This is the issue that could lead to disruption and conflict between the richest Page 254 country and the most populous nation in the world. If such a conflict were to erupt, neither country would benefit. The same is true for any third party that believes it might have something to gain by actively inciting such a disruption.

An oft-neglected aspect of the Taiwan issue is the disproportionate significance ascribed to it by the United States and China. For the United States, Taiwan is a remote island more than 6,000 miles away. Taiwan has never been a part of the United States. The political status of Taiwan does not involve key issues of territorial integrity, state sovereignty, or national security for the people and government of the United States.

For China, however, Taiwan is historically, politically, geographically, culturally, ethnically, and strategically a part of China. It is only ninety miles from the Mainland and its formal independence would violate the territorial integrity, state sovereignty, and national security of the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.). Due to the civil war in China and various other factors, the reunification of China has not been completed. However, Taiwan is a part of China and is recognized as such by the United Nations and 168 countries.1 For the Chinese people, including many people on the island, Taiwan's formal independence means the dismemberment of China and would be perceived as implemented under the influence of the United States and, possibly, Japan. For China, the prospect of a nominally independent Taiwan allied with another hostile foreign power would pose a military threat permanently placed at its front door. For the 1.3 billion people in China, the splitting away of Taiwan from the Mainland is a matter of national dignity and security for which they are willing to go to war.

II The Rise of China's Nationalism

Since the Third Century, people from the Mainland came to explore and settle in Taiwan.2 In the Twelfth Century, the Song Dynasty set up a garrison in Penghu, placing the territory under the jurisdiction of Fujiang Page 255 Province.3 During the Yuan Dynasty, China's government established various patrol and inspection agencies to administer the territory.4During a brief interlude in the Seventeenth Century, when China, under the late Ming Dynasty, was experiencing severe social unrest, the Dutch occupied Taiwan for nearly four decades (1624-1662) before they were expelled by a Chinese general of the last Ming administration.5 Then, in 1684, the newly established Qing dynasty successfully incorporated Taiwan into China's administration as a prefecture of the Fujian province.6 In 1886, Taiwan became a province.7

After the Meiji restoration, Japan planned and implemented its expansion into Korea and China.8 In 1894, Japan defeated China and occupied Taiwan.9 In 1895, Japan forced China to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki,10 ceding Taiwan to Japan.11 This began a half-century of Japan's methodical and continued invasion and dismemberment of China until the end of World War II.12 China's defeat by Japan and the resulting loss of Taiwan was one of China's most serious national humiliations and the direct cause of the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911.13

The rise of China's nationalism was nurtured by the historical experience of repeated sufferings brought on by the Western and Japanese invasions starting with the Opium War in 1840 until the end of Page 256 World War II in 1945.14 During a period of one hundred and five years, the Chinese people experienced a series of national humiliations and traumas. Foreign powers from the West and Japan did everything in their power to colonize and dismember China as a nation. The following is a list of some of the major invasions of foreign powers into China:15

1840-1842 Opium War resulted in the loss of Hong Kong to England.16

1848-1862 Czarist Russia conducted a series of occupations of China's northeastern and northern territory.17

1856-1860 Anglo-French invasion; Summer Palace (Yuan Ming Yuan) pillaged and burned, and unequal treaties signed.18

1874-1879 Japan pressured China out of Ryukyu.19

1882-1884 Sino-French War resulted in the 1885 Tianjin Treaty recognizing Vietnam as a French protectorate.20

1894-1895 Sino-Japanese war; lost Taiwan to Japan and Japanese occupation of Liaodong Peninsula.21

1898 Germany took Shandong; Czarist Russia occupied Dalian.22 Page 257

1900 Boxer Movement resulted in the killing of foreigners. A foreign invasion force comprised of troops from England, France, Russia, Germany, Italy, Japan, United States, and Austria invaded Beijing and Tianjin.23

1901 Xin-Chou Peace Treaty signed; China paid indemnity of one billion tael of silver; special legation districts controlled by foreign powers were established; special districts along railroads occupied by foreign troops, etc.24

1907 Secret Treaty between Japan and Czarist Russia on dividing Northeastern China.25

1914-1915 Japan seized German concessions in Shandong and forced China to accept Twenty-One Demands.26

1931 September 18, Japanese troops captured Shhenyang (Mukden); Japan installed a puppet government in Northeastern China the next year.27

1931-1945 Sino-Japanese War. China's Revolution of 1911, led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, resulted in the establishment of the Republic of China, the first republic in Asia.28 Since then, Sun's call for the Chinese people to stand up and end foreign domination over the people of China has been the unifying force cementing China as one nation, even during foreign invasions and civil wars.29 Page 258

In 1928, the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China was finally succeeding in unifying China after defeating various warlords.30 In the meantime, Japanese militarists felt that they might have missed the opportunity to colonize a divided China, and once again increased their aggressive activities against the young republic. On June 4, 1928, Japanese militarists plotted the assassination of Zhang Zuolin, the military strongman in the northeastern part of China, who expressed willingness for unification under the National Government.31 On December 29, 1928, Zhang's son Zhang Xueliang, who then commanded the army in Northeastern China, pledged loyalty to the National Government, thus leading to national unity.32 On September 18, 1931, the Japanese army initiated an aggression in Northeastern China, and in 1932, installed a puppet regime of the so-called government of "Manchukuo" (Manzhouguo).33 The League of Nations was not able to stop this invasion.34

Then, in 1937, Japan launched a full-scale invasion of China.35 The atrocities committed by the Japanese invaders, which included the Nanjing Massacre36 and the use of scorched earth tactics, still haunt the memories of many Chinese in the Twenty-First Century.37 Such historical memories fuel and sustain Chinese nationalism.

Throughout the Twentieth Century, nationalism was a potent normative force, motivating the Chinese people and coloring their perceptions of international affairs. During the Sino-Japanese War Page 259 (1931-1945), most recruits into the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) were driven by nationalism rather than Marxist-Leninist doctrine. Later, after the victory of the CCP and establishment of the P.R.C. in 1949, the veterans of that war held most, if not all, of the top positions in the P.R.C. official hierarchy.38

Chinese nationalism has been the most important theme in mass political indoctrination and public education under the CCP. When Mao Zedong mobilized the Chinese people for the Korean War against the United States in the early 1950s, it was in the name of nationalism and not Marxism-Leninism.39 In the 1990s, when Marxism-Leninism lost its appeal for the Chinese people, nationalism became the only effective ideological glue binding the 1.3 billion people as one nation under the authoritarian governance of the CCP.40

Since the mid-1990s, the controversy over the Taiwan issue has become the most significant factor boosting Chinese nationalism. This issue touches a very sensitive chord in the psyche of the Chinese people. Many visitors to China note the willingness of people in all walks of life to go to war over Taiwan's independence since 1995.41 There is a...

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