Jeremy Keeshin Taiwan The island of Taiwan, located east of China, has been recognized under several names

. The Portuguese who sighted it in the 16th century dubbed it Formosa. It is called Taiwan, formally the Republic of China, and sometimes is described as the Republic of China on Taiwan. This idea of identity is Taiwan’s central problem. Currently, the situation between Taiwan and China is one of ipseity and self-determination. Taiwan’s close neighbor China claims jurisdiction, but Taiwan has been moving towards becoming a more independent state. The ties between China and Taiwan have been deteriorating since the Chinese Civil War from 1945-1949, and this does not please China. China has been taking steps to try to unify with Taiwan to create “one China,” but Taiwan’s current leading party, Chen Shui-bian’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has not been content with them. This issue of identity continues to be a pressing one in Taiwan as the status quo of de facto independence conflicts with the problem that they do not live with de jure autonomy from China. Communist and Nationalist relations have been recently revitalized after an extended hiatus. Lien Chan, the leader of the opposing Nationalist Party, recently had an eight-day visit to the mainland to speak with Communist leader Hu Jintao. This was a radical step as the Communists and Nationalists have not communicated since the Nationalists fled to Taiwan after their loss in the civil war in which Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists lost to Mao Zedong’s Communists. After Chiang Kai-shek died in 1975, his son Chiang Chingkuo succeeded him. Chiang Ching-kuo died in 1988 and he was replaced by Lee Teng-hui (Waldron, 62). All of the first three leaders of the Republic of China were members of the Nationalist Party, also known as the Kuomintang or KMT. Taiwan still claims to be the

Jeremy Keeshin legitimate successor to Republic of China (ROC) of the 1920’s and 1930’s, however, they are in no position right now to assume this power. China is not the only country that controlled Taiwan. Recently, it has been under China’s control since the civil war from 1945-1949. Long ago Taiwan was ruled by the Qing and Ming dynasties, only to fall under the possession of the Japanese. In 1895, after the concluding of the First Sino-Japanese War, the Treaty of Shimonoseki resolved to give the island of Taiwan, as well as other land, to Japan (Levinson 380). Taiwan stayed under the control of Japan until after World War II. The land was given back to China by the Cairo Conference of 1943, and then solidified by the Potsdam Conference (Hutchings, 404). The cause of the civil war is rooted in the conversion from the old Manchu or Qing dynasty to the new Nanjing Republic with the Nationalists. This gradual change began when Sun Yat-sen formed his Revive China Society, which led the uprising against the disintegrating Manchu dynasty. In 1911, the dynasty collapsed and was taken over by military leader Yuan Shikai, a very traditional ruler, because Sun Yat-sen did not have enough military power yet. Yuan Shikai died in 1916 and his party started to disagree more with Sun Yat-sen’s Nationalists. By 1920, his party dissolved, and the new dispute was between the Nationalists and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which was formed in 1921 (Spielvogel, 778). In 1923, the two parties were in a temporary alliance, but from then on their differences grew logarithmically and peaked in 1926 when Sun Yat-sen died. The new Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek launched an attack on the Communists later in 1927. At the end of this strike, the new Republic of China was

Jeremy Keeshin formed at Nanjing (Spielvogel, 885). Civil war continued on and off in China until World War II, where a temporary truce was called to fight off the Japanese. The civil war continued from 1945-1949 with many important events occurring in between. A pivotal event was the February 28th Incident of 1947. The police beat up a woman selling untaxed cigarettes in Taipei. This caused an island wide revolt against the Nationalists, and it resulted in around 30,000 being killed (Hutchings, 342). From 1947 until 1987, Taiwan was under martial law and in a state of uncertainty (Levinson, 380). At the end of World War II, the Civil War continued again. Mao Zedong’s communists and People’s Liberation Army took over much of China, including Beijing. After losing the war, Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to the island of Taiwan where they established the Republic of China with its capital at Taipei. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) still considers Taiwan as a province and that eventually it will come to its senses and reunify with the mainland. Taiwan, acting as its own entity, has different thoughts. They see themselves as the true Chinese government, and in time will be recognized internationally as such. Since 1949, the economy and culture of Taiwan has been under constant change. During the 1950’s, the economy was agriculturally based, but from the 1960’s onward, it has been shifting towards manufacturing low-cost labor items for export. Towards the end of the 1970’s and beginning of the 1980’s, the currency of Taiwan increased in value and Taiwan became increasingly more competitive technologically. Currently Taiwan possesses the fourth largest economy in Asia, but limited contact between the ROC and PRC has delayed further economic development (Hinkelman). Culturally, the number of

Jeremy Keeshin people who consider themselves Chinese is down from 44% to 13% while the number who considers themselves Taiwanese is up from 17% to 39% (Hamrin, 341). On the political front, change has been shown as well. Chen Shui-bian heads the current majority party in Taiwan, the Democratic Progressive Party. He was elected in 2000, and his election ended the fifty-one years of Nationalist rule. He was reelected in 2004 in a tight election where he beat out the Nationalist candidate Lien Chen, who recently visited China. Democratic elections in Taiwan also have a short history. The first democratic election was in 1996 where Lee Teng-hui won in a landslide. Chen Shui-bian won the next two. The victories by the Democratic Progressive Party are important because it widens the gap between them and the People’s Republic of China. The Communist and democratic style of rule are radically different. These divergences between governing methods makes a peaceful unification even more difficult than before. For this reason, the DPP has even suggested to drop the claim as the single China government and move toward establishing Taiwan as a separate entity. China has threatened to use force against Taiwan if they officially declare independence. Just last month China passed a law allowing the use of this military force. Any extreme actions by either side could lead to a potential war. Lien Chen’s visit to the mainland was significant because it started up talks again between the Nationalists and the Communists, but it was also momentous for a different reason. Since Hu Jintao spoke with Lien Chen, the leader of the major opposition in Taiwan and not the actual ruling party the DPP, many said that he was trying to bypass the government to start up private negotiations (Taiwan leader). This action, considered by some an act of treason, has made recent visits very controversial. The Nationalists are more in favor of a reunification, and

Jeremy Keeshin this is the likely reason that the talks happened between Lien Chen and Hu Jintao. The Democratic Progressive Party is much more for independence, and they felt these selfish actions by Lien Chen may have compromised their progress in this area. After Lien Chen’s visit to the mainland, DPP leader Chen Shui-bian invited Hu Jintao to Taiwan for further peace talks with the true leader of the country. This offer was declined on the basis that Taiwan first needed to accept the clause in the 1992 consensus, issued under Lee Teng-hui’s leadership. It stated that the “one China” principle, the idea that both the mainland and Taiwan are part of the larger China, be accepted by both sides, but this is not in the agenda of the advancing Democratic Progressive Party. Both sides have been attempting a slight combination of appeasement and brinksmanship in an attempt to keep the peace. Recently, a gift of two pandas was given from China to Taiwan as a symbolic peace gesture. The overhanging threat from China that they may take military action is equalized with the idea that Taiwan could at any time formally declare its independence. Either of these actions could end the brinksmanship and bring about a war. Two days after Lien Chen returned from his trip, James Soong went to have peace talks in China. James Soong is the leader of the smaller opposition party called the People’s First Party (PFP). He and the PFP hold views more similar to the Nationalists, their basic tenets being against Taiwan independence, for the 1992 consensus and for “one China.” The recent visits to China prove that the situation in Taiwan is changing constantly and that the future between the two countries is still unsure. A reunification, as promoted by Hu Jintao of the CCP, Lien Chen of the KMT, and James Soong of the PFP,

Jeremy Keeshin is possible. But the other side, Chen Shui-bian and the leading DPP, are endorsing Taiwan’s independence. The problem lies in the fact that both the ROC and PRC claim sovereignty over all Taiwan and the mainland, but both cannot exist simultaneously. The ROC and PRC act bitterly and stubbornly towards the other, and this is the reason that little headway has been made towards unification or a peaceful settlement. The lack of communication between the two groups has resulted in this stalemate. The whole composition of Taiwan has evolved: it has become an economic powerhouse of Asia as well as a continuously advancing country culturally. The big identity crisis sweeping over the Republic of China has had effects in the political, economic, and social sectors. Today, Taiwan’s de facto and de jure independence still remains to be solved, and only if one side gives a little ground will “one China” or a new Taiwanese state be created.

Jeremy Keeshin Works Cited

Associated Press. “Taiwan leader’s ‘journey of peace’.” CNN 4 May 2005: World. 4 May 2005< x.html>.

This CNN article was very informative about the current situation in Taiwan, and it gave good background to the event.

Hamrin, C. L. & Wang, Z. “The Floating Island: change of paradigm on the Taiwan question.” Journal of Contemporary China 13 May 2004: 339-349. Ebsco. Deerfield High School Library, Deerfield IL. 26 April 2005


This was an extremely long and drawn out source. It had lots of good information but there was only some that was relevant to my topic. It was a journal from China but its information did not seem to be extremely biased.

Hinkelman, E. G. “Taiwan Business, Economy.” Taiwan Business 31 May 1994. Elibrary. Deerfield High School Library, Deerfield IL. <>. 26 May 2005

Jeremy Keeshin This website was extremely helpful with a descriptive analysis of the economic situation and its background in Taiwan. It covered the history and present economy and talked about Taiwan’s international role as well.

Hutchings, Graham. Modern China: A Guide to a Century of Change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

This book contained lots of information about China, but it was so detailed and long, that it made it difficult to use as a source.

Levinson, D & Karen, L. “Taiwan.” Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. Volume 5. New York: Thomson Gale, 2002

Since this was an encyclopedia about lots of countries in Asia, the information was very general and was not that helpful to me. I got basic facts from it that I could have gotten from lots of other sources.

Peng, T. C. “The History of Chinese Taiwan.” Chinese American Forum April 2000. Ebsco. Deerfield High School Library, Deerfield IL. 1 May 2005 <>.

Jeremy Keeshin This article was rather informative about the overall history of Taiwan. It was very chronological and did not contain opinions with a sever bias. It had lots of dates and events.

Spielvogel, J.J. World History: The Human Odyssey. Chicago: National Textbook Company, 1999.

This was an easier source to use, considering it was the textbook. It gave a good summary of Taiwanese history, and mainly explained well how the republic was formed.

Waldron, Arthur. “Our Stake in Taiwan.” Commentary October 2004: 60-66. Ebsco. Deerfield High School Library, Deerfield IL. 27 April 2005


This was a very helpful source. It related current issues to historical events very well and made it a good source to use.