TCS Daily

How Do I Love Thee?

By Christopher Lingle - August 5, 2004 12:00 AM

The boys in Beijing just don't get it. During many discussions relating to Taiwan and China, I have heard Mainland Chinese insist that it is only natural for a mother to want to have a child return to her bosom. This image is usually shattered whenever it is suggested that the wayward child would prefer to remain outside the fold. Despite their professed love for their brothers in Taiwan, they show a remarkable willingness to bomb them into oblivion if they do not reciprocate.

If tensions are rising on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, it is not hard to see what is the source. Chinese leaders continue to make substantial increases in military spending while confirming that reunification is their top priority and the core issue for their relations with the US.

For its part, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is actively improving its capabilities for a full military invasion of Taiwan. The aim of its training is to perfect a multi-prong blitzkrieg to secure a foothold to preempt US reaction.

To this end, the PLA conducts massive joint-force exercises that simulate an invasion of Taiwan from China's southeastern coast.

As in other independent countries, threats from a bellicose and bullying neighbor encourage the threatened people to rally around those they believe will protect their interests. It is hard for Beijing to make the case that bombing Taiwan into submission serves the best interest of the island's inhabitants.

Threats of aggression have reinforced the development of a distinctive Taiwanese identity. A recent response to China's saber rattling was the largest demonstration in Taiwan's history when over a million people joined hands to create a human chain traversing the entire length of the island.

Public-opinion surveys indicate that Taiwanese identity has grown over the past decade with over 40 percent of inhabitants viewing themselves as Taiwanese only. Meanwhile, a slightly larger percentage sees their identity as both Taiwanese and Chinese.

In all events, Beijing depends upon fabricated logic and imaginary historical claims to support its efforts to exclude Taiwan from various international organizations. Never mind the nationalistic assertions, historical facts offer little support for Beijing's claims for its suzerainty over Taiwan.

Looking back into the distant past of the island of Formosa, it is well know that it was originally inhabited by Aboriginal peoples. Eventually Portuguese sailors arrived in and around the island before significant Chinese settlements appeared there. Then in 1624, the Dutch arrived and they were soon followed by the Spanish.

China's political influence on Taiwan began in 1661 after officials linked to the Ming dynasty, displaced the Dutch. In 1683, the Qing took over Taiwan but ceded it to Japan in 1895. After spending nearly 50 years under Japanese control, Taiwan became the refuge of the KMT and Chiang Kai-shek in 1945.

It is chimerical that a country founded upon a Marxist-Leninist ideology would be willing to depend upon sovereignty claims based upon imperial conquest and unequal treaties. After all, demands for assumption of political control over Hong Kong and Macau were based upon repudiating just these conditions.

Forget about the rhetoric. It is clear that the leadership in Beijing cares nothing about multi-party, pluralistic democracy nor is it sensitive to the aspirations of a free people.

This is evident in dismissive remarks about the lack of "patriotism" among Hong Kong's democrats. They are dismissed as incompetents for insisting upon self-determination of Hong Kong residents instead of promoting the interests of a distant autocratic regime.

Recently, the Chinese Communist Party issued histrionic complaints that a referendum for a new constitution for Taiwan would violate international law. Concerning proposed changes in Taiwan's constitution, it can only be an improvement. The existing document was formulated on the Mainland in Nanking in 1947 by the Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai-shek to secure a one-party dictatorship. Revisions are needed to support the vibrant, multiparty democracy that now operates in Taiwan.

Either as an act of arrogance and hypocrisy or willful deception, lectures on legal niceties from dictatorial single-party regimes hardly merit consideration. If Beijing is so concerned about due process, it should welcome a referendum to determine whether people on Taiwan wish to reunite with the Mainland under the current regime.

As it is, there is no explicit universal acceptance of China's sovereignty over Taiwan. China's threat to use force against Taiwan has no more basis in international law than would military aggression against Japan or India.

Christopher LINGLE is currently Professor of Economics at Georgetown University and Global Strategist for eConoLytics.


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