Kade McGlohon, Josh Clarke, Jacob Roberts, and Eric Lipka
The issue of Taiwanese Independence has been controversial over a large period of time. This issue arose in 1949 with the fall of the Kuomintang (KMT) which ruled China for over two decades. In 1949 though, the KMT fell and the Mao’s communist party took place. Because of this fall of the KMT, the remaining members who were in support of the party left mainland China and forced themselves into Taiwan flying under the banner of the Republic of China. Not only did the KMT force into Taiwan lifestyle, but they also forced their rule onto the Taiwanese people, initiating a harsh and unquestioned rule on the original Taiwanese citizens. Because of this harsh rule there are still many individuals in Taiwan who hold resentment towards the political party and the mainland that they came from. However, that resentment tends to take a new form when confronted with China’s “One Country, Two Systems” mindset. This policy makes it so that China can consider Taiwan to be an extension of their mainland. Taiwan can have a separate political system, but when it comes down to it, Taiwan does not have independence from China, rather Taiwan is a part of China. The Chinese government has said that they would allow a certain degree of autonomy as long as the Taiwanese people accept the reunification of China and Taiwan.
Some of that aforementioned autonomy has come in the form of elections. 1996 was the first year that Taiwan had their first direct presidential elections. The elections were the idea of the president at the time Lee Teng-hui who was part of the KMT party. Though he was part of the KMT party, the democratic option that he gave the Taiwanese people sparked a movement that brought about the rise of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a very pro-independence political group. In the next presidential election, Chen Shui-bian was elected, who was a member of the DPP. The KMT leader, President Lee, not only started the elections, but also put forward the concept of dropping the “one China” mindset and replacing it with a two states view. By doing this, Taiwan would still recognize China, but would hold a greater level of Autonomy from the nation. 2008 elections brought about the rule of President Ma Ying-jeou who is part of the KMT party. With his election, and with a much less pro-independence president, China decided that it would reopen discussions on the relations between China and Taiwan. 2014 brought the first formal contact between the two governments since 1949, showing promise that there could be more formal discussions of Chinese-Taiwanese relations in the future.
When examining Taiwan’s viewpoint on independence, a majority of Taiwanese citizens chose independence over unification of the two nations. When asked about cross-strait relations, 66% supported the current state of affairs between the two nations, 24% desired full independence from China, and 7% supported unification with China. The polling agency asked another question; asking straight forward whether the Taiwanese people desired independence or unification. 71% of Taiwanese individuals desire independence while 18% support unification. A staggering majority vote towards independence. Asking one more question, the agency asked how the people being surveyed identified. 78% identified as being Taiwanese, while 13% identified as Chinese. When examining China’s viewpoint on Taiwan’s independence it is quite different. 2005 led to the passing of the anti-secession law, enforcing that China could use “non-peaceful means” against Taiwan in the event of an attempted secession. The government of Beijing also does not recognize Taiwan as its own nation and therefore does not accept Taiwan’s president or the government of Taiwan. Beijing will only welcome Taiwanese citizens that are in support of unification. China also has established a no-contact policy with the DPP, hence why there was no contact from China till a new KMT leader was elected in 2008. Finally China views the issue as domestic, following their two systems policy. This limits any action that outside groups like the United Nations could take in facilitating conversation and mediating a solution.
Economically, Taiwan is a power-house. Flourishing even in the 1980s, making Taiwan one of the four Asian Tigers. Which are also made up by South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The nation is described as a developed capitalist economy ranked as 21st in the world by the purchasing power parity. Taiwan boasts a large overall trade surplus largely because of its surplus with China, and also its foreign reserves being the world’s sixth largest. The surplus with China is all due to free trade agreements that have been established between the two nations. However, the biggest step in trade with China was made with the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement that was signed June of 2010. The GDP of Taiwan is $926.4 billion and they also have a GDP per capita of $39,000. Their population is approximately 23,359,928 people and have 11.5 million individuals in the available workforce. The majority of the workforce is made up in the services industry. The unemployment rate for Taiwan is approximately 4.1%. One of the largest problems that Taiwan has to their economy lies in the average age of their citizens. The average age is 39.2 years, and they only have a birth rate of 1.07, due to much of the region believing in the one-child policy. With such a reduced number of young, it could cause a serious issue as to who will start to take the roles in the workforce when other Taiwanese citizens begin to reach an age that they can no longer work. Exports are huge for Taiwan. Their main sources of exports are from electronics, machinery, and petrochemicals. Those three have been able to provide their excellent economy with solid trade with China, Hong Kong, U.S., Japan, and Singapore.
China has taken a diplomatic stand against Taiwan in a few ways. Taiwan is not recognized by many nations, and only has full diplomatic relations with 27 countries. Taiwan competes in the Olympics as Chinese Taipei. Taiwan was able to make it into the World Trade Organization in 2002, but was blocked from being able to join the World Health Organization by China. When looking at the Taiwanese-Chinese relationship, China has listed Taiwan as a breakaway province that they have vowed to retake by force, if necessary. However, Taiwan says they are more than just a province, they believe that they are a sovereign state, having its own constitution, democratically-elected leaders, and 400,000 troops in the military.
When examining the military there is a large history between the two nations. After the Chinese civil war the KMT fell and went to Taiwan. However, the U.S. stated that they would prevent the communist invasion of Taiwan which then led to a lack of conflict. However, there was no peace treaty signed. The People’s Republic of China boasts a massive military power with approximately 2.2 million active personnel. The United States also now has no legal obligation to defend Taiwan. However, possibly the largest threat militarily are the 2,000 (approx.) surface-to-surface cruise missiles that are located in the Fujian province that are aimed at the nation of Taiwan that China is ready to fire at a moments notice.
Globally this is significant for a number of reasons. Taiwanese companies have invested nearly 50 billion USD in Chinese companies. So Chinese companies rely on those investments. At the same time, Taiwan would not be where it is today without the trade agreements that it has established with China, especially since China alone makes up for over a quarter of their exports. A rise in the conflict in this area could lead to severely damaged economies, specifically from Taiwan as they would attempt to recover from a loss in their greatest trade partner. Furthermore, this is a global issue because the question on human rights comes into play. Especially when considering the military issues that were previously mentioned. The missiles and the overwhelming size of the Chinese military would surely lead to crimes against humanity and war crimes if either the missiles are used or the military is deployed. Finally, this is a global issue because nations and organizations have had to get involved in order to prevent conflict. The United States and the United Nations have both gotten involved in issues to prevent further conflict between the two nations. In summary, Taiwanese independence is not an issue that needs to be taken lightly. The best steps are being taken by having officials from both nations begin to sit down and have meetings to discuss relations and where they would like to progress from their current point.