What’s behind the china-taiwan divide?
China and Taiwan’s shared conflictual history that has yet to come to an end Year 1949 is marked by the end of the civil war that was ravaging China, opposing the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China. In other words, the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong against Guomindang, a nationalist country led by Chan Kei Check. The communists won the civil war and the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed on the 1st October 1949.
The Marshall Chiang Kai Shek, leader of the Republic of China took refuge on the island of Taiwan. There, he reproduced the martial law as well as a temporary government, in 1950. The Chinese immigrated population only represented 15 % at the time but they took control of the island and its inhabitants. This seizure led to the recreation of the Republic of China in Taïwan.
A year after these key events, in 1951 Japan signed the San Francisco treaty which involved the abandonment of its sovereignty over Taïwan. In 1954 another treaty was signed between Taïwan and the United States, a treaty of mutual defense of which the government of China did not approve. Indeed, in the critical cold war context, these measures and alliances were of the utmost importance. Taiwan was clearly leaning on the Western block and thus strengthening their position as China’s enemies.
The People's Republic of China wouldn't let Taïwan in the hands of the Republic of China and the People's Liberation Army was sent to Matsu and Jinmen islets in 1958. However, they were stopped by an intervention of the United States.
Only years later, in 1971, the United Nations Organisation recognised the People's Republic of China as the only lawful representative of China and excluded the Republic of China from the organisation. The political connections got even more strained between the US and the Republic of China when the US terminated all form of diplomatic relations, seven years later.
In 1979, while the United States of America voted the Taïwan Relations Act -which defines the relations between the US and Taïwan- China invited the island to be part of its “motherland” again. Taïwan did not respond positively and claimed the right to its independence.
However separatist movements were greatly repressed as a result of the Kaohsiung incident. Indeed, the demonstration went wrong and the police attacked the members of the Formosa magazine, both organisers of the demonstration and the demonstrators. The next morning, the premises of the magazine were devastated, numerous members and all of the leaders of the movement were arrested, and their family slaughtered if they would not talk.
The government of China would not let go of Taïwan and offered the “One state two systems” solution which was rejected, along with the “three links” and the “four exchanges” (university,economic, sporting and cultural). Taiwan’s adopted the “three no” policy : no contact, no negotiation and no compromise.
Four years later, in 1986 due to Lieyu incident - nineteen Vietnamese refugees were shot by the Taiwanese army on a beach of Lieyu island. The martial law instituted in 1949 was abolished, and the Taïwanese population could, from this point forward step foot in the People’s Republic of China. The relations between China and Taïwan seemed better at that time but in 2000 the government of China published a white paper, in which it declared that the Taïwan’s refusal on the reunification of China or its declaration of independence were a “casus belli”, reason to enter war.
On January second of this year, the atmosphere tenser than ever. Xi Jinping, the president of China announced that China would be reunited with or without the will of Taïwan, against whom the Army would stand, if they have to. Facing these words the Taïwanese president did not concede and stood her ground.
The concern is now to find a common ground respecting both the rights and the wishes of those two people, but will it be feasible without entering war ?
An article by JULIETTE MATHERON