The Taiwan Factor In Us-China Relations
A discussion of the relationship between China and the US would not be complete without touching on how the two powers view and relate to Taiwan (Sheng and Lijun 2001: Pan and Lee, 2008). Taiwan is an Island in Asia that is controversially considered to be part of China before it seceded. It is separated from mainland China by the Taiwan straight with a number of smaller islands in between the two. The country measures around 36 189 KM squared with a population of 23 million people as of 2008 with actual GDP of $383 billion as of 2007, the country has very little comparison against the two stronger economic giants.
However, Taiwan’s strategic position inn regards to China and Asia has proved of utmost importance to the US and thus the US has warmed up towards Taiwan in most cases. China on the other hand is a little bit uncomfortable with the sovereignty of Taiwan as they claim the country belonged to the mainland China historically (Chen, 2006). Modern developments and increased trade relations have draw a lot of perspective and comparison to political relations between the two countries.
Given that the US and China have played friends but have been bitter rivals in other fields, how the Issue of Taiwan fits into their relationship is very important in maintaining or breaking the seemingly cordial relationship between the world super power and China as an emerging super power. Therefore this paper traces back the historical relations that existed among the three and cites major events that shape the direction the relation have taken and develops the storyline up to the present. Historical overview The Republic of China (ROC) was founded in 1912 in the mainland China.
During this time, Taiwan was not considered a territory of China as it was under Japanese colonial rule (Weston, 2007). This had been put in place by the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki. The treaty was made between the Ching Dynasty (China or Manchu Empire) ceded Taiwan to Japan. Under the colonial rule of Japan, Taiwan did not have any close relations with Taiwan despite their geographical proximity. Political tensions between Japan and China played a great role in setting the formerly unified islands in to conflicting paths in terms of ideologies and some influences on culture.
Pan and Lee, 2008 notes that there are some areas in Taiwan where the practice of Japanese culture is exclusive. They say that such influences could mean that the Taiwan people wanted to prove in one or another that they had nothing to link them to ROC and that the Japanese rule was better off. The questions now remains, did the hostility between Taiwan emanate from political issues or from cultural differences? History of the Conflict Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895 and governed as a Japanese colony until 1945 after the second war.
However, the official relinquishing of power happened in 1952 after Japan was convinced by the international community (Chen, 2006). The country had to comply after the atomic bomb attack on the country had taught it a bitter lesson. With the leaving of Japan, the US briefly occupied the country under the support of the UN. In 1949, the leader of the Nationalist Party Kuomitang (KMT) that was in power Chiang Kai-shek, fled the China into Taiwan after losing the civil war to Communists. Chiang still proclaimed that his party was in control in Beijing.
His claims received support from around the world by countries that were against communism and notably the US (Pan and Lee, 2008). This was another common ground between Chiang and the US government after he had collaborated with the US in the war against Japan. This is one of the reasons why there exists tense relations between China and Japan also. In Taiwan, Chiang’s government took maintained the name Republic of China (ROC). Despite earlier predictions, the communist government in China flourished and established itself as a stable administration.
The country thus changed its name to the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) as the China we know of today. Reluctantly, the communist government was later to be recognized officially especially with President Nixon taking over office the US president. The president led to a successful change in policy that saw minor relations between the two countries begin to sprout up. With the coming of the cold war an the rise of the USSR, the relations were to be strained due to difference in political ideologies as presented by capitalism and communism.
The KMT party was in power in Taiwan from 1949 to 2000. Martial law that tended to discriminate indigenous Taiwanese people was used and thereby creating a lot of resentment. The party stressed on the issue of one China and denied the sovereignty of Taiwan from the mainland China. This view was strongly opposed by and made the martial law very unpopular and was successfully abolished in 1987. Unfortunately, KMT still remains in power and has been the main hindrance to declaration of Taiwan’s full independence from mainland China (Zhao 2008).
This view is strongly opposed by the opposition party in Taiwan, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which was founded in 1986 to counter the influences of KMT and call for the independence of Taiwan. With the current president being a member of the DPP, the current relations between China and Taiwan are very tense. US Taiwan Policy The Bush administration has been accused of showing a bit of increased warmth towards Taiwan that any other previous administration. With China still maintaining that the country is a renegade province of the country, this has threatened the peaceful coexistence between China and the US.
China has been accused of having a military build up targeting an attack on Taiwan. A number of missiles in fact numbering 700 have been said to be perpetually trained on Taiwan along the strait. With the US recognizing Taiwan as an independent country, this has not done any good http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/15/AR2008011501347_2. html). The US has been though nit in large scale having military dealings with Taiwan. For instance the US has approved a strong arms sales package to Taiwan that includes Kiddclass destroyers, diesel submarines, and P-3C Orion aircraft.
Military exchange programmes between the two have also been intensified that are aimed at modernizing the Taiwan military forces and equip them with the latest technological know-how in the military. This is inline with what the US says of helping Taiwan to defend its self. However, the question of helping Taiwan has been questioned with the US seeming more intent in joining forces with Taiwan in case of any military attack on China. This has been demonstrated in various instances such as the sending of the 7th fleet to the strait after China looked intent on interfering with Taiwan’s elections in 1996 by test firing missiles over Taiwan.
In addition to these contacts there has been a notable increase in the number of approved visas for top Taiwan officials visiting the US (Zhao, 2008). Taiwan’s armament however has been limited by the country’s legislature which has failed to approve of the budget citing it too high since 2003. The US has been suspecting that there is a hand of Chin playing its role behind the scenes by sponsoring some legislature members in Taiwan to block those purchases.
Other foreign countries that were involved in arms trade with Taiwan have backed out of such deals in fear of hurting their relationships with China which forms a formidable market for their goods due to her enormous population. Such countries are like and France and Germany. President Bush however has retaliated that the US will do whatever it can to help Taiwan defend herself. One China principle The de jure political status of Taiwan has so far been the most sensitive issue between China and the US (Sheng and Lijun 2001: Pan and Lee, 2008: Friedman 2001: Lampton, 2002).
China continues to declare that Taiwan is apart of China and that it will use peace or even force to regain her territory back. The Chinese administration has constantly insisted on the principle of one Chin meaning that they do not recognize Taiwan as a independent sovereign country. In 1979, a joint Comminique between China and the US was signed which emphasized on China’s stand on one China principle. It called for the US to severe any dealings with Taiwan as an independent state.
In the same year and only a few months later, the situation was to change with the enactment of the Taiwan’s relations act. America recognized Taiwan as a sovereign state and could trade with her directly without any inference from China. (Nye, 2004). This was marked by the transfer of US diplomatic offices from Taiwan to the mainland so as new offices could be set up in Taiwan to show their position in this issue. Taiwan and the international community Taiwan realizes that given her economic situation and her military size, she stands no chance when pitted against China (Legro, 2005).
Therefore, the country has over time made efforts to strategically position herself in regards to the international community in order to seek favor and fair judgment and help in driving her point home over her independence. Unfortunately, the trend has been the exact opposite with the US first leading in example. After the US withdrew her diplomatic offices form Taiwan to mainland China about nearly thirty countries followed suit (http://www. cfr. org/publication. html? id=9223#2). This is because many countries are afraid of losing key important trade relations with China which has proved to be a massive source for cheap goods.
The Taiwanese government has also been keen on regaining her seat at the United Nations. The same way that she lost her diplomatic relations with other countries, is the same way that the country did lose this seat: to mainland China. In her attempt to enter the organization, Taiwan insists that her interests are representative of the Republic of China and not the Peoples Republic of China as the mainland is referred to. Unfortunately, the UN and Chin have insisted that Taiwan’s interests are well represented in the organization by the Peoples Republic of China.
This has created more resentment of the part of Taiwan towards China as the country views China as the source of all their problems (Zhao, 2008). The Independence Movement in Taiwan Despite the spirited move by native Taiwanese, there seems to be a drift towards reunification of the two going by the present day politics. While much of the country seems to be for the independence of Taiwan and much of the Chinese mainland for the reunification, political events in Taiwan are a bit confusing. The DPP party which calls for Taiwan’s independence lost this year’s elections and KMT candidate Ma Ying-Jeaou won the elections.
It would therefore seem that the drive to Taiwan’s complete autonomy has suffered another blow. The previous President Chen was very vocal about Taiwan’s independence. He insisted that it’s the Taiwan people to deicide whether to join the mainland China or not to (Nye, 2004). China has strongly opposed this with harsh comments such as “Taiwan choosing independence is tantamount to choosing war. ” As reported in the Washington Post. Dumbaugh, (2008) says of the current polices that exist between China and the US are heavily reliant on fighting a common enemy over time.
This he cites the cases of the Soviet Union and the current issue of terrorism. He concludes that without a common unifying factor the relationship between the two has always been tense but the presence of such unifying factors, the relationship has been cordial Taiwan’s Domestic politics and their implications For Relations with the PRC China was the happiest country for the winning of Ma as president of Taiwan earlier this Year in March. His election presents a huge opportunity to lay a new framework in Taiwan-PRC relations after a tumultuous period characterized by calls for autonomy headed by the DPP (www. arts. auckland.
ac. nz/FileGet. cfm? ID=9a619a76-5008-494e-a510-9b015591ec00 ). With the KMT party in power, China is more assured of an ally in their quest for the reunification of Taiwan and mainland China. However, the new president is faced with the challenge of making full exploitation of trade relations with the mainland given that such moves might appear to calling for the unification. Taiwan’s economic disposition exposes the country to economic pressures that the mainland China can willingly extend to the island in a bid to achieve or coerce Taiwan into signing of treaties that will see Taiwan lose all her independence ((Nye, 2004).
This opportunity presents PRC with the opportunity to make her moves and polices towards Taiwan once and for all. In an analysis of the impact of the victory on trade relations between the two countries, Deckers (2007) notes that PRC investors will more agile in making business investments in the country after receiving some form of assurance that their investments in the Island are in good arms. Will this then bring to an end the political tension between the two countries? If reunification talks between the two will be instituted, what will be the implications on PRC?
These are some of the questions that remain unanswered as we wait for the unfolding scenario to fully present itself. For U. S. Relations Despite the lack of diplomatic offices in Taiwan, U. S. officials say they have had strong ties with the previous DPP government and had developed a considerable association in military and economic terms which is expected to continue under the new government of KMT. However, there was a feeling of mistrust after the US seemingly backtracked on her earlier intentions of recognizing Taiwan as a sovereign state.
This has contradicted statements by the US government that it would step in if PRC decided to use force in reunifying mainland China and Taiwan. Therefore, any future president that will govern Taiwan will have the responsibility of maintaining a good cordial relationship with the US as the ultimate guardian of the stability and peace along the strait (Vesth, and Balaam, 2007). As such, the current president pledged upon taking over office that he would work towards repairing any “residual difficulties” in Taiwan’s relationship with the US.
Alternatively, the case might not be the same after the new US president elect takes over office (http://www. chinapost. com. tw/commentary/2008/01/11/138608/Will-Obama’s. htm. ) This is because he has shown and been speculated to oppose much of President Bush’s policies thus he may adopt a different approach to the whole issue. In his tenure, Bush’s visit to China “gave pro-China interests in the KMT a new, alternate vision for Taiwan’s future” (Dumburgh, 2008). Conclusion
Political independence and non interference in a country’s internal affairs have prevented the US and PRC from making drastic measures that would position Taiwan to where they feel appropriate. An attack on Taiwan would strain the tense relation between China and the US. A repeat of such instances was witnessed in the issue pertaining to independence of Tibet with China accusing the US of interfering with her internal affairs. Again, the perception each country has of the other more often than not places them in opposing views but due to public relations and global integration purposes, play down their differences.
While the US says it does not support the independence of Taiwan, it goes ahead and arms the country for “defensive” purposes. On the other hand, the US does not allow the PRC of China to trade in arms with countries she feels not comfortable with (Chow, 2007) A major example of this is the trade between Sudan and China which the US has strongly opposed citing the humanitarian crisis and the genocides going on in the country. References McDonald, Benjamin. Safeguards Against Nuclear Proliferation. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1975 Weston T. Chinas Transformation, London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007 Chen, J.
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