On the issue of Taiwan independence

Wei Jingsheng 12/12/2002

The English version is translated based on Mr. Wei's Chinese writing.


A few months back, I was in Taiwan while there were mayoral elections in two major cities: Taipei and Kaoshong. The media interviewed me on what I saw and my thoughts. That naturally included the issue of Taiwan independence. Beijing’s noisy reactions were expected. What surprised me was the voice of dissidents and fellow democrats, shouting ”Oppose to Taiwan independence!” I need to clarify the issue so that no one would fall into the “United Front” strategy of the Communist regime.


There is drastic distinction between a nation and a government. The communist wants you to accept that  “’one China’ is the People’s Republic of China”. Several months ago, Qian Qichen, the former foreign minister said, “Under the premises of ‘one China’, any issue can be discussed”. He dropped the insistence that China is the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The term “China” in Chinese language represents in fact three notions.


  1. The notion of “China” is slightly smaller than the “Han Cultural Sphere”. Every Chinese speaking person or Chinese descent by bloodline can fuzzily be included in this notion. Chinese Diasporas, including those who are foreign citizens, and even the second or third generation who does not speak Chinese are also referred to as Chinese or Huayen. But people from Tibet, Xinjiang and Mongolia do not call themselves “Chinese”. Others do not call them in this way neither. Not one found it strange.


Let me tell a small anecdote. I know quite a number of extreme Taiwan secessionists; they are statesmen and common people alike. They publicly or privately deny they are “Chinese”. However, when we are chatting, they often leak some sentences such as “we as Chinese, we are ….”. It is obvious that they don’t deny that they are Chinese.


Just as what elders of the Democratic Progressive Party explained: in the past, they want independence of Taiwan for getting rid of one party dictatorship of the Nationalist Party (KMT); now they want Taiwan’s independence in order to avoid Communist Party’s disastrous one party dictatorship. One goes after profit and avoids disaster; this is natural instincts of commoners. Autocratic tyranny causes people to leave native land, to escape to overseas for “political asylum”, there are hundreds of thousands people every year. This is the same intention as secessionists in Taiwan. It makes me to remember a famous saying of the Confucius: “the tyranny is as violent as the tiger”. Exactly as the KMT in the past and the Communist Party at the present, tyranny brought up the Taiwan secessionist thinking. Ordinary people concentrate on making profit and avoid the disaster, what is wrong about it?


  1. The second notion is the “state”. It is based on international law, referring to a political entity. It sometimes confused with the 3rd notion – the “regime”. For example, regime can be replaced while the national definition may not change. It is based on the consent of international community and the domestic consent of the people. Thus, the regime and its name can change, but the national identify doesn’t. The Qing Dynasty annexed the Han, the Mongols and Tibetans, forming a nation. When the Qing Dynasty was replaced, it people and territory did not change.


In some cases, a nation broke into several nations. Example: Soviet Union and Yugoslavia separated into many political entities. This has nothing treasonable and intolerable, this is a choice made by the people and statesmen according to the reality. The moralist cannot change this choice. The native people and the international community accepted the separation. In some instances, the international community recognizes the possibilities of re-unification, e.g. Korea, China, while Germany and Vietnam have already unified. The international community accepted that reality. Chinese history showed many cases of that China separated into several nations and then unified; sometimes the split could be as long as two or three hundred years, so why the moralist and scholars of unification pretend of not knowing it?


The current situation is that internally and externally, no one recognizes the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) doctrine of “party equal nation”, but acknowledges the reality that China is indeed split into two. The “head in the sand” attitude certainly cannot change this reality.


Now let us discuss two different concepts of independence-unification.


One group is the absolutist in Taiwan independence (TI). Their goal is change the Republic of China (ROC) to Republic of Taiwan or other name. This concept has two self contradictory points. They have a small following.


We discussed earlier that the driving force of this sort of ideology originated from the hope of getting rid of or to avoid suffering from one party dictatorship. Its core theory is: since China is no longer one country, they thus have no right to control our affairs! Therefore recently, many extreme secessionists have publicly supported the Chinese Communist Party’s one party dictatorship; congratulate the Communist Party of China’s one party dictatorship - as long as so long you do not manage matters of our Republic of Taiwan. This kind of ignorance and selfishness can only make one person to burst out laughing. To say it is a more classical style, it is “unworthy to discuss”.


The second Taiwan secessionists’ absurdity is: a prerequisite for self determination is that you are currently not an independent entity; the problem is that where Taiwan is going to secede from? 


It is generally acknowledge – by the international community and the Chinese people, that the regime of PRC is the legal representative of China. It is also generally acknowledge that the ROC is a legal, independent political entity, outside of PRC. ROC has necessary and sufficient conditions in terms of politic, diplomatic, economic, military and judiciary structures as a sovereign state. The 23 million people will not agree to give up all these solely to change the name while facing enormous and overwhelming odds in the process. Therefore, I think Taiwan independence does not have a future. It only falls into the trap of CCP’s fanatical and irrational nationalism.


Therefore, some people pointed out that it is in fact a duo between the secessionists in Taiwan and the CCP. Whenever the CCP wants to use the extreme nationalism to resists the unprecedented democracy movement, it always pointed the democracy wing as “the secessionists of Taiwan”. Moreover, whenever I go to Taiwan to warn the country fellowmen that they should replace the Taiwan’s self-determination by democracy, they jump out and make a huge deal about it. As they fear that Taiwan and mainland democratic streams could be united. To divide Taiwanese and mainland based democratic wings is precisely the plot behind the CCP’s reunification slogan. If it prevails, it can be advantageous only to the CCP’s one party dictatorship and certainly no opportunity for secessionists of Taiwan.


There is another ‘fraction’ of the T.I. movement, based in China mainland. They want to unify China, returning Taiwan to the “motherland”. The rationale is that Taiwan now certainly is not China’s territory or it is a foreign occupied territory. This rationale is tantamount to recognizing Taiwan as an independent political entity.


So why then the CCP maintains this self-contradictory lie? The CCP needs an enemy to frighten its own citizens and to solve the contradictions between the Party and the Mass. The CCP must generate hysteria to shore up its legitimacy. Since the founding of the PRC, it has always used the hysteria to justify the repressive rule by setting up a straw man to scare its citizens. Mao Zedong had already explained it quite clearly as far back as in the Fifty’s.


Having clarified the confusing concepts, we can now discuss - based on reality, the prospect of unification and independence.


This reality is: The Republic of China inherited territory from the Qing dynasty; beside of the 1.6 million sq. km of northern territories that the CCP has sold; China already has been divided into three different regimes.


<1>The People’s Republic of China, holds 10.45 million sq. km. out of 13 million sq. km.; <2>the country of Mongolia, has 3 million out the remaining territories; <3>The Republic of China maintains the main isle of the regained archipelago of Ryukyu from Japan - Taiwan, this is 30,000 sq. km. altogether. The Mongolia is an independent country already, and got successively the diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China. So leave out this matter. What left to consider is the PRC and the ROC. 


The two governments have their own separate territories and different structures. Both constitutions unrealistically claim to be the sole legitimate government of China. The ROC gradually recognizes reality – that the PRC is the de facto government in China mainland The ROC has taken steps to ensure peace. It gradually de-emphasizes its claim of China mainland. It tries to negotiate direct links between the two sides. The PRC however, has reserved the right to use of military force to “unify China” although such use of force is not recognized internationally.


There are conditions for Unification. The peoples of both sides must accept that the “one China” concept. The international community must also accept the reality – the existence of two separate political entities. The PRC has huge resources, population and market Most countries accepts the legitimacy of the PRC. Taiwan has smaller size, resources and population. However, there are some countries that find ways to legislate relations with Taiwan.


There are three possibilities on China’s unification/separation.


The first is separation. The CCP persistently refused to acknowledge reality, refuses the three direct links with the ROC. It has pressured the international community to block and isolate ROC diplomatically and economically. Under these multi-facet pressure, independence gain currency as a way to neutralize the isolation and a mean of survival. It also offers some in the international community a realistic way to maintain relations with both sides, in some cases, more favorable to the ROC. . It is obvious that the CCP refusal to face reality is helping the Taiwan independence argument, no wonder the extremists whish the CCP “long-term stability and governance!”


The need will force ROC to give up gradually claim of China status in the constitution. The greatest reality is people in Taiwan who now enjoy democracy will never accept the tyranny of CCP’s one party dictatorship Even “One Country, Two Systems”, the Hong Kong model will not be accepted. The people of Hong Kong had neither voice nor choice in that matter. The Westerners sold them out to the Communist. Now with the dispute of the Article 23, their remaining rights and liberty will continue to erode.  So from this perspective, the possibility for Taiwanese people to accept “One Country, Two Systems” may equal zero.


But when Taiwan gives up the name of Republic of China while creating a new state with new legislation, the CCP cultivated extreme, fanatic nationalism will erupt.  It will leave the CCP with no choice except to use force to preserve its own existence, otherwise an uprising that combines the Boxers and the May Fourth Movement will erupt. Only then the CCP will understand what is called “to plays with fire will leads to the self-immolation”.


In this situation, the morality, justice, reason and self-interests the international community preach give way to military intervention. Postwar Taiwan’s independence will be a logical outcome. The people of Taiwan and mainland, together the rest of the world, will also pay extremely heavy price for this. For world peace and the future of the Chinese people, both sides must avoid this impasse.  


The second possibility is still separation. Some strategists believe it based on the assumption that western nations prefer dealing with splintered, smaller baby-Chinas for their trade and security benefits.  


This explains why western diplomacy always supported the most corrupted and incompetent government of China of all time, even at the last collapsing moment. Similar to the former Soviet Union, strategists manipulate Taiwan independence; keep it neither independent nor unified. They anticipate and prepares for China to collapse, then support Taiwan independence.


Hence Taiwan along with western governments encourages investing heavily in Mainland China, giving the insolvent Chinese economy a desperately needed transfusion, while encouraging corruption and official abuses on the way. This contradictory policy hastens the collapse, which nothing can possibly prevent. This would lead to the gradual eliminating of the “China” concept through new legislation and new national structure. Due to the stubbornness of the CCP, this enterprise is working under an extreme rational tendency. Few people object it.


This narrow-minded strategy only knows oneself, not the other; it considers the influence of secessionists and westerners in Taiwan. It does not consider the reality of China. Its implementation would be catastrophic.


Due to the CCP’s insistence on one-party rule, its collapse is unavoidable, such view is even shared by the pro-CCP’ western academics. So the first part of prediction from small minded strategists is quite correct. This is like a tumor, only turning now into cancer, without any possible cure, counting for remaining hours. 


There are two outcomes of the collapse. One is similar to the former Soviet Union, which had a strong replacement force to ensure national continuity. The China reality is that the CCP has learnt from the Soviet Union collapse. It is not possible to form a Gorbachiev or Yeltsin type of fraction within the CCP.


The other outcome is the emergence of the Democrats and the “dissident” fraction of the CCP. The stability of the country depends entirely on the power of these forces while democracy and nationalism are the two powerful legacies. If these forces can assert their power, Taiwan independence would have absolute no opportunity to succeed. This is why secessionists in Taiwan do not help the democrats from the mainland, and sometime even purposely divides it.


Without a strong democratic group during the aftermath, the CCP’s fractions will certainly raise the patriotism flag; otherwise people’s heart won’t be united. Wither it is rational or not, democracy and patriotism are two largest legacies inherited from China’s social psychology, this is a reality. Mr. Li Tenghui estimated that China could be divided into seven parts, the part nearest to Taiwan, which has ballistic missiles and nuclear weapon is still many times larger. The patriotism flag does not allow one to accept the reality of Taiwan’s independence. If Taiwan seized the opportunity, it would still be an unavoidable devastating war after its independence. The independence can still succeed; yet the cost would be enormous. This is a small strategy.


This strategy also seeks sheer luck. How about if the divided southern part will not dare to fight Taiwan due to latter’s military superiority? This would make Taiwan’s secession an accomplished fact. Do not hurry; Western strategists have acknowledged that China could not be divided for long. External supporters of division will most likely to move the stone pounds own foot. Two thousand years of history, with full of cases of division and unification proves that the feeling of unity within the Chinese society is extremely strong, not only in terms of sentiment and culture, but also in terms of common economic interests and political concept. Its degree of strength is similar to the American’s, exceeding by far the newly established European Union. The cohesion of emotion, culture, politics and economy has been too strong. Any forced separation by Westerners could ultimately lead to a world war.


Even after the collapse of the CCP, Westerners would still support a unified China, if only for world peace and their own economic benefits. To face reality, the uniformity and nationalism of 1.3 billions must be respected. Westerners are not foolish enough to support Taiwan independence for their own self-destruction.


The second possibility could be even more disastrous.


We concluded that the final ending of Taiwan independence is an impasse and a disaster. The only remaining choice is to keep one country, two polities and two systems of governance peacefully coexist until conditions are ripe for unification. The conditions are well known: democratization of China mainland, economic, cultural and other developments reach parity. Hence, the true secessionists do not obviously embrace democratization in the mainland, it is logical.


The CCP has always promoted “one country, two systems”. The reality is that it already existed for half a century. The “one country, two systems” concept promoted by the CCP is different. It is a trap. Let use the case of Hong Kong as an example. The One Country Two Systems is one of the thirty-six stratagems. It invites you to come to the house, when you are deeply in, the door will be closed. When the international community is unable to interfere according to the international laws, the door will be completely closed.


Why the CCP insists on the term “Country” and unwilling to live together peacefully? That is because the alleged “enemy” has already been set up, it is useful. In addition, there is the patriotism, although it is a burden, but it is also a source for political solution. However, the problem is that everyone use it, it might be out of control. Just like during the end of the Qing Dynasty, with the Manchu nobles and the Boxers.


By the way, the theory of “accidental discharge” must also be mentioned. The PLA is as disciplined as the nationalist troops, should anything happen, it would be a plot, it is impossible to have an accident of such size. As timid as a mouse, politicians are willing to face the reality, so they use “accidental discharge” as an excuse; it harms the country as well as the people.


Friends from the mainland would ask: since it is one country, two systems, why Taiwan is unwilling to give up the title of “state”? The international community has no precedent to define the status of Taiwan. If Taiwan gives up its status of a state, it would lose its existing sovereign right to govern and become a province of China, sacrificing the interest and rights of the 23 million in Taiwan. It would end up as another Hong Kong. Moreover, the ROC existed and was recognized by the international community far earlier than the PRC Despite the territory change, the ROC still is recognized by international law. At the most, the PRC may be a newly established country, not the progeny of the ROC. So the special legislation created by various countries with respect to relation to Taiwan is based on this view, this is a special case, not a standard international law routine.


The split-country phenomenon is not unique to China. There are several examples globally.


The first is a German model. Each side acknowledges the sovereignty of the other, keeping a reciprocal relationship. It ended in unification peacefully. This is a more human way than ancient Chinese model of annexation. Under this model, a mutual recognition would be the prelude for eventual unification. It is a humane and peaceful solution.


The second is the Korean model, in which both sides do not recognize that the other side has complete sovereignty, and do not have state-to-state relations with each other. However, Republic of Korea (South), which is recognized by most countries, does not object to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North) enjoy sovereignty and set up normal relation with other countries and as a member of the United Nations. The possibility of peaceful reunification is encouraging and merely a matter of time. The wild card is North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapon. In this model, actually acknowledging the opposite side’s partial sovereignty should not affect the future reunification.


Finally, the third is the Chinese model. Both sides claim sole sovereignty over both territories. Gradually the ROC accepts the PRC as a sovereign state, conceding its claim of PRC territory. However, the PRC has not done so. It refuses to face reality. It threatens to use military force to enforce its claim. It block and isolate the ROC internationally, threatening the ROC’s survival. This stance forces the ROC to seek alternative status in the international arena.


The first two models are grounded in reality. Thus preserving the possibility of eventual unification. The Chinese model, however, is not reality-based. The PRC’s denial of reality will force ROC to go the opposite way of eventual unification. Thus create the potential for huge disasters not only for the Chinese nation but threaten regional and global peace and stability. The only solution is for the international and overseas Chinese to put pressure on the PRC to face reality enabling the governments on both sides to establish equal relationship aim at eventual unification. This is the only way to avoid disaster and preserve peace for the Chinese nation and the world.


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