Professor Lynette Ong March 28th, 2013
China-Taiwan Cross-Strait Relations: A General Overview
The topic of Taiwan’s independence has been a decidedly sensitive subject for both those who are from either implicated party and outside nations alike, since the defeat of Kuomingtang (KMT) by the Communist Party in 1949. After so many decades of debate and political conflict, there has yet to be a concrete solution – the Taiwanese increasingly identify themselves as citizens of an independent nation, while the majority of the world has yet to recognize them officially as a nation separate from the PRC. Both parties involved – the PRC and Taiwan – have taken incredibly stubborn stances on this issue for the past several years, and it does not look like there will be an easy solution in the near future. China-Taiwan cross-strait relations are quite complicated, but for the sake of simplicity, it can be broken down into the period following the Japanese control over Taiwan, the defeat of the KMT, the period between the rise of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and contemporary times, and finally, the rest of the world’s – namely the US’ – involvement in the entire matter. Prior to 1949, China’s governing group was the KMT – a nationalist party, as they call themselves. For 50 years, the Japanese controlled Taiwan – though arguably, they did more good than bad, as Taiwan developed much quicker than mainland China through their help – but was forced to relinquish its hold in 1945, when the Axis Powers were defeated. In October of 1945, the US – on behalf of the Allied Forces – handed temporary control over Taiwan to the KMT. However, though the Taiwanese were initially grateful for their return to Chinese control, this quickly changed as they “became resentful of what they perceived as a high handed and frequently corrupt KMT authorities inclined to the arbitrary seizure of private property and economic mismanagement.”1 This resentment eventually blew up into a rebellion that lasted for days in 1947, which ultimately lead to the infamous 228 Incident on February 28th, 1947. The KMT violently suppressed said rebellion, and an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 people died. Following this, the period of White Terror ensued until July 15, 1987, where thousands of Taiwanese scholars and intellectuals were imprisoned and some, even executed – the KMT feared that such people would lead rebellions against their rule. This – particularly the 228 incident – proved to be huge factors in the Taiwanese independence movement. This incident provides a strong legitimizing for the Taiwanese call for independence – it emphasizes the strife that Taiwan went through under the KMT rule. And of course, the event in itself is a great tragedy – despite its rather euphemistic name, it can essentially be labelled as a massacre. However, there may be justification for the other side of the argument, as outrageous as it may seem. For any – or at least, most – leaders, the choice to suppress a rebellion would be an incredibly difficult decision to make. However, at that point in time, the government in Taiwan was weak and disorganized, as all that was left was the remains of the Japanese colonization of Taiwan. As an argument for the KMT, creating a strong and stable government for Taiwan was a pressing matter, and suppressing the rebellions was essential to this ultimate goal for the good of the country. Of course, this doesn’t justify the means, nor the many deaths of innocent Taiwanese, but at least it may shed some light on exactly why the KMT might even go such lengths to prevent the rebellions.
Back in 1949, the KMT was defeated by the Communist Party of China during the Chinese Civil War and were thus essentially chased out of Beijing and into the province of Taiwan, where they stayed up until now, initially hoping to one day claim Beijing back, and to rule a unified China and Taiwan. Even today, they continue to – to a