OPED by Lt Gen PR Shankar (Retired)
China recently released a new ‘Standard Map’ showing Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Besides the PRC’s illegal claim on Taiwan, the new map has violated the sovereignty of India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Japan, and Russia. In addition, China is incrementally expanding its ‘One China’ principle to all the areas it has now claimed in the new map.
The ‘Nine Dash Line’ has been extended into a ‘Ten Dash Line’ with a new dash. If left unchecked, China will claim and want to occupy the entire land masses far beyond its territory, and ‘One China’ will keep expanding till Tianxia is achieved. This needs to be stopped.
In this entire narrative, Taiwan is central, critical, and essential. From a geopolitical perspective, if China could take over Taiwan through political maneuvering or force, it would have conclusively breached the first Island chain.
Taiwan gives China a base from which the outsized People’s Liberation Army – Navy can foray unhindered into blue waters. Further, once Taiwan is captured, the Chinese mainland becomes unassailable as China acquires greater strategic depth. This will enable Communist-ruled China to erode the sovereignty and integrity of all nations in the Western Pacific and beyond. The geostrategic ramifications are enormous.
More importantly, it is significant from the aspirational perspective of 23.6 million Taiwanese. They have been denied their fundamental human rights of being part of a nation and having an identity. They are not allowed to exercise their free will and choose what they want to be.
They do not have any representation in the comity of nations. In this context, it is pertinent to examine Taiwan holistically to see if it merits a case to be accorded an identity of its own without the shadow of the PRC hanging over it.
Taiwan Has Always Been An Independent Entity
The independence of Taiwan is borne out by its history. In the 17th Century, Taiwan was a Dutch colony. It gained its independence briefly before being taken over by Imperial China.
After the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, it became a Japanese colony. After Japan’s defeat in World War 2, Taiwan went under the Nationalist Government of China, officially titled the Republic of China (ROC).
It became a founding member of the United Nations as ROC. It remained a member of the United Nations (UN) till 1971. In 1972, Nixon cozied up to Mao and enabled the PRC to re-enter the international system from isolation.
The PRC was then recognized as the official representative government of mainland China as per UN Resolution 2758, which stated, “Decides to restore all its rights to the People’s Republic of China and to recognize the representatives of its Government as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it.”
However, the UN Resolution left many questions in limbo. It did not clarify the status of Taiwan. It also did not mention that Taiwan was part of China. Significantly, it was silent on the ‘One China’ principle and never accepted it. However, the PRC twisted its interpretation of the resolution to press for ‘One China’ to be universally followed. It is time to set this anomaly right by formally admitting Taiwan to the UN.
Politically, the reason to treat Taiwan as an independent nation is straightforward. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power in China in 1949. However, till 1952, Taiwan remained part of Imperial Japan.
Japan ceded sovereignty over Taiwan as per the Treaty of San Francisco, which took effect on April 28, 1952. On the same day, the Treaty of Taipei was signed between Japan and the ROC.
In this treaty, Japan ceded sovereignty over China (including Taiwan) to the ROC, not the PRC or CCP. The ROC government continued to rule Taiwan after the treaty. Its political descendants are governing Taiwan at present.
China’s Communist Party Or Government Never Set Foot In Taiwan
Further, the CCP, or its government in the PRC, has never set foot in Taiwan to rule it in any manner, even for a single day over the past seven decades. The Chinese claim that Taiwan is a historical part of the PRC is false.
The evidence that Taiwan is part of China is as illegal as its occupation of Tibet or Xinjiang. This claim is also as perfidious as China’s other territorial and maritime claims depicted in the new map. In the larger perspective, all Chinese claims are part of the CCP’s expansionist designs, which are blatantly illegal.
An examination of Taiwan’s political and social system indicates it is a fully functional democracy with a constitution and democratically elected leaders. In the past seven decades, its political system has matured. It has a pluralistic approach in which many legitimate political parties coexist.
It has a free and fair electoral process that enables the people to choose between candidates from those parties. Through time, successive Taiwanese governments have operated openly and transparently for the good of all their people with well-laid-out rules and checks and balances.
Taiwan gives its citizens free choice and control over their lives, who are assured of civil liberties and personal freedoms. It has a free and independent media unhindered by government interference, influence, or intimidation. It is the total antithesis of the one-man-party dictatorship in Communist China.
It is consistently ranked as one of the most accessible countries in the Freedom House Freedom Index, the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, and the Heritage Index of Economic Freedom.
Taiwan Is Key To Global Economy & Growth
Taiwan’s economic growth as part of the international system has been remarkable. It is one of Asia’s major economies and a global leader in semiconductor technology. Thirteen countries recognize Taiwan, and around fifty-nine countries, including India, have established unofficial diplomatic relations.
It has become the world’s 18th-largest economy and is fully integrated into world affairs. As an undisputed leader in the semiconductor industry, it is critical to developments associated with robotics, artificial intelligence, cyber technologies, communication, space exploration, and energy conservation.
Taiwan is strategically important to the global future. Taiwan’s technological prowess is critical to combating climate change, whose effects are visible starkly in disasters plaguing the Chinese mainland, Pakistan, and Europe this summer.
Hence, keeping Taiwan on the sidelines of global institutions is simply self-defeating. While some effort has been made to include Taiwan in global governance, the action has been less than reasonable or fair. Taiwan, an independent nation without a seat in the UN, is a considerable anomaly.
Modern-day Taiwan is an economically prosperous and vibrant democracy whose people do not want to be part of the Communist-dominated PRC. Polls indicate that 87% of people in Taiwan do not want to be under China, and 73% of people in Taiwan are willing to take up arms to defend against a Chinese invasion.
Don’t Let CCP Massacre Taiwanese People Like Uyghurs & Tibetans
The UN report on the treatment of Uyghurs mentions crimes against humanity and serious human rights violations committed by China in the garb of counterterrorism. Reports indicate that millions in Xinjiang and Tibet have been detained in ‘re-education’ centers.
Conflate it with the indication given in 2022 by China’s ambassador to France of ‘re-educating’ Taiwanese when the island is reunified with mainland China. The fate of 23.6 million Taiwanese will end up like the 25 million people of Xinjiang. Will the UN stand by and allow it to happen? On humanitarian grounds, Taiwan must be admitted into the UN as a member state and prevent it from being usurped by China.
It is also becoming apparent that if the PRC cannot annex Taiwan militarily, it will destroy the nation with the might of its missiles to reduce it to rubble. That will be a human catastrophe. The danger of this scenario becoming a reality becomes higher as China continues to decline.
The day when China realizes that it cannot annex Taiwan either militarily or politically, it could adopt a resort to a scorched earth policy towards Taiwan. That day must be forestalled and precluded.
Democratic Nations Must Champion Taiwan’s Cause
Important nations like the US, Japan, the UK, France, Germany, South Korea, Australia, India, and other regional countries and organizations like the European Union must champion Taiwan’s cause to take it to the logical conclusion of granting it full membership in the UN.
China’s objections must be taken head-on and put in its place before it is too late. India understands Taiwan’s plight best since it is also a victim of Chinese machinations. It is time that India and Taiwan enhance cooperation on all fronts to stymie Chinese designs and ensure that the peaceful people of Taiwan get the status, dignity, and justice they deserve as a progressive nation.
The PRC cannot annex Taiwan from geopolitical, geo-economic, or human aspiration perspectives. The 23.6 million human beings cannot be denied their freedom rights in today’s world. The free world must rise to the occasion before it is too late. The UN cannot be a mute spectator to the constant annexation of territory forcefully by the PRC using a “My way or the Highway” principle.