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    Common Misconceptions About Taiwan

Taiwan Reality Check!

Misconception no. 1: TAIWAN HAS ALWAYS BEEN PART OF CHINA. Reality: Taiwan has its own history, language and culture. Taiwan was under the rule of the Manchu Dynasty for only eight years, from 1887 to 1895. In 1895, it was ceded in perpetuity to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki.

Misconception no. 2: TAIWAN IS A RENEGADE PROVINCE OF CHINA. Reality: In 1945 Taiwan was part of the Japanese Empire. After Japan's defeat, Taiwan was occupied on behalf of the Allies by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists who were fighting a losing Civil War on the mainland. Taiwan and its people had nothing to do with the war. In 1949, Chiang lost and moved his government to the island and subjected the people of the island to 40 years of Martial Law. During those 40 years, the Kuomintang authorities kept the anachronistic fiction alive that they were the legitimate government of all of China, and considered Taiwan a province of the China they didn't rule.

Misconception no. 3: THE FUTURE OF TAIWAN SHOULD BE DECIDED BY THE CHINESE ON BOTH SIDES OF THE TAIWAN STRAIT. Reality: The large majority of the people on the island (85 percent) do not consider themselves Chinese but Taiwanese. They have their own language, culture and history, and are as distinct from the Chinese as the Americans are distinct from the British. During discussions at the San Francisco Peace Treaty conference of 1952, delegates determined that the future status of Taiwan should be decided in accord with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. The Charter of the UN states that one of the purposes of the UN is "to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples..."

Misconception no. 4: U.S. TENSION WITH CHINA IS CAUSED BY TAIWAN'S ATTEMPTS TO ENHANCE ITS INTERNATIONAL STATUS; in particular by President Lee Teng-hui's June 1995 visit to Cornell University. Reality: Mr. Lee earlier visited the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. China's reaction was minimal. Only when Mr. Lee visited his alma mater Cornell -- he did not come to Washington -- did the Chinese Communist leaders in Beijing manufacture a crisis atmosphere.

Misconception no. 5: ADVOCACY OF TAIWAN INDEPENDENCE WILL PROVOKE A CHINESE ATTACK ON TAIWAN. Reality: The government of the PRC never ruled Taiwan, not even for one day. The "Taiwan is part of China"-line is a remnant of an outdated fiction kept alive during the past forty years by the Chinese Communists and the Chinese Nationalists. Reality is that Taiwan has always been a separate country.

Taiwan independence is as provocative as American independence was to the British in 1776. Still, American colonists decided to write the Declaration of Independence. Why? "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." These are precisely the ideals the Taiwanese aspire to.

Conclusion: During its 400 year history, Taiwan was never a part of China. It is a free, democratic and de facto independent country, and should be fully recognized by the international community as such.

 


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