China-Taiwan Conflict: Is Taiwan part of China?

4 Aug 2022  Read 611 Views

2021-22 witnessed a pandemic, falling currencies, and so many war conflicts, some of which ended while some continued. One such prominent and continuing conflict is the China- Taiwan conflict. Taiwan is an island roughly 100 miles from the coast of southeast China that is officially known as the Republic of China (ROC), it is separated from China by the Taiwan Strait. It is located in a place that includes a list of US-friendly territories crucial to US foreign policy. It has been governed independently of mainland China (the People’s Republic of China, PRC) since 1949. The PRC considers the island a renegade province and wants it to get unified with the mainland. In Taiwan, which has its own democratically elected government and is home to twenty-three million people, political leaders have differing views on the island’s status and its relations with mainland China. 

In this article, we will discuss whether Taiwan is a part of China, the reasons for the growing tensions between them, Taiwan’s role in the world economy, and the current scenario. 

Is Taiwan part of China?

PRC (People’s Republic of China) rules ‘Mainland China’ and ROC (Republic of China) rules- 'Taiwan'. Beijing (China’s capital) claims that there is only “one China” and that Taiwan is part of it. Beijing considers PRC the only legitimate Chinese government, calling for the One-China principle by merging Taiwan with mainland China. Beijing, claims that Taiwan is bound by an understanding called the 1992 Consensus, which was reached between representatives of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Kuomintang (KMT) (a party that ruled Taiwan back then). 

Note: Don’t get confused between PRC and CCP. PRC is run by a single party, the CCP itself, which is ultimately the prime leader of China. 

  • However, the two parties (CCP & KMT) disagree on the content of this so-called 1992 consensus, as they never thought of addressing the question of Taiwan’s legal status. 

  • On one hand, for the PRC, as Chinese President Xi Jinping had stated, the 1992 Consensus states an agreement that “the two sides of the strait belong to one China and would work together to seek national reunification.” 

  • In contrast, on the other hand, for the KMT, it means “one China, different interpretations.” Then, the ROC (Republic of China) also once stated, “One China” long ago. ROC was replaced by PRC in China when ROC relocated to Taiwan and formed a government there. So, did you see ‘one China’ is, however, common in all these cases? 

Hence, to answer whether Taiwan is a part of China, we can just say that the PRC claims Taiwan to be part of it as it believes itself to be the successor state to the ROC. On the other hand, the still-present ROC (in Taiwan) views the PRC as an illegal state presently occupying the mainland of China and trying to occupy Taiwan next.

What is the history between China and Taiwan?

The first known settlers in Taiwan were Austronesian tribal people, considered to have come from modern-day southern China. The first known fact on which Beijing supports its territorial claim over Taiwan is that Taiwan seems to have first appeared in Chinese records in AD239 when an emperor sent an expeditionary force to explore the area.

  • A rule in Taiwan- From partly being under the colonial rule of the Dutch Republic (1624-1661), Taiwan was administered by China's Qing dynasty from 1683 to 1895.

  • Migration from China to Taiwan- Many migrants started arriving in Taiwan from China to overcome turmoil or hardship. Most were Hoklo Chinese or Hakka Chinese from Fujian (Fukien) province, largely from Guangdong. The descendants of these Hakka Chinese are now the largest demographic group on the island (Taiwan).

  • Acquisition by Japan (Sino- Japanese War)- In 1895, Japan won the first Sino-Japanese War, and the Qing dynasty had to give Taiwan to Japan. After World War 2, Japan surrendered and relinquished this territory, it had taken from China. After this, the Republic of China (ROC, successor of Qing dynasty), one of the victors in the war, started ruling Taiwan with the consent of its allies, the US and the UK.

  • KMT Government dominance in Taiwan- A few years later, a civil war broke out in China, and Mao Zedong's Communist army defeated the then-leader Chiang Kai-shek's troops. Chiang Kai-shek’s troops were the remnants of Chiang’s Kuomintang (KMT) government, after the defeat, this KMT’s millions of supporters fled to Taiwan in 1949 and ruled Taiwan after that. 

  • Dominance of Taiwan politics- This group of supporters, referred to as Mainland Chinese, dominated Taiwan's politics for many years though they only account for 14% of the population. Chiang, as stated above, established a government in exile in Taiwan, which he led for the following 50 years.

  • First non- KMT President- Chiang's son, Chiang Ching-Kuo, allowed more democratization after coming to power. He faced resistance from local people who were upset with authoritarian rule. President Lee Teng-hui, known as Taiwan's "father of democracy," led constitutional changes, eventually making way for the election of the island's first non-KMT President, Chen Shui-bian, in 2000.

Currently, the Republic of China government (established in 1912) relocated to Taiwan, and the group led by Mao Zedong created the People's Republic of China. The PRC has control over mainland China, while the ROC has control over Taiwan island, the Penghu archipelago, and minor islands Kinmen and Matsu. Ultimately, at the same time, each government claims sovereignty over the whole of "China."

Why did China launch live-fire military exercises around Taiwan?

China has lately blocked the imports of citrus, fish, and other foods from Taiwan, retaliating against the visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. After weeks of uncertainty, Nancy Pelosi flew into Taiwan, becoming the highest-ranking American official in 25 years to visit Taiwan amidst China's warnings against the visit. But why?

China- Taiwan tensions

Taiwan produces half the world’s processor chips that mainland China cannot match. Semiconductor ICs are manufactured by Taiwan’s semiconductor companies and hold over 56% Global Market Share of the Semiconductor Industry. Top Semiconductor Companies in the World, including – AMD, Apple, ARM, Broadcom, Marvell, MediaTek, and Nvidia, depend on Taiwan for these chips.

  • China and Taiwan, as we know, saw a split in 1949 after a civil war when the KMT government’s supporters (Mainland Chinese) relocated to Taiwan and ruled there. 

  • Since then, the two have had no official relations but had multibillion-dollar business ties because of the flow of these Taiwanese-made processor chips that are needed by Chinese factories which assemble the world's smartphones and other electronics. 

  • In short, Taiwan has relied on its dominance of the microchip industry for its defense, which is crucial for Chinese factories for trading and the US as well.

Why is Taiwan important to the world economy?

Taiwan had successfully built this business even after Beijing threatened for decades to enforce the ruling Communist Party's authority on the island by attacking. And last year 2021 two-way trade rose by 26% to $328.3 billion. Taiwan even stated that sales of these chips to Chinese factories rose from 24.4% to $104.3 billion.

Hence, as per a report by Carl B. Weinberg of High-Frequency Economics, the global economy cannot function without these chips made either in Taiwan or China.

  • Recently, the issue arose when Beijing blocked imports of citrus and frozen hairtail and mackerel from Taiwan after Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, arrived on the island. 

  • However, China has not discontinued the flow of chips and other industrial components, if in case,  it takes this step, it would send shock waves through the unstable global economy.

  • Apart from this, China also blocked importing hundreds of other food items from Taiwan, including cookies and seafood. The customs website showed their import status was switched to “suspended.” 

  • Even fruits, fish, and other foods are a small part of Taiwan's exports to China, but the ban hurts areas seen as supporters of President Tsai Ing-wen (The first female President of Taiwan).

  • Cleverly, Beijing has used import bans on bananas, wine, coal, and other goods as leverage in disputes with Australia, the Philippines, and other governments.

Now, China has launched its largest military exercises over Taiwan and begun live fire drills. Taiwan’s military has said it is “preparing for war without seeking war” after China’s military began an unprecedented four days of live-fire exercises close to Taiwan’s shores in retaliation to Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island. Notices of the exercises identified six locations around Taiwan, with warnings for all ships and aircraft to avoid the areas. Some zones overlap with Taiwan’s territorial waters and are near key shipping ports. Taiwan’s defense ministry has accused China of mounting a blockade.

Conclusion

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory, and the visit by Pelosi, the highest-ranking elected U.S. official to visit the island since House Speaker Newt Gingrich 25 years ago, is considered by China as a breach of its sovereignty, and China has imposed sanctions on Nancy Pelosi and her family. It also sees it as a breach of Washington's commitment to a "one-China policy," recognizing Beijing as China's sole legitimate government. Taiwan seemed to be juggling between China and US.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 55 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content writer at Finology Legal, pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course) from ITM University, Raipur with core interests in criminal law and IPR and had also been a judicial aspirant. she pursued advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune; and had also undergone training as a patent analyst under IIPTA.

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