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Despite constitutional overlaps, Taiwan sovereignty not in dispute

Publication Date : 13-06-2014


The notion that Taiwan independence is something that has yet to be declared is somewhat misguided. When it comes down to it, Taiwan independence, as it is used in everyday speech and writing, is generally about changing the name of this country from the Republic of China to the Republic of Taiwan. That of course hasn't happened, nor is it likely to happen in the near future.

Prominent politicians affiliated with the Taiwan independence movement — at least those vying for office — have pointed out somewhat ironically that Taiwan is already an independent nation. As Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen pointed out, “The Republic of China is Taiwan ... Taiwan is the Republic of China.”

In this sense, everyone in Taiwan is pro-independence. Who in their right mind would want to give up the right to autonomous rule in exchange for governance by an authoritarian regime frequently accused of human rights violations?

Those who favor the name change argue that aside from solidifying Taiwan's political status in the global community as a de facto and a de jure state, it would help distinguish Taiwan from China, because having two Chinas in the world is too confusing. Strangely enough, people don't seem to be all that confused with there being two Koreas. Furthermore, one might add that there is no guarantee — and indeed it is highly unlikely — that the world's major powers would be more willing to recognise a Republic of Taiwan, instead of the Republic of China, as a sovereign state.

Tainan Mayor William Lai recently traveled to Shanghai and said at Fudan University that the DPP advocates Taiwan independence and the call for Taiwan independence is supported by a vast majority.

As indicated by countless polls, a vast majority of people on this island support the status quo, which in effect means that they support sovereignty. As far as rhetoric is concerned, both the Kuomintang and the DDP are openly supportive of the same thing.

What about the Chinese Communist Party?

In response to Lai's remarks, the Taiwan Affairs Office yesterday reiterated, “Any issue that involves Chinese sovereignty and China's territorial completeness must be decided by, including Taiwanese compatriots, the entire populace of China.”

Taiwan and mainland China are bound together by each other's constitutions, which define the territories of the R.O.C. and the PRC. On paper these overlap.

The Anti-Secession Law promulgated by the mainland Chinese authorities in 2005 can be regarded as an attempt to justify military action against Taiwan should the island be “separated” from the mainland.

In terms of jurisdiction, Taiwan and mainland China are separate. This is consistently confirmed by not only those who care to observe and exist in reality, but also by the R.O.C. and PRC governments, which deny each other's “legitimacy” but not their jurisdictions. If this were not the case, the heads of the Mainland Affairs Council and the Taiwan Affairs Office would not have been able to meet in an official context and refer to each other by their formal titles.

Beijing is arguably just as interested in maintaining the status quo, because with an estimated population of over 1.35 billion, comprising various distinct ethnicities, living on a land mass spanning 9.5 million square kilometres, having the R.O.C. rename itself may cause a domino effect, undermining the Chinese Communist Party's centralised control over the mainland. On the other hand, it also realises that any measure to coerce Taiwan into reunification will lead to serious repercussions, the cost of which may outweigh the perceived benefits. It has also come to the realization — at least in appearance — that a display of hostility is not conducive to endearing itself to the people on this island.

Throughout the history of Chinese civilisation, there have been several eras in which multiple states existed concurrently on the Chinese mainland. The preferred method of ensuring unity has generally been a highly centralised authoritarian rule, following the Warring States period. Like any other political entity, the Chinese Communist Party is apprehensive about losing consolidated control, but what good is unity if there isn't harmony.


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