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Common Misconceptions Of Taiwan
This section is designed to clear up common misconceptions which are often found in the news media, and reports written by confused people who either misread or never read their history text books.
The following are a few of the most common misconceptions about Taiwan,
Misconception no. 1:
has always been part of China.
Taiwan has its own history, language and culture. See our overview of
Taiwan's 400 years of history. It was under the rule of the Manchu Dynasty
(who are not considered "Chinese" by the Han) for only eight
years, from 1887 to 1895, when it was ceded in
perpetuity to Japan under the Treaty
Misconception no. 2:
is a renegade province, which split off from China in 1949.
In 1945 Taiwan
was part of the Japanese Empire. After Japan's defeat, Taiwan was occupied
"on behalf of the allied forces" by the Chinese Nationalists of
Chiang Kai-shek, who was fighting a losing Civil War on the Chinese
mainland. Taiwan and the
Taiwanese people did not have anything to do with that Civil War.
In 1949 Chiang lost the war, moved his remaining troops and government to
the island, and subjected the people of the island to 40 years of martial
During those 40
years, the Kuomintang authorities kept alive the anachronistic fiction
that they were the "legitimate government of all of China", and
regarded Taiwan a province of the China they didn't rule. In response, the
Communist authorities claimed sovereignty over a Taiwan they didn't rule.
Martial Law ended
only in 1987, and for the first time in history the people of the island
were able to give open expression to their desire for a free, democratic,
and independent Taiwan.
Misconception no. 3:
future of Taiwan should be decided by the Chinese on both sides of the
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.
provisions of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952, the United Nations
decided that "...the future status of Taiwan will be decided in
accord with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United
The Charter of
the UN contains article 1.2 which states that it is a purpose of the UN
"To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the
principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples..." The
San Francisco Peace Treaty thus decided that the people of Taiwan should
determine the future status of the island based on the principle of
Misconception no. 4:
present tension with China is caused by Taiwan's attempts to enhance its
international status, and in particular by President Lee Teng-hui's June
1995 visit to Cornell.
Mr. Lee earlier
visited the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand and conferred
with the heads of state in those countries. China's reaction was minimal.
Only when Mr. Lee
visited his alma mater Cornell in June 1995 -- he didn't even come to
Washington -- did the Chinese Communist leaders in Beijing manufacture
a crisis atmosphere. The real reasons are threefold:
Misconception no. 5:
of "Taiwan independence" heightens tensions and will provoke a
Chinese attack on the island.
The government of
the PRC has never ruled Taiwan, not even for one day. Under the provisions
of the UN San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952 (see above) the people on the
island have the right to determine their own future. This is the principle
of self-determination, as enshrined in the Charter of the
is part of China"-line is a remnant of an outdated fiction kept alive
during the past forty years by two repressive regimes, the Chinese
Communists and the Chinese Nationalists. The Taiwanese people themselves
had no say in it, and never made any "pledge to reunify with
China". The reality is that Taiwan has been a separate entity all
along, and that the Taiwanese people have -- inspired by the universal
principles of democracy and human rights, and through their own hard work
-- have now achieved democracy. Under this new-found democracy they now
aspire to be recognized as a free and independent nation.
independence is as "provocative" as American independence was to
the British in 1776. We must remember that 200 years ago Great Britain was
a world power -- "Britannia ruled the waves." Still, a small
band of American colonists decided to write the American Declaration of
Independence. Why ? "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness." These are precisely the same ideals which inspire the
Taiwanese to work for independence for their island.
elections in Taiwan prompt us to add the following to our list of Five
Misconceptions. This sixth one popped up, among others, in articles and
editorials in TIME (1 April 1996) and the Far Eastern Economic Review (4
Misconception no. 6:
Lee Teng-hui's election in Taiwan was the first time in China's nearly
5000 years' history that Chinese democratically elected their leader.
The transition of
the island from a repressive Kuomintang police state to an open democratic
system is the achievement of the Taiwanese democratic movement of the
island, which cherishes first and foremost its Taiwanese identity, and
strives to strengthen its own distinct culture, language, social and
democratization process didn't have anything to do with China or with the
Chinese people, and actually took place in reaction against the lack of
democracy and human rights displayed by the Chinese -- both Nationalists
As we stated
earlier: the anachronistic "Taiwan is part of China"-line is a
remnant of an outdated fiction kept alive during the past forty years by
two repressive regimes, the Chinese Communists and the Chinese
Nationalists. The Taiwanese people themselves had no say in it, and never
made any pledge to "reunify with China".
its 400 year history, Taiwan was never an integral part of China. It is a
free, democratic, and de facto independent country, which deserves to be
fully recognized by the international community.
is in China's own interest to accept Taiwan as a friendly neighbor, to end
hostilities towards the island, and to move towards peaceful coexistence.
Copyright © 2003 Taiwan Communiqué
Copyright © 2003 Voice Of Taiwan. All rights reserved.