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Relations between Taiwan and China

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Ravenink, Dec 7, 2002.

  1. Ravenink

    Ravenink Veteran Member


    I wrote this document the other day for a class and thought that it might be interesting to get some thoughts on it. Also I am of the opinion that it would serve as a fairly decent primer for those who are not familiar with the situation betweent he PRC and the ROC and wanted a short briefing. Just to warn ya, it is about 15 pages or so.
  2. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Thanks Rave. :)

    Will read over it with a cup of coffee.
  3. bruzzes

    bruzzes Truthslayer

    Very nice article ravenink!

    I have always been of the opinion that the "Official" names of the countries should be reversed to reflect the true projection and description of its government.

    the PRC would be wise in going slowly in it's re-unification efforts with it's run-away province. By slowly opening up contact and business opportunities and increasing the homogeneous re-assimilation, the RPC has much to gain. While offering a conduit of trade and industrialization that the RPC definitely needs to become a power broker in World status, the ideology of the ROC's freedoms become a danger to the established form of government that currently exists on the mainland.

    This is the tight-rope walk that China faces in resolving this issue.

    I often wonder at what point who assimilates who.

    Very interesting paper! Good work!

    I hope the research you have done stimulates your interest in this area. Their is so little we really know about the largest country in the world. Thank you for sharing.
  4. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member


    Nice paper indeed...some points I would like to make, which I hope you will see as not an attempt to undermine your scholarly effort. I offer these only as someone who travels to both Taiwan and China (and Hong Kong) with some regularity.

    Taiwan, unlike Hong Kong, is an incredibly political morass. There are two kinds of people in the Taiwanese socio-political landscape; Taiwanese, who wish very much for independence, and waisharen, comprised mainly of Kuomintang-backed PRC sympathizers and mainland Chinese immigrants who stump for reunification. At the very best, waisharen subscribe to the "status quo" relationship, which the US helps ensure; at the very worst, they are for reunification with the mainland at all costs. This of course puts them at odds with the native-born Taiwanese, and makes for some interesting political spectacle.

    Chen Sui-bian is hardly living up to the Five Nos. He has indeed been in many ways even more inflammatory than Lee Teng-hui, as he represents the "new guard" of the already-imperiled DPP. I was in Taipei when he made his rather infamous "two countries on either side of the strait" speech. The response in Taipei was almost electric; the newspapers were immediately flooded with headlines of impending independence, as well as those stating the end of Taiwan was only minutes away. Chen Sui-bian is hardly a stabilizing force, as he has to play both sides against the middle in a rather difficult ploy to ensure the DPP retains power against the more traditional Kuomintang, their only real political adversary. Both parties can and have resorted to a mix of high-minded political posturing and gangster-like thuggery. All of which makes Taiwanese politics more fun to watch at times than the Super Bowl. Also, the DPP has faced a pretty substantial setback in the latest elections; the Nationals are again rolling into power on the periphery, using Taipei as the bulwark. Taipei mayor Ma Yeong-jeou, a charismatic and outspoken opponent of the DPP in general and Chen sui-bian in particular, is widely seen as the main contender to wrest control from the DPP in the coming presidential elections.

    With regards to the Sovermmney cruisers, these are one of the noisiest boats on the Seven Seas. They do not have realistic over-the-horizon power projection capabilities, which would be required in order to engage a US carrier battle group. They also have a general incapability to adequately defend themselves against US attack subs, which do patrol the region on a routine basis and use both the Sovs and China's one missile boat as practice tracks. I have no real knowledge of US Navy deployments, though one USN contact in San Diego did tell me there is at least one attack boat in the strait at all times, operating out of Japan. Depending on the political climate, this number is doubtless plussed-up, as the Navy's key strategy in engaging Chinese maritime assets is through a forward-deployed submarine presence. The Chinese point to their growing fleet of Sovs with massive pride and continually use them as a stick, but the fact of the matter remains: they are 1980s technology faced with engaging an opponent whose latest upgrades include 21st Century technology. The Sovs cannot defend themselves against Mk48 torpedoes, which have exceptional attack characteristics in both littoral and blue water conditions.

    Taiwan does have substantial international ties, mostly with third world countries. Taiwan also provides economic and humanitarian aid to these nations, something China has yet to do. There is very little doubt these aid packages are generated more out of political considerations than an interest in making the world a better place. Regardless, this is one of the linchpins of participation in the international community. China does all it can to block this participation, but the reality is, China is mostly powerless in this regard.

    There is in fact a severe fear in the East Asia region that China is becoming a hegemonistic power, something the PRC routinely accuses the US of being. (However, it is not lost on most nations in the PacRim that when natural resources are involved, China suddenly becomes very interestedone example would be its sudden pique with the Spratly Islands.) While it is kept very, very quiet, Japan has identified China as a potential aggressor and has been quietly modernizing its marginal military in an attempt to further secure its national rights. These efforts are encouraged by the US, which has basing rights in Japan. Japanese naval units now patrol the entire East Asia region, oftentimes "shadowing" US destroyers and frigates. That these are blue water training regimens are hardly beyond doubt.

    This is also why Japan has allied itself with South Korea in resolving the differences with North Korea. The North Korean military is extremely strong, whereas China's military prowess is, at best, nascent. The popular Japanese President Junichiro Koizumi has quite obviously made this one of the major initiatives of his administration. While Pyongyang is indeed a major threat to Japan and the rest of the Korean peninsula, without the active backing of Beijing and the military aid provided by the People's Liberation Army, the DPRK would be unlikely to sustain long-term combat. If an economic foothold can be gained in the DPRK, Koizumi reasons, Pyongyang will be less likely to gamble everything on retaking Seoul.

    An interesting development in all this was in early 2001, when PRC President Jiang Zemin publicly stated that China recognized the deployment of forces to the Korean DMZ as a responsible use of power to prevent a disintegration of the armistice brokered in 1953, which led to the Korean War cease-fire. Jiang's proclamation was unusual in that China routinely accuses US deployments and basing in Asia as an attempt to "blockade" China. While this is, on the surface at least, a separate issue from the PRC/ROC item, it could very well be interrelated. Beijing does recognize a conflict between the two Koreas would carry substantial negative economic impact, and would also prompt China to at least activate two mobile armies outside of Dalian to secure its border with Korea. This would be an expensive undertaking, as deployments to northeast China are hampered by a still-unimproved infrastructure. In other words, it's perceived that Beijing is generally interested in distancing itself form a possible DPRK/ROK/US altercation as quickly as possible in order to preserve its growing yet still fragile economy. While robust, China's economy would not survive a major martial engagement.

    The same holds true for an attack on Taiwan. China desperately needs US investment in its economy, both to obtain the necessary funds to continue its military modernization as well as to increase its fledgling--and as yet unsuccessful--social programs. There is a widening disparity between upper- and lower-class Chinese citizenry, and while more and more Chinese enter the ranks of the middle-class every day, the truth of the matter is that China is still a very poor society. There is likely to be a very long period of social unrest in China stemming from a wide variety of issues--non-transfer of wealth, a rising epidemic of infectious diseases which the PRC government is reluctant to disclose (the general opinion fostered by the CCP is that AIDS is a "foreign problem"), a disparate male/female population generated by a combination of the "one child" policy and the historic Chinese cultural imperative which prioritizes male children over female, and a continued emphasis on retaining state-owned industries which are economically unviable and are resulting in China's first real wave of lay-offs, millions in 2001 alone which the CCP distorts as "labor reallocation.

    (A personal sidebar, yer Honor: when in Beijing, I stay at either the Kerry Centre or the more traditional Lu Song Yuan, both located near central Beijing. At both places, I am assaulted by beggars and panhandlers who can be so aggressive that I've resorted to physical violence to hold them back. In counterpoint, when in Taipei I stay at the Taipei Hilton. In Taipei, I have seen exactly one beggar--and he left me alone. While this is an absolutely unscientific survey, it is a personally compelling observation.)

    Curiously enough, in this last category of mainland issues, China has received assistance from an unusual source: Taiwan. Many Taiwanese-owned businesses have quietly begun operating in the mainland, where cheaper labor is plentiful and some rather inexpensive yet almost world-class factories and distribution centers are available. Technically speaking, this is illegal; while indirect trade has been very much a constant, the establishment of Taiwanese-owned businesses on PRC real estate has never been subjected to any sort of legitimate legislation between the two countries. Yet it is to the benefit of both nations and perhaps more eloquently discloses the need for the "three links" to be expanded. While Japan and the US are without doubt mainland China's biggest trade and business partners, China's third-largest business partner is the one which it will never admit to. The presence of Taiwanese in China is so great that both nations quietly passed legislation which would prevent Taiwanese businessmen from taking second wives in the mainland. Again, on the surface, this would appear to be a non-event, as it's generally lost in the greater and more dramatic backdrop of contentious rivalry. But in many ways, China and Taiwan are much, much closer than much of the world--and most of the mainland population--is aware. Taiwanese investments in the mainland serve to help the PRC retain a sense of vitality, and also serves a second purpose: to ensure the fiery PRC/ROC rhetoric remains just that: rhetoric. (And it also helps to revive that ancient Chinese custom of corruption, but that's another matter; both the PRC and ROC subscribe to that particular activity.)

    Another element of discourse in the PRC/ROC matchup is the actual manipulation of the truth in the PRC. Almost no one I have spoken to in Beijing or Shanghai is aware of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, wherein the US and Taiwan came to concurrence on US intercession in the event of hostilities. While the wording of this agreement is somewhat ambiguous, the intent is of course mutually understood: if the PRC takes martial action against Taiwan, the PRC will lose a lot of teeth in the process. No one is certain how far the US will go, but even a token response against the PRC will be an incredible shock. One thing Chinese cannot recover from his humiliation; recall if you will the Opium War, wherein British forces habitually overwhelmed numerically superior Chinese combatants inside a very short period of time. Also, recall Nationalist incompetence in facing down the very real and brutal threat posed by Japanese imperial forces in the 1930s. While the People's Liberation Army has doubtless learned its lessons from these circumstances, they do not show it publicly. If one reads Xinhua or The People's Daily, both of which are mouthpieces for the CCP and the PLA, one might feel that China is already an unstoppable juggernaut which had long ago subjugated the evil Western Empires. Clearly, this is not the case, but try and explain it to some of the more national-minded Chinese who find a great deal of their self-worth is directly attributable to what these propaganda rags say. ;) As a mei guo ren, I've always been well treated by Chinese, who do place an unusual value on Americans, despite the official party line to the contrary.

    It goes without saying that a liberal democracy would be in the region would be only a good thing, though the benefits of such are perhaps not extremely tangible, as you mentioned in your paper. To be certain, a true democratic presence would be politically uncomfortable for China, issues of face aside. Jiang Zemin has articulated a vision for the PRC to move to a marginal parliamentary democracy (Singapore is the model most often cited), which would offer some democratic benefits yet retain an authoritarian presence. This may or may not be feasible in the long term; Singapore is a nation of less than four million, and was erected with substantial involvement of the United Kingdom. I myself feel it unlikely that a nation as large as the PRC could make this transition, though I do understand why Jiang would prefer to announce such a governing body as his (and, presumably, Hu Jintao's) ultimate target. While I could point to the 25 million people in Taiwan who finally have a real, functioning liberal democracy--American-assisted, yes, but Chinese-made--as a much better and perhaps infinitely preferable model, the fact remains that political doings in Taiwan are something of a freak show. If not for the monolithic threat poised by "Big Brother" across the strait, I am uncertain what Taiwan would actually be. To assume that a society as inherently complex as China could adopt such an open government would be folly...but it should not stop them from trying. ;)

    I do believe the situation will remain static until after 2008, when the Olympics have concluded. After that, it depends on whether Jiang Zemin remains active in the CCP and Central Military Committee (CMC), or if Hu Jintao, widely perceived to be both brilliant but bland, will at the time have full operational control. Hu is a favorite of the PLA, which is politically active, and he is not known to have any strong opponents on the Politburo. I think it's logical to presume that he will continue to walk down the path set by his mentor, even after Ziang's eventual death. What this will mean for Taiwan is anyone's guess. I suspect that, in the face of a growing economic interdependency, the matter will at one point or the other become almost academic. China is at least 20 years from having the sufficient military mass to realistically challenge the US, and that gap is likely to never close, as the US is currently re-evaluating its military and making additional improvements that far outpace the PRC's ability to develop or procure elsewhere. While the presence of waisharen in Taipei political circles continues to increase, the presence of Taiwanese in PRC economic and business circles are also increasing. If I were pressed to the mat and forced to make a choice, I would say the Chinese love of money would overcome the need for face. It is likely the status quo could continue for decades, which is only beneficial to the PRC/ROC/USA tri-partite.

    Regardless...good paper. Some good insights there...let us know how it works out for you.

  5. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Oh, by-the-by...for those of you who might be interested, the term wai sha ren is a Taiwanese epithet, not something official. I used it in my previous response to illustrate the differences of opinion in Taipei on such issues.

    Moore's Chinese Language Class:

    wai: Foreign, Outside

    sha: Stupid, Silly, Imbecile

    ren: Man, Person, People

  6. Ravenink

    Ravenink Veteran Member


    Wonderful post, thank you!. I wish I had the opportunity to travel to China and Taiwan in order to do more research on the subject, but unfortunately this was a paper that had to be written in under a weeks time. Your insights are very fascinating, and when I have more time I'll respond to some of them in depth and probably have some more questions for you.

    It seems alot of the things that I failed to touch upon were a result of the research materials easily available. Perhaps I do not know the right sources, but I found it hard to find current articles that were not so slanted as to be near useless.

    It does not surprise me at all that Chen Shui-Ban is not living up to the No's in any form. I couldn't find any info on this, but it would seem to me that a moderate DPP candidate would be rather unusual, as the party seems to have some extreme positions as a whole. (I do not mean extreme to have any negative connotations.) From my readings I was under the impression that it was the ROC vice president who was being primarily demonized in the place of Chen in regards to a stand on independence.

    The information on the Sovremmney cruisers does not surprise me overly at all either. It was something I suspected, but was unable to find a corroborating paper which my professor would likely accept.

    I actually did not know at all about the waisharen. Had neither heard the term nor read that such a thing existed in more than a fragment of Taiwanese society.

    I'll respond in more depth when I have the time, thank you again for the wonderful post. we'll see how the paper turns out, this professor is more than alittle mad at me to begin with :)
  7. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    LOL...well, if he gets mad at you regarding this paper, be sure to send him my way--you didn't position anything incorrectly given the information which is out there, and he takes you to task on specific points, I guarantee you I can drum him into the ground for you. ;)

  8. bruzzes

    bruzzes Truthslayer

    Well Steve,

    You never cease to amaze me.

    Here I was worried that a wonderful post may go awastin' and you respond so eloquently.

    I think I will save both ravenicks post and yours for future reading, again and again.

    You are truly remarkable!
  9. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member


    Thanks for the praise. As Robaire has said in the past, me being laid off last January was probably the worst thing to happen to GlobalAffairs.

    Quite honestly, I've only touched onto these issues without drilling down to a greater depth. PRC/ROC relations are always a dicey proposition. There should be very little doubt the PRC routinely disseminates rather extreme disinformation regarding Taiwan and how it fits in with the rest of the world. Less well known is that Taiwan is just as bellicose in many instances, such as bombarding PRC airwaves with pro-Falun Gong transmissions. Now, the Taiwanese dislike the Falun Gong too, make no bones about it. But making sure every residence in China's Fujien province gets blasted for a couple of hours is always fun.

    A lot of the stress would go away if the PRC were to make some legitimate compromises, which it has never done. PRC avarice is perhaps the biggest obstacle facing the Taiwanese. For instance, right now these is no direct way to fly to China from Taiwan; China allows Taiwan's China Airlines to fly to Hong Kong (I do not recommend that trip on that airline), but China Air cannot fly to mainland destinations. It's another way of strangling Taiwan, and it has nothing to do with independence. The PRC just does it because it can.

    Anyway. Glad you liked the abbreviated version of Moore's Truth.

  10. bruzzes

    bruzzes Truthslayer

    Thanks Steve...

    Now if you can tell me how accurate Tom Clancy is in his novels about weapons and covert agencies then you will really make my day!

    Reading "The Bear and the Dragon" now...
  11. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    The Bear and the Dragon sucked. Clancy lost his touch after Debt of Honor.

  12. Ravenink

    Ravenink Veteran Member

    debt of honor was awesome though.
  13. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Sorry, I liked the Bear and the Dragon. I think we as a nation should be working closely with Russia. I think that the inner workings of the Chinese mainland government leaders is largely a mystery to the Western Nations, just as they don't appear to understand us at times.

    Besides I have a fondness for the USS Gettysburg CG-64.
  14. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    It was...round two with the Japanese, and we STILL beat 'em!

  15. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Well, we certainly won't be working closely with the Chinese, that's for sure. Unless northern China-style noodles suddenly become a valued asset.

  16. jamming

    jamming Banned

    But that was also round two with the overplot with the Chinese Machiavelli in the Ruling Council, which comes to a conclusion in the Bear and Dragon.
  17. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member


    Goodness, after rereading your post I forgot to address this...

    Yes, the DPP learned something from Lee Teng-hui's presidency, which is that it's probably better for someone else to take the heat for any talk about independence, and in the DPP, it's generally VP Annette Lu. Unfortunately, Chen himself tends to open his mouth at the most inopportune times, such as with his "two countries on either side" comment and his occasional calls for an independence referendum. None of this sits well with the mainland, and the last time it happened, the US did state that intercession in a PRC/ROC military spat was not "unconditional." Still, Lu is the one who speaks most often of the issue, referring to the disintegration of Hong Kong and the will of overseas Chinese, among other items, as reasons for independence.

    For some rather interesting reading regarding the goings-on in Taiwan, check out The Taipei Times Online.

  18. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    The Bear and the Dragon was hardly a realistic book, Jim. Clancy has zero understanding of the Chinese. Maybe Bob Harris or Perry Stroika can tell us if he has any understanding of the Russians, but his attempts to display any knowledge of China or Chinese affairs fell on their face.


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