We understand that the political status of Taiwan can bring out passionate feelings for some. In this post, we’ll briefly explore the history of Taiwan, and look at some of the considerations used to determine “what is a country.” Ultimately, we’ll try to shed some insight into the question – is Taiwan a Country?
With an area of only about 13,855 square miles, Taiwan is a small island off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island is contrasted by rugged mountains in the east, and rolling plains in the west, where most of Taiwan’s population lives.
Taiwan had long been inhabited by an indigenous population when Dutch and Spanish settlers came to the island to set up colonies in the 17th century. The island would eventually come to be annexed by the Qing dynasty, the last dynasty of China, before being ceded to Japan in 1895 after the Sino-Japanese War.
In 1912, during this period of Japanese rule on Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC) was established on mainland China after the fall of the Qing dynasty. Taiwan would eventually fall into ROC hands following World War II and the Japanese surrender to the Allies in 1945. However, the Chinese Civil War, which had begun in 1927 and was interrupted by the Second Sino-Japanese War, resumed shortly after. This conflict was fought between the Chinese Nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, and the Communist Party of China, led by Mao Zedong.
Mao Zedong and the communists would ultimately defeat the Nationalist army on the Chinese mainland, and they founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, 1949. Chiang Kai-Shek, meanwhile, evacuated his Nationalist government, along with some 2 million other people, to Taiwan, where Taipei was made the “temporary” capital of the ROC.
From Taiwan, the ROC continued to claim that they were the legitimate government of all of China, even though their jurisdiction was limited to Taiwan and a few surrounding islands. The ROC, which had been a founding member of the United Nations, continued to represent China at the UN until 1971, when the PRC took over China’s seat, effectively causing the ROC to lose its membership.
Is Taiwan a Country?
Today, the PRC maintains control over mainland China, while the ROC remains on Taiwan. Both the ROC and PRC continue to claim sovereignty over the whole of China. The PRC’s position on Taiwan is that there is only One China, which Taiwan is a part of. They view Taiwan as a “renegade province” that should be reunited with the rest of China.
For many people living in mainland China and Taiwan, four possible solutions exist for the issue of Taiwan: unification of mainland China and Taiwan under the PRC government, unification under the ROC government, independence for Taiwan, or maintaining the status quo.
Throughout the years, various governing bodies within the international community have been pressured to choose whether the PRC or ROC is the sole representative of China. Currently, most of the world has official diplomatic relations with the PRC. Under the PRC’s One China policy, China refuses diplomatic relations with any nation that recognizes the ROC. Therefore, only 20 countries have official ties with the ROC today. However, many countries retain unofficial ties to Taiwan, both economically and culturally. Some countries even have offices and institutions on Taiwan that serve as de facto embassies.
So, given the fact that Taiwan is self-governing, and maintains distinct political and trade relations with most major countries, Taiwan should be recognized as its own separate country.
Why is Taiwan a Country?
At the end of the day, Taiwan, which is home to some 23 million people, exercises a great deal of independence. The country is a player in the global economy, with a GDP per capita among the top 30 in the world. They also have their own currency.
Furthermore, Taiwan maintains their own education system. They provide transportation for their citizens. They have their own government, military, and police force. And even though the PRC claims jurisdiction, Taiwan has maintained its own control over the island since 1949.
Many countries have set up unofficial organizations to carry out commercial and other relations with Taiwan, including the United States, which uses the American Institute in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office to maintain ties.
Taiwan issues globally recognized passports, and is a member of the International Olympic Committee. They continue to lobby for admission into the United Nations, but the PRC strongly opposes that.
Ultimately, when taking all these factors into account, Taiwan meets many criteria to support its status as a sovereign country.
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