International Research Institute for Controversial Histories
1. The result of the 2024 Taiwanese Presidential election
In the 2024 Taiwanese Presidential election, candidate Lai Ching-te of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won with a turnout rate of about 40%. The election was fought among three candidates, Lai, Hou Yu-ih of the leading opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) and Ko Wen-je of the second opposition Taiwan People’s Party (TPP). Although candidate Lai reportedly held a marginal lead, it was a very close race to the end. At the result of this election, European and American countries belonging to the democratic bloc felt relieved. However, in the legislative election held simultaneously, the DPP could not win the majority seats, which will be a reason for concern about the Taiwanese government from now on.
The biggest issue in the election was how to deal with Communist China. In this regard, candidate Lai Ching-te continued the political line held by the current Tsai Ing-wen administration, keeping a certain distance from Communist China and never succumbing to China’s pressure.
Against this, the Nationalist Party candidate Hou Yu-ih basically holds the reconciliatory line with the Chinese Communist Party and emphasizes promotion of economic relationships through talks between China and Taiwan.
And candidate Ko Wen-je stood in-between the two candidates and claimed to act as a bridge between Chian and Taiwan.
As the election campaigns moved on among the three candidates, Communist China did everything to establish a China-friendly government in Taiwan, meddling in the election so that pro-China Hou Yu-ih might get majority votes. China’s actions included military pressure, trade restriction, media interference, dissemination of fake news, inviting influential Taiwanese to China, offering economic incentives to Taiwanese businesses, inviting Taiwanese youths to study in China and many others.
Why, then, is Communist China so entirely intent on establishing a pro-China government in Taiwan? That is because these attempts directly lead to China’s scenario of unified Taiwan. Now, let us look at it closely.
2. Communist China’s scenario of peaceful unification of Taiwan
There are two scenarios of the unification of Taiwan by Communist China, peaceful and military. Popularly discussed is the military scenario, but it is the last resort, so to speak, and the peaceful unification should be the first consideration.
In Communist China’s plan of peaceful unification of Taiwan, it was early in the 2000s that Communist China came up with the idea of using the opponent Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) when the Kuomintang left the government for the first time. At that time, the Nationalist Party was totally shocked and despondent after losing the ruling power and Communist China used this opportunity to lend a helping hand to the Party in distress. This attempt culminated in the summit meeting between Lien Chan, the Chairman of the Kuomintang and the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Hu Jintao on April 29, 2005. The meeting was called the third collaboration of the Nationalist and Communist parties. At the meeting five common recognitions (hereinafter, “Five Great Wishes”) were announced. The Five Great Wishes exactly manifest the scenario of the peaceful unification of Communist China and Taiwan. They are 1) to resume talks between both sides of the strait, 2) to have regular exchanges between the two Parties, 3) to discuss the way how Taiwan should engage in international activities, 4) to establish an overall economic and trade cooperation across the strait, and 5) to conclude the peace pact across the strait.
Kuomintang Ma Ying-jeou, who returned to power in 2005, faithfully carried out the Five Great Wishes. However, regarding the economic and trade cooperation, although the economic operation framework agreement was concluded in 2010 and a wide range of free activities was realized, the approval of the service-trade pact failed due to an opposition movement initiated by students (Sunflower Students’ Movement), so, the pact remained ineffective. In 2011, a plan of cross-strait peace treaty was brought up, but it was too premature; it was met with strong opposition within Taiwan and had to be promptly withdrawn. Later, in the Tsai Ing-wen administration, both the service-trade pact and the cross-strait peace treaty were shelved and remain unattended to this day.
Communist China aims to establish a pro-China Government by putting service-trade pact into effect and promoting control over the media, publishing, finance, and insurance in Taiwan. Candidates Ko Wen-je and Hou Yu-ih asserted their willingness to put this service-trade pact into effect early in their election campaigns, which shows that both candidates were working for Communist China.
Then, after imposing control over free speech in Taiwan, China aims to imbue the Taiwanese mind with the idea of “one country, two systems.” In view of Communist China, Taiwanese people’s repulsion for “one-country, two systems” is a major factor of preventing the unification of Taiwan and so, China tries to remove the factor. By reducing the Taiwanese people’s repulsion as much as possible, they will conclude the cross-strait peace agreement in a peaceful manner.
As a matter of fact, in order to reach the conclusion of the cross-strait peace pact, many unpredictable and complicated situations may occur, but the main scenario would be as mentioned above. In either case, without a pro-China government, it would be impossible to realize such scenario. The election this time turned out to be unsuccessful in realizing the scenario and Communist China’s plot has failed.
3. Armed unification and Taiwan’s statehood
The remaining scenario for Communist China to follow is military unification or armed integration. In this respect, how to deal with Taiwan’s statehood becomes a very important issue, and it will decide the success or failure of the entire scenario. It is an issue whether foreign countries interfering in the use of force against Taiwan is permissible or not in terms of international law.
Communist China does not recognize Taiwan as a State and states that Communist China’s use of force against Taiwan is a domestic matter within a State. The Government of Taiwan is merely a revolting group within the country and using armed force against the group is a domestic matter which other countries should not interfere in.
Against this assertion, the Taiwanese Democratic Progressive Party maintains that Taiwan is fully eligible for statehood and circumstantially a divided state. The two cross-strait realities are that the Republic of China in Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China in mainland respectively and parallelly exist as divided states and that Communist China should recognize the reality. Accordingly, Communist China’s use of armed force against Taiwan is equivalent to “threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State,” as stipulated to refrain from in Article 2-4 of the Charter of the United Nations. And it cannot be helped if such act should be interfered in by other countries.
However, another Taiwanese political party, the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) holds a different view. The Kuomintang has been holding the traditional party policy of “China is one” ever since Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership. The party ceased to emphasize the view but has not abandoned the view that Taiwan is part of the Chinese State, including the mainland.
As for the People’s Party, they have remained silent regarding the view of statehood and have not clarified their position.
We should be aware that views of statehood vary withing Taiwan. And yet, through democratic practices over the past thirty years, the great majority of Taiwanese realize that they live their daily life in a practically independent country and only a very few Taiwanese think that Taiwan is a part of the Chinese State.
It should be confirmed under the international law that Taiwan is a genuine independent state. The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States sets out the four criteria for statehood that the state as a person of international law should possess: (a) a permanent population; (b)a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states. Taiwan unquestionably satisfies all these qualifications. In addition, no country in the world fails to recognize the continuous activities carried out by Taiwan as an independent state for the past thirty years. It is an indisputable fact that Taiwan is factually an independent state while Communist China is busy employing sophistry. To treat Taiwan as a true state enhances the international status of Taiwan and contributes to its security.
4. The Taiwanese Strait and the East Asia in future
In, the recent presidential election, Lai Ching-te won, pledged to succeed the Tsai Ing-wen political line, which has lessened the fear lest the Taiwanese Strait situation should rapidly become unstable. Still, the military pressure against Taiwan by China will be further strengthened and cross-strait tension will further intensify.
On the other hand, as confrontation between the United States and China in the East Asia, including the East China Sea and the South China Sea, further accelerates, in terms of defense strategy, the value of Taiwan, a democratic state in the East Asia, is getting higher than ever. Therefore, it is unthinkable for the United States not to interfere in the use of force by China against Taiwan. Taiwan is the pivot of the current East Asian policy of the United States leading the democratic bloc. In this sense, to abandon Taiwan means collapse and defeat of the U.S. Asian policy.
Under such circumstances, it was good news for the democratic bloc that the favorable result of the recent Taiwanese Presidential election prevented Communist China’s scenario of peaceful unification of Taiwan and China. However, I must repeat once again that in the legislative election, the Party could not secure the majority seats. This will bring many difficulties in running the Government. The outlook for the Lai Ching-te Government is far from optimistic.