The Importance of Taiwan, and Why the United States cannot back down

On April 17th 1895, the Qing dynasty of China signed the treaty of Shimonoseki with the Empire of Japan. In doing so the Qing dynasty was forced to recognize the independence of Korea. They also gave control of Taiwan, the Pescadores islands, and the Liaodong peninsula to Japan. 

Following this, the Qing dynasty fell into a rapid decline. With heavy payments to Japan, and disadvantageous trading routes their economy suffered. With the further loss of Manchuria to Japan, the home region of the Qing dynasty was snatched away. 

With their inability to maintain the home region of the dynasty, it became clear a new form of government was needed, as citizens starved, and struggled for so much as a bowl of rice. Roughly 25 million people perished in the famine of 1907, the second highest death toll from famine in recorded history.

As a result of this hardship, revolution ignited within the Chinese mainland. A young doctor born to low class farmers appeared to lead the people. Sun Yat-sen gave up a life as a medical professional to address the issues that the Chinese people were facing. When initial attempts at reforming China under the Qing dynasty fell upon deaf ears, military action was taken instead.

We should recognize that nationalism does not mean discriminating against people of a different nationality.

Sun Yat-sen

Following the fall of the Qing dynasty Sun Yat-sen led the nation for less than a single year before stepping down as the inaugural President of the Chinese Republic. In his place Yuan Shikai, the leader of the Baiyang army, a militant group that aided in the overthrow of the dynasty, assumed control over the country before holding its first parliamentary election in December 1912.

This is where the history of the Republic of China takes a dark turn. Before the success of the revolution, Sun Yat-sen created the Koumintang(KMT), a political party who was meant to advance the cause of the Chinese nation, heading into the 1912 election they were led by Song Jiaoren.

Unsurprisingly the political party established by the Republic’s leading founder won the nation’s first election, taking a majority of the seats in both the lower, and upper houses of the newly established parliament. What came as a shock were the events that took place three months later, as this moment would change the course of Chinese history, and in turn world history.

On March 20th 1913 Song Jiaoren stood on a platform at Shanghai railway station. A gunman employed by Yuan Shikai opened fire on the statesmen, hitting him twice in the chest. Two days later, Song’s melody in our world ended. That day democracy died in the Chinese mainland.

Following his death Yuan refused to honour the results of the election. Instead he used the death of the statesmen to paint the KMT as a violent, fractured organization that had turned on one another. Including entirely fictional tales about a women’s assassin group that stem from a woman who slapped Song in public for backing away from Suffrage efforts as the 1912 election heated up.

Once his narrative was in place, Yuan publicly dissolved the KMT, surrounded Parliament with troops, and locked it due to lacking quorum. He then declared a constitutional conference in 1914, declared his lifetime dictatorship, and attempted to elevate himself to emperor of china. This was met by heavy unrest around the nation by almost every class of people.

In 1916 Yuan dissolved his empire, and shortly afterwards he died. In the wake of this power vacuum, various warlords and political parties appeared to fill the void. Among them were Sun Yat-sen’s Nationalist Republic, and the Communist Chinese Party.

For over 20 years various powers battled with one another for control over China, until 1927 when Sun’s self made heir Chiang Kai-shek brought the warlords under control. While opposition still existed, it was the Republic of China that would lead the people against the Japanese during the second sino-japanese war.

During all of these events none of the powers within China had control over the island of Taiwan. From 1895-1945 the Japanese held control over the island of Taiwan due to their treaty with the Qing dynasty. For 50 years a foreign power controlled the small patch of land, for 33 of those years, the government that signed away that land in treaty didn’t even exist.

Following Japan’s WW2 defeat in 1945, Taiwan was returned to the Republic of China. A nation that was a founding member of both the League of Nations, and the United Nations. Their efforts in the war were repaid with land on their coast that had been occupied by Japan.

In 1948 a civil war erupted in China between the Chinese communist party (or CCP) and the Republic of China (or ROC). In just a year the CCP took control over mainland China, establishing the People’s Republic of China (or PRC). The PRC then immediately began an aggressive effort to take back lands they claimed were a part of China.

In 1949 Tibet saw their sovereignty dissolved. The religious leader of the country was exiled under threat of execution. More than 35,000 troops invaded the nation. In the three decades that followed more than one million Tibetans died. Over 750k of those deaths were caused by torture, execution, or military action by the PRC.

Following their invasion of Tibet, the PRC built roads through the Aksai Chin region of India. When the Indian government discovered this incursion, naturally they protested. When they attempted to enforce their border in 1962, the PRC invaded the region. Since then they have held control over the land, administering it as a portion of Tibet. Once more the PRC claimed the land was a part of ancient China.

This is where the issue starts to become transparent. The Qing dynasty negotiated numerous contracts with other countries, recognizing their borders, sovereignty, and granting them land in several disputes. While these negotiations are ignored, the PRC uses maps drawn up by this extinct empire to justify their claims over other lands.

Their claim to Taiwan is that the Qing dynasty held control over Taiwan, so it is a part of ancestral China. Yet that very dynasty negotiated control of the island to the Japanese. Who then lost control over said island following their defeat in WW2. Only after this was the ROC given control over the island.

Recently it was revealed that house speaker Nancy Pelosi was planning a visit to Taiwan. This was met by immediate condemnation, and threats of retaliation by the PRC in Beijing. Zhao Lijian a spokesperson for the foreign affairs ministry gave a statement on the 19th in response to the potential visit.

We urge the US side to adhere to the one-China principle and the stipulations in the three China-US joint communiqués. The US must not arrange for Speaker Pelosi to visit the Taiwan region and must stop official interactions with Taiwan, stop creating factors that could lead to tensions in the Taiwan Strait, and follow through on the US’s commitment of not supporting ‘Taiwan independence’. Should the US side insist on doing otherwise, China will take strong and resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The US must assume full responsibility for any ensuing consequences.

Zhao Lijian July 19th 2022

Our government is being directly threatened for interacting with another sovereign nation. A nation who helped to form the United Nations alongside us, who held a seat in the security council until 1971. A country that numerous Presidents have pledged aid to in the event of an invasion. An ally who supplies the bulk of the semiconductor microchips on the global market today.

What happens when this domino falls, and another one stands right behind it. Before 1895 the entirety of the Korean peninsula was a part of the Qing dynasty. What happens when the PRC attempts to reclaim that territory?

This is not unlike the situation in Ukraine. We are seeing a global superpower invading a small nearby nation it claims dominion over, and said nation is an active ally of the United States, and has been for decades. They also provide large amounts of an essential good to the global supply chain.

At this point we are beginning to see the intentions behind the alliance between Russia and China. Two authoritarian powers who are attempting to expand their territory, while simultaneously destabilizing the markets of their opposition. In doing so they hope to drive America’s allies from under her wings.

If the United States does not take action to reinforce its alliances, we will soon find ourselves alone on the battlefield. When we turn to our former allies and ask why we have been deserted, we will see these repeated small conflicts reflected back to us. Showing that our abandonment of those that we agreed to protect has left us as an untrustworthy guardian of democracy.

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