China, popularly known as the People’s Republic of China, and Taiwan are two states found in East Asia. Taiwan Island, officially called the Republic of China (ROC), was originally based in mainland China. It was under the ROC‘s control and made up over 99 percent of the current Chinese territory. Other islands, such as the Penghu, Matsu and Kinsmen, also formed the Republic of China’s territory. The Republic of China, before the Chinese civil war, which led to the separation of Taiwan and other islands from its territory, bordered by Japan on the eastern side, Philippines on the south and by Vietnam on the west. As the historical background shows, the Taiwanese aborigines had initially inhabited the island of Taiwan. At around the 17th century, Spanish and Dutch colonized it. Later, in 1662, a Chinese military leader Koxinga expelled the Dutch forces from the island and established the kingdom of Tungning. Twenty years later, the Japanese dynasty invaded the Taiwan Island and defeated the Chinese forces in Sino-Japanese war. The Japanese colonized Taiwan until 1945, and then, in 1895, ceded it. In 1912, the Republic of China was established. At the time of foundation, Taiwan was still under the Japanese control. In 1945, Japan surrendered in the Second World War and was forced to re-cede the Taiwan Island to the ROC forces, who had a full control of mainland China.
Following the Chinese civil war, the Chinese Communists took control of all the mainland China’s resources, compelling the ROC forces to migrate and settle in Taiwan. In 1949, these Communists founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The ROC established its government in Taiwan area and started claiming independence from the PRC. Most countries globally do not recognize the Taiwan government, but they have recognized the PRC. Interestingly, America, Japan and a few other UN states recognize the Taiwan government as a state separate from the PRC, possibly due to hidden political agendas. It has been reported that these countries maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan government and have representative offices at Taipei.
The PRC has recently announced that Taiwan is not a country but its territory, thereby creating tension on the other side. The ROC has its own constitution drafted, which proclaims it an independent country. The PRC has threatened to use military forces if the ROC dares to state that Taiwan is an independent state. It calls for peaceful unification, which was previously hampered by the geographical locations of the two states and by the military interference of the USA and Japan, who opportunistically tried to reduce the Chinese control over the region. Secondly, the social, cultural and political differences between China and Taiwan prevent the peaceful resolution; people still serve as a barrier to the full unification of the PRC and the ROC.
The Hindrance to the Unification Process:
The Barrier from Other Countries, Such As USA and Japan
If China and Taiwan decide to unify, it would disadvantage several countries, politically and economically. Among them are USA and its counterpart, Japan. For this reason, the two states would rather trigger a war in East Asia to ensure that the unification process does not happen. As a move to ensure further separation, the USA and Japan led 22 UN states into voting for Taiwan’s independence. This ensured that the two countries do not unite. To make the matter worse, the 22 states deployed their diplomatic representatives in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan.
China and Taiwan’s geographical location have been identified as one of the main obstacles to the unification process of the two countries. First, China state is surrounded by the most heavily armed countries, Japan to the east, Vietnam on the northwest and Russia on the northern side. Taiwan Island is a leading center of foreign trade hence it is difficult for the Chinese government to cut the supply of food and military equipment from Japan and USA who trade with the Taiwan government. Moreover, it is difficult to attack an island as opposed to the mainland. The Chinese military specialists would have to rely on airspace. Additionally, the bombing of the island by the Chinese in an attempt to seize the territory may trigger a regional war with other countries around China. For example, North Korea, Vietnam, Japan and Russia previously had political or boundary disputes with China. This fact stops the Chinese government from invading Taiwan’s territory hence their geographical location serves as a barrier to the unification process.
Moreover, to deter any possibility of the Chinese invasion, Japan and the USA have opportunistically used the geographical location of Taiwan to develop the country’s economy. These two states have opened up trade and diplomatic relations with Taiwan’s government, making it emerge as one of the best economic performers globally at 19th position and one of the best 4 economies in East Asia. The PRC also blames the geographical location; the alliance between the USA and Taiwan becomes only stronger and there is no way to stop the USA from selling arms and other military services to Taiwan. It is considered that the USA uses Taiwan’s territory as a battleground to weaken the PRC both economically, politically and even socially. In January 2010, the US government announced a 6.4-billion-dollar arms deal with Taiwan’s government. If there was a way to block the supply of the weapon geographically, then the PRC could win the unification battle. However, because of this problem, the PRC is left with only one option - to threaten the USA with economic sections or with the abolishment of international and regional cooperation.
The only way for the PRC to win the unification race is to use military powers but the geographical location of the two countries became a disadvantage. The neighboring countries and the US government warned the PRC and the ROC not to use any military threats against each other. Japan urges China to use dialogue as a move to solve the cross-strait disputes, claiming that any use of the military power will trigger a regional war against China.
According to the survey carried out in 2009 on the subject of the unification process, the military strength of the two countries, of their neighbors (Vietnam, Russia, North Korea and Japan) and allies (USA and the western countries) makes the unification process almost impossible. The two countries, the ROC and the PRC believe that the war can erupt at any time and thus it is better to keep their military personnel well trained and equipped for the mission. Today, the ROC possesses a highly technological and well-trained military mainly for the defense purposes against the possible attack from the PRC. However, since 1970s, the Taiwan’s government began to embark on naval and air forces. To make the army stronger, control of all military activities also shifted to the civilian government. Many military reshuffles took place in the ROC’s army; young officers, born in the country replaced the older generation, Pan-blue sympathizers and non-mainlanders. It tightened the security against any external invasion. In 1997, the ROC began a force reduction program to cut down the military force from 450000 to 380000 by 2001. However, the current joint implementation plan to set the U.S. military base in East Asia, particularly in Japan or Taiwan, continues to inflate the military budget. The fact that Taiwan keeps on increasing the military expenditure when most of the Asian countries plan to cut it, shocks the Chinese government. Moreover, the surveillance of the personnel reports that Taiwan and the USA have a joint move to ensure that Taiwan modernizes both its offensive and defensive capabilities. A good example is the events of July 2010, when Obama administration increased the sale volume of military hardware to the ROC by 6.4 billion dollars. The PRC regards this turn of events with the suspicion, afraid that the ROC may be planning an attack , which would ruin any chances of the unification process.
The survey of 2009 revealed that Taipei holds a large military establishment pertaining to the island’s population. In 2008, over 10,5 billion dollars were spent on military expenditures, which is 2.94% of the country’s gross domestic product. The ROC claims that their primary concern is the risk of a naval blockade, airborne attack or missile bombardment by the PRC. was According to the USA, the People’s Liberation Army (armed forces of the PRC) is the third largest army in the world after the USA and North Korea, with approximately 3 million trained soldiers.
In addition to that, China regards the Taiwan’s purchase of the U.S military weapons as a plot for Chinese economical, political and even social destruction. In 2001, the ROC purchased four upgraded Kidd-class destroyers from the United States of America to improve the air defense and submarine-hunting capabilities. As if that were not enough, in 2007, the ROC Ministry of National Defense negotiated the purchase of $6.5 billion arms package with the US government. The package included the AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, PAC III Anti-Air defense systems and AGM-114L Hellfire missiles. Apart from the USA, there were other western countries willing to sell military gadgets to Taiwan, such as France and Netherlands. The PRC threatened these countries with sanctions until they agreed to help strengthen its military power with heavy military machineries. This move by the two countries has completely thwarted the unification process, as they no longer trust each other.
In the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States did not mention that in case of any attack on Taiwan’s territory, they would defend the ROC. However, the security agreement signed between Japan and the United States implies that those two may militarily respond to the PRC’s invasion of the ROC. The ROC believes that even if China attacks them, they will hold the blockade and wait for the USA to intervene in the war. Moreover, United States allies, such as New Zealand, Australia, Britain, France and other may theoretically get involved in the war, making matters worse for the PRC government in China.
In addition to that, the above-mentioned countries are in the collaboration with Taiwan. They conduct military exercises in the Pacific Ocean every two years to promote stability and to exercise the respond strategy to any external attack on the region, especially to the possible attack by China. This vividly shows that any Chinese military action will be cut down hence the purpose of all these military collaborations is to stop the PRC’s government from attacking Taiwan and annexing the territory to the mainland by force.
After the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union as a superpower, the USA became the sole superpower of the world. At the same time, with the emergence of China as one of the greatest and the fastest-growing economies, the USA saw a great threat to its economy, politics and warfare missions. The United States decided to protect its interest by subordinating China, as a matter of urgency. This means that the USA has to weaken China to ensure that no war, no independence or unification of China and Taiwan is possible. The sale of heavy military firearms to Taiwan and instructing them not to start a war with China is a forward move on the US’s part towards the perpetuation of national separation between the two parts, made to ensure the existence of anti-unification forces. This means that those missiles, destroyers, warships and other military arms sold to Taiwan are there to frighten the Chinese people with the American mightiness. The same thing applies to Japan; the country has invested heavily in the military field due to the fear inflicted on the region by the Chinese economy.
Over the last three decades, the country has lost almost every market share to the Chinese traders even in Africa. The only way to curtail Chinese from being the next superpower was to form an alliance with the United States and Taiwan. It was reported that many of the Taiwan’s military officials visited Japan’s National Defense Academy and underwent a joint military training. There were over 120 military exchanges which took place among the three countries. There were many speculations on the reasons why would the American and Japanese allow these military activities to take place on such a small territory like Taiwan. The answer is simple and it reflects Chinese fears of progressive dominancy of the USA on military, economical, social and political arena.
Social Factors and Cultural Differences between China and Taiwan
The Taiwanese culture is a hybrid of various cultures. It incorporates elements of Chinese and Japanese cultures, traditional Confucianism beliefs, and even the elements of western cultures. After they moved to Taiwan, the Kuomintang people imposed some official interpretations different from the Chinese. Uneasy relations between the ROC and the PRC created issues with national and cultural identity. These days the majority of Taiwanese belief that they are not real Chinese people and thus there is no need for unification of the two countries. The ROC and other traditional residents know that social factors such as religion, cultural values and the spoken language are more valuable in the unification process than the promoted by government western cultures. Scholars and researchers are debating over the status of the Taiwanese cultural values, which have recently emerged as multicultural. However, most people believe that they have greatly contributed to the political status of Taiwan as a separate territory and thus it would be difficult to unite it with the mainland. Long period of political separation from mainland cut through the traditional life of people and changed numerous traditions, including music and cuisine.
Islands around China
Apart from the Taiwan Island, popularly known as the Formosa, there are some other islands such as Kinsmen, Matsu, Penghu and minor islands. The Penghu Island is located on the western side of the Taiwan Island and almost all these islands are mountainous. Currently, the Taiwan Island is the largest, followed by the Penghu Island which covers the area of around 126,9 square kilometers. More distanced islands of the Republic of China (ROC) are the Kinsmen, Matsu, and Wuchiu Islands, located along the Fujian coast. They cover a total area of 180.5 square kilometers. Pratas and Taiping islands are stretched out for over 2.9 square kilometers in the South China Sea, but they have no permanent inhabitants.
It is hard for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to win the island from the Republic of China (ROC). The Taiwan regime would receive any attempt of islands’ invasion as an external attack and an attempt to start the war not only with Taiwan, but also the international community led by the American and Japanese regimes. The ROC claims that these territories are under their control, and it would be difficult for China to get them back.
It is clear that the unification process between the PRC and the ROC is impossible at this point in time. The reasons behind this are in the geographical location hence China is surrounded by three great superpower countries, Japan, Russia and Vietnam. Moreover, during the 20th century China had fought almost all these states because of the territorial disputes. Other countries, such as Japan are cautious of China’s intentions since it can supersede them both economically and politically. It urged those countries into making allies with Taiwan and US to ensure that the unification process is curtailed. Secondly, the United States and Japan significantly supported the Taiwan’s army and promised China heavy military retaliation if it tries to obtain the control over the islands by force. Last but not the least, social waves and cultural erosions among the Chinese in Taiwan makes the unification process even less possible and Taiwan further away from China. Only close cultural values such as music and religion can succeed in bringing those two nations together.