Henry C K Liu

Part 1:  Two nations, worlds apart
Part 2:  Cold War links Korea, Taiwan
Part 3:  Korea: Wrong war, wrong place, wrong enemy

Part 4:  38th Parallel leads straight to Taiwan
Part 5:  History of the Taiwan time bomb

Part 6: Forget reunification, nothing to reunite

This article appeared in AToL on January 30, 2004

While United Nations declarations and international principles support the rights of some aboriginal and colonial peoples to self-determination and independence, they do not apply to Taiwan, a de facto, de jure and inalienable part of China. It always was and always will be, despite current talk of a referendum.

Neither the UN's Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples nor the Inter-American Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes a right of complete territorial and political independence. For example, the UN Draft Declaration states, "As a specific form of exercising their right of self-determination, [indigenous peoples] have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters related to their internal and local affairs."

Although the exercise of self-determination can include secession from an existing state and the creation of a new one, it also includes other less disruptive choices. The UN General Assembly's 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States explains that implementation of the right to self-determination need not conflict with the territorial sovereignty or political unity of a state. The declaration provides that a people exercising its right of self-determination may choose to form a federation with an existing state, integration into an existing state as an autonomous region, or "any other political status freely determined by a people" - short of secession.

The declaration goes on to explain the conditions under which peoples are not justified in seeking secession and independence from a sovereign state. It states that independent countries possessing governments that effectively represent the whole of their populations (ethnic minorities included) are considered to be conducting themselves in conformity with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. For example, if an indigenous people or ethnic minority resides in a state that enables it to participate effectively in the political process and economy and to practice its religion and culture, then it is exercising its right of self-determination and has no cause to secede. The self-determination argument does not fit at all the Taiwan situation.

In 1919, the victorious World War I Allies, including China, chose in the Versailles Conference to grant German concessions in Shandong, China, to Japan rather than returning them to China. This outrageous decision was supported by a secret British treaty with Japan in exchange for Japanese recognition of British interests in Tibet, and also by a secret Russo-Japanese treaty in exchange for Japanese recognition of Russian interests in Outer Mongolia. This concession to Japan, together with the affirmation of Japan's 1915 Twenty-One Demands of China, sparked violent protests all over China, led by students in Beijing. This came to be known in history as the May Fourth Movement, a watershed event that triggered the release of revolutionary energy.

Riding the momentum of national consciousness of the May Fourth Movement, Sun Yat-sen reorganized the Guomindang (GMD, known on Taiwan as the Kuomintang or KMT) into a socialist and a nationalist party. Mao Zedong was working as a librarian in Peking University at the time of the student protests. Two years after the May Fourth student protest, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was founded in Shanghai. The political dynamism behind the preservation of China's territorial integrity was the fountainhead of all revolutionary movements in China.

No Chinese government can compromise on the secession of Taiwan and survive.

In the 2000 election on Taiwan, exploiting his authority as president of the Republic of China (ROC) and chairman of the GMD, Lee Teng-hui clandestinely supported the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and engineered the split of the GMD into contentious factions that ensured the election of Chen Shui-bian as president of the ROC with only 39.2 percent of the vote cast. He won without a runoff in the "winner take all" election by a narrow margin of 300,000 votes over James Soong, former secretary of the late Jiang Jing-guo and secretary general of the GMD. Soong had run as an independent candidate after being forced off the GMD ticket by Lee Teng-hui. Soong and Lien Chan, the GMD candidate, together received 59.9 percent of the votes but both lost the election separately to Chen, the minority winner.

GMD lost in 2000 because of a traitor

The GMD would have easily won the election if it were not for the fact that it had a traitor at the head of the party. After the election, the gravely wounded GMD expelled Lee Teng-hui from the party. But the most problematic aspect of the 2000 election was that it was unconstitutional, since local elections on Taiwan could not legitimately elect holders of national offices of China, be it Republic or People's Republic (PRC).

Jiang Jing-guo was credited with the democratization of Taiwan. As a young man of 16, Jiang went to Moscow in 1925 to study communism first-hand, which he embraced devotedly, quite typical of patriotic youths of the time. He was a classmate of Deng Xiaoping in Moscow. The inter-party struggle between the GMD and the CCP was very much a family affair at the leadership level.

Sun Yat-sen, founder of the GMD and the ROC, welcomed CCP members to join the GMD as individuals. After Sun's death in 1925, Jiang Jie-shi (Chiang Kai-shek) at first sided with the left wing of the GMD. By 1927, with the support of GMD extreme rightists, Jiang undertook anti-communist purges within the GMD. The young Jiang Jing-guo, then in Moscow, publicly denounced his father as a reactionary and went to work in Siberia, where he met and, in March 1935, married Fenna Epatcheva Vahaleva, a native Russian. Jiang Jing-guo returned to China in April 1937 after having lived in the Soviet Union for 12 years.

In 1949, Jiang Jing-guo followed his father to Taiwan to become head of the secret police (Blue Shirts) in 1950, and he served until 1965. One of the high-profile operations of Jiang Jing-guo's Blue Shirts was against General Sun Li-jen, a Virginia Military Institute-trained general who led victorious US-equipped Chinese forces against the Japanese alongside US commanding General Joseph Stilwell in Burma. Sun was the first Chinese nationalist general who showed that given modern weapons and training, the Chinese soldier could be an excellent fighter. Sun was much appreciated by Stilwell, whose opinion of Jiang Jie-shi was intensely and openly unfavorable. General Douglas MacArthur had plans to use Sun as commander of a new invasion force on the Chinese mainland during the Korean War. Sun's popularity with and loyalty from his troops made him an unwitting political rival to Jiang Jie-shi and caused him to be placed under house arrest until the end of martial law in 1986.

From 1955-60, Jiang Jing-kuo led the building of a cross-island highway, a key infrastructure project that integrated the economy of the island and facilitated administrative control over the south from Taipei in the north. He was defense minister from 1965 until 1969, when he became vice premier. In 1972, he was appointed premier and served until 1978. Jiang Jie-shi died in office in April 1975, and Jiang Jing-guo succeeded his father to power - first as premier, becoming president in 1978 after vice president Yen Chai-kan served out Jiang Jie-shi's remaining term. Jiang Jing-guo was re-elected to a second term in 1984 by the National Assembly, which consisted mostly of "thousand-year" legislators of indefinite tenure who had been elected before the ROC fled from the mainland. He was the last legal, constitutionally legitimate elected president of the ROC.

In 1987, Jiang Jing-guo lifted martial law and allowed family visits to the mainland and a gradual loosening of political controls, allowing opposition political parties such as the DPP to function legally. Jiang launched the "Fourteen Major Construction Projects", the "Ten Major Construction Projects" and the "Twelve New Development Projects", contributing to the "Taiwan miracle". Not surprisingly, because of his communist training, Jiang's development programs were similar to the national construction programs on the mainland led by Mao Zedong, the difference being that Taiwan did not have to face hostile US containment and total economic embargo, and Taiwan's problems were of a much smaller scale and complexity than those on the mainland.

Jiang Jing-guo. the people's leader

Among Jiang's economic accomplishments were the acceleration of the process of modernization to give Taiwan a 13 percent growth rate, a US$4,600 per capita annual income, and one of the world's largest foreign-exchange reserves, at the time of his death. Jiang Jing-guo died in office of heart failure in Taipei at the age of 78 in 1988. In contrast to his father's political persona, the legacy of Jiang Jing-guo is that of a people's leader, very much in the mode of the ideal communist cadre of his youth. He remains generally a populist, and popular, figure popular among the electorate on Taiwan today, particularly among those who support eventual cooperation between the GMD and the CCP for a peaceful end to the civil war. His memory and image are frequently invoked by GMD officials who have rejected the anti-party, pro-independence political platform of Lee Teng-hui, Jiang's successor as president and GMD party chairman.

The ROC had been governed until 1991 under a constitution drafted in 1947 when the ROC government ruled the mainland and Taiwan. The constitution outlined a government for all of China. The document was in part drafted as a way of creating a coalition government between the GMD the CCP, in hope of avoiding a renewal of the civil war. It was adopted by the National Assembly on December 25, 1946, was promulgated by the ROC National Government on January 1, 1947, and went into effect on December 25, 1947. The constitution was seen as the third and final stage of political reconstruction of China.

Inter-party cooperation between the GMD and the CCP took place twice in history, the first time from 1920-27 when the GMD looked to the Soviet Union as a model and the second time from 1936-47 after the Xi'an Incident, when Jiang Jie-shi was captured by two dissident Nationalist generals and forced to join a united front with the CCP in the war of resistance against Japanese aggression.

Significant amendments were made to the ROC constitution in 1991, and a number of judicial interpretations of the constitution reflect the drastic shrinkage of GMD-controlled areas. Until 1991, the ROC government in Taipei claimed to be the sole legitimate government of all China, including the mainland and Outer Mongolia, which had become a Soviet satellite as a result of Moscow entering the war against Japan. In keeping with that claim to represent all China, when the GMD fled to Taipei in 1949, it re-established the full array of central political bodies that had existed on the mainland in its wartime capital Nanjing.

While much of this governmental structure remained in place, in 1991 president Lee Teng-hui unofficially abandoned the ROC government's claim of sovereignty over the mainland, stating that the Taiwan authorities do not "dispute the fact that the communists control mainland China". The National Assembly, however, never has officially changed the national borders, since doing so would spell the de jure end of the ROC and be seen as a prelude to Taiwan independence. National Assembly members were anti-communists but they were not traitors. They had no interest in allowing the dismemberment of any part of China.

Taipei: Either the government of all China or nothing

A fundamental issue is at stake. A government cannot selectively claim only a minor, offshore part of the larger nation. It is either the government of all China, inter-party disputes of legitimacy notwithstanding, or it is not a government of China at all.

If the Taiwan authorities do not claim to be the legitimate government of China, they also forfeit their own legitimacy even as a provincial government of Taiwan, since Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, a fact acknowledged by both the GMD and the CCP, the certified participants in the political dispute.

The whole notion of reunification of Taiwan is flawed and misleading. The Taiwan issue is the product of a civil war between two political parties, not two governments. What is needed is not a reunification of Taiwan with China, but a new political accommodation between the GMD and the CCP to end the protracted civil war. There were two previous periods of cooperation between the two parties and there is no reason a third period of cooperation cannot be arranged. Under GMD control, Taiwan is a de facto and de jure part of China. There is nothing to reunite. Throughout the modern history of China, there have been many examples of more than one government existing simultaneously on Chinese soil - but there has been always only one China.

The National Assembly of the ROC, elected on the mainland in 1947 to carry out the duties of choosing the president and amending the constitution, was transferred to Taiwan when the ROC government fled the mainland. Because after 1949 it was impossible to hold subsequent elections to represent constituencies on the mainland, representatives elected in 1947 held these seats "indefinitely" as a temporary measure until the anticipated return to the mainland.

In June 1990, the Council of Grand Justices, the equivalent of a supreme court, faced reality - there was no prospect for a return to the mainland. And therefore the council mandated the retirement, effective December 1991, of all surviving "indefinitely tenured" members of the National Assembly, Legislative Yuan, and other national governmental bodies.

The second National Assembly, elected in 1991, was a provincial legislative body, not a national one. It has no legitimate mandate to decide on national issues, including the election of a national president. This second National Assembly amended the constitution in 1994 illegally and unconstitutionally, paving the way for the unconstitutional direct election of the national offices of president and vice president of the ROC. Local elections were then held on Taiwan in March 1996. This unconstitutional second National Assembly retained the authority to further amend the constitution, to recall or impeach the president and the vice president, and to ratify certain senior-level presidential appointments.

In April 2000, the members of the National Assembly voted to permit their terms of office to expire without holding new elections, in effect dissolving the body as a standing institution. The members also determined that such an election would be called in the event the National Assembly would be needed to decide a presidential recall or a constitutional amendment. In recent years, the National Assembly has handed most of its powers to the Legislative Yuan, including the power of impeachment. The National Assembly in essence became defunct, revoking with it the legitimacy of the new government of the ROC.

Taiwan, like Hawaii, can't amend the constitution

This is equivalent to the US Congress being replaced because the state legislature of Hawaii votes to amend the US constitution without the required approval of the requisite number of states. Taiwan's political and legislative machinations are analogous to Hawaii's state legislature disbanding a duly elected Congress and to declaring that the territories of the United States would thereafter be limited to the islands of Hawaii - and eventually be known as the Republic of Hawaii. The US on the mainland, according to this Taiwanesque scenario, would be viewed by the new Republic of Hawaii as a foreign country. In other words: illegal secession.

As the National Assembly passed legislation in 1994 to allow for local popular elections on Taiwan of national offices, the Legislative Yuan in 1994 passed legislation to allow the direct election of the governor of Taiwan province and the mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung municipalities. These elections were held in December 1994, with the GMD winning the governor's office and Kaohsiung's mayoral post. The DPP won the Taipei mayoral position. In 1998, GMD candidate Ma Ying-jeou regained the mayoralty of Taipei by defeating the opposition DPP's most prominent figure - Chen Shui-bian, who is now the illegal president of the ROC.

The position of elected governor and many other elements of the Taiwan provincial government were eliminated by presidential fiat at the end of 1998. The stated official purpose of this move was to streamline administrative efficiency, but in reality it was intended to weaken the political base of governor James Soong. In the November 1997 local elections, the DPP won 12 of the 23 county magistrate and city mayoral contests to the GMD's eight, outpolling the GMD for the first time in a major election.

Soong was GMD secretary general from 1989-93. Despite his mainland provenance, Soong was widely seen as a loyal supporter of Lee Teng-hui and an opponent of the mainlander strongholds, the New Kuomintang Alliance and the New Party. In support of Soong, Lee coined the term "New Taiwanese" to describe a person born on the mainland, raised on Taiwan, and calling Taiwan home. Obviously, in keeping with the favorite-son doctrine, the demographics of local elections naturally favor local candidates in all elections. If Texas voters alone could elect a US president through local elections in Texas, a Texan would win the presidential race, although a president so elected would not be constitutionally legitimate.

In 1993 Soong was the first and only directly elected governor of Taiwan province. He was an effective campaigner and his good showing in the governor's race ended hopes by the DPP of a so-called Boris] Yeltsin effect, by which a locally elected governor antagonistic to a national political structure would command more influence than a national government unpopular with the local population. Soong's position was eliminated in 1998 after a National Development Council meeting in 1996, when the NDC suggested that the governmental structure of the Republic of China be streamlined and the Taiwan provincial government be abolished to remove administrative redundancy.

This was a political move by then-president Lee Teng-hui to cut off Soong's power base and at the same time to elevate the status of Taiwan from that of a Chinese province to that of "one China, one Taiwan". Yet there is no democratic principle that supports any right of local voters on Taiwan to determine this or any other national issue, which only can be decided by all voters in all of China. One common belief on Taiwan is that Lee Teng-hui favored the less popular vice president, Lien Chan, over the highly popular Soong, in a deliberate effort to sabotage GMD election chances.

Taiwan polls for national office are illegitimate

Lien Chan is less popular with local voters on Taiwan mainly because he is a mainlander and as such always faces a disadvantage in local provincial elections. But Lien Chan, or any other candidate running for national office, would not have to face any local election at all if the original National Assembly had not been illegally disbanded. Others familiar with Taiwan politics believe Lee feared that Soong if elected would expose the corruption during Lee's tenure, and undermine Lee's carefully nurtured legacy as a promoter of democracy.

More important, by illegally disbanding the National Assembly, Lee rendered all Taiwan elections for national office illegitimate. By denying GMD political control of Taiwan, Lee unwittingly ended the Chinese civil war between the GMD and the CCP - by making the GMD politically irrelevant. Deprived of political control of any Chinese territory, the GMD ceased to exist as a political force of consequence and the Chinese civil war between two contending political parties was at an end - for lack of a certifiable contender.

Taiwan is now occupied by an illegitimate authority that both the GMD and the CCP have a common interest in eliminating. It also makes a mockery of the official US position on Taiwan, which aims to preserve the so-called status quo of Taiwan and to oppose any unilateral changes. The status quo was GMD control of Taiwan, through the government of the ROC. This status quo has been unconstitutional, fundamentally and unilaterally changed by the use of local elections for national offices.

Unless and until the US de-recognizes the usurpation of national offices of the ROC by unconstitutional local elections, the "one China" policy professed by the US is mere hypocrisy. The issue is not local democracy; the issue is illegitimate usurpation.

A recent controversy involving the illegal 1994 ROC constitution is the right to referendum, which is enshrined in that new constitution. Although the right is constitutionally permitted, implementing legislation had been blocked by the pan-blue coalition - largely from suspicions that proponents of a referendum law would use it to overturn even the illegal new ROC constitution and provide a legalistic means for declaring Taiwan independence.

In 2003, Chen Shui-bian, the illegally elected president, proposed holding a referendum in 2006 for implementation of an entirely new constitution on May 20, 2008, to coincide with the inauguration of the 12th president of the ROC, and the 54th anniversary of the first inauguration of Jiang Jie-shi as president. Proponents of such a move, namely the DPP-led pan-green coalition, play to the US anti-communist fixation and argue that the constitution endorses a socialist ideology - the Three People's Principles proclaimed by Sun Yat-sen, the GMD founder, as the founding principles of the GMD and the ROC.

Such socialist principles, they argue, are only "precedented" in communist countries. Furthermore, the current constitution explicitly states: "To meet the requisites of the nation prior to national unification ..." in direct opposition to the pan-green agenda of keeping Taiwan separated from the mainland under all circumstances.

The pan-blue coalition has also come up with its own constitutional reform proposals, but for implementation in 2005. This position changes the nature of the unfinished Chinese civil war between the GMD and the CCP, and compels the PRC into actions to protect the territorial integrity of China. On this issue, the CCP and the GMD, as well as the PRC and the ROC, are of one mind. Notwithstanding the illegality of the new constitution, a referendum on the status of Taiwan, aside from its controversial constitutionality, can only be valid if it is held on all of China, including the mainland, and not just held on Chinese Taiwan.