Taiwan Was Never Part of China's Civil Wars: Part II

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Saturday March 07, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

During World War II, the US bombed Japan's colony of Taiwan regularly, and had considered an invasion of the island but chose instead to invade Okinawa. Later with the dropping of the atom bombs, Japan announced its surrender on August 15, 1945 and formally surrendered on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945 (V-J-Day). What then would become of Japan's colony of Taiwan? That was 1945; it would be another seven years before the San Francisco Peace Treaty would be ratified in 1952. The Chinese Civil War between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) allegedly ended in 1949. Here then the murkiness begins.

In Part I, we had seen that the Manchus had expanded their empire by conquering and adding to it China, Tibet, Mongolia, Xinjiang, and part of the island of Taiwan. The Manchus gave their empire the name of Qing and among other things required that all have the Manchu queue. The Qing lost the part of Taiwan and Penghu they had conquered to Japan in the war of 1895.

Some sixteen years later in 1911, a Chinese coup began a series of secessions from the Manchu Empire that would bring its downfall. In China, its secession began a continuous Civil War and struggle for power between varying and changing factions. Also in 1911, Mongolia used this turmoil in the Manchu empire to win back its freedom. And in 1912, Tibet followed suit.

While China had staged its own revolt against the Manchu Qing Empire, and sought to "restore the Ming Empire," of Han Chinese, China did not want to return to the borders of the Ming Empire. Instead, China wanted to possess and control the other kingdoms that the Manchus had conquered as well. It wanted Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjian. China twisted this to say that these countries should return to the "motherland" though if there ever was any motherland to talk of, it would have been the motherland of the Manchu Empire not the Han, or should we go back to the borders of the Mongol Empire (termed the Yuan Dynasty).

Taiwan was not considered at this time since it was already a part of Japan. As things played out Mongolia had support from Russia and was able to maintain its freedom. Tibet was not as lucky. Britain which controlled India did not support Tibet as Russia had supported Mongolia. It sought rather to divide Tibet between it and China to preempt any Russian influence in that area. Xinjiang was not that unified and so had no support from any of its neighbors.

Fast forward then from the early 1900s to the end of World War II. After Japan had surrendered, the US forces landed on Taiwan in early September 1945; they liberated and transported the Allied prisoners of war (POWs) that had been in 15 Japanese POW camps there. They later ferried soldiers of Chiang Kai-shek's army to Taiwan as a caretaker force.

In China, after initial truce talks begun in early 1946 failed, the Civil War between the forces of Chiang Kai-shek's Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Mao Zedong's Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continued. At first things went well for the KMT but then the tide turned and they lost heavily. The People's Republic of China (PRC) was established on October 1, 1949, and by the end of 1949, the KMT had no where to run to except Taiwan.

What then was the situation of Taiwan which had always been outside China's Civil War? The San Francisco Peace Treaty (1952), which officially ended World War II, would state that Japan would surrender certain possessions including the islands of Penghu and Taiwan, but it never stated to whom.

The Constitution of the Republic of China (ROC) drawn up in 1947 had claimed that Taiwan was a part of the ROC, but why then did the San Francisco Peace Treaty not grant Taiwan to the ROC? That same ROC Constitution also claimed that Mongolia and Tibet are a part of the ROC, but Russia called its bluff when it supported Mongolia's entry into the United Nations as an independent nation and the ROC backed off of vetoing it. The lack of designation of the San Francisco Peace Treaty on Taiwan is the basis for the claim of a recent lawsuit by Lin/Hartzell in the US Court of Appeals that Taiwan is still officially under the jurisdiction of the US Military. Is this the case? The US State Department when pressed on the issue of Taiwan will only say that the Taiwan question is still "undecided."

The PRC flag has never flown over Taiwan but the PRC claims that Taiwan belongs to it. Back in 1936, Mao had advocated the independence of Taiwan but that was when Taiwan was a part of Japan. Now that Chiang Kai-shek resided there Mao claimed Taiwan belonged to China. That China would resort to such claims is normal for a Machiavellian, one-party state seeking to expand its power base. That academics would support such a claim could be considered disingenuous, lazy or even the seeking of certain perks for doing research in China.

Taiwan could be said to have indirectly participated in China's Civil War in that the KMT stripped it of any and every thing in food and materials that it could use to foster its losing Civil War in China. Likewise many Taiwanese were conscripted and forced to fight on the KMT's side in that war, but Taiwan itself has always been separate. In history, Taiwan has been many things, a pawn, a by-stander, an exploited land and a place of refuge. The KMT was driven out of China, and sought refuge on Taiwan. It became a government in exile, a government which repaid the island that accepted it with forty years of martial law and white terror.

Nevertheless the canard exists that Taiwan and China split after the Civil War in 1949. The muddy waters do not end there. From a different perspective, has the Civil War ended? In 1991, Lee Teng-hui as President declared the end of the "Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion." It appears that the Civil War has finally ended from the side of the ROC government in exile, but has the PRC responded to this with its own cessation? It still threatens force to resolve its claims.

Further, the current president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou tries to claim at least in theory that the ROC is China according to the 1947 Constitution and imply that the Civil War ended in a stalemate. Ma operates out of a land of make-believe by that same Constitution which still claims Mongolia as part of mother China. On the other side of the Strait, the PRC has given up claiming Mongolia as part of mother China.

This then brings up the issue of what is "one China" with its multiple interpretations by the PRC, the ROC, the USA, the United Nations, the countries that recognize the PRC, the 23 countries that recognize Taiwan and the Taiwanese themselves. For the Taiwanese it is simple, Taiwan through severe struggle was able to regain control of the island, and dispatch of the one-party rule of the exiled KMT. It has become an independent democracy with four successive presidential elections and three transfers of power. There is one China and there is one Taiwan. As for Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang, that gets us into another kettle of fish. It also is complex, but please no more canards like that of saying that Taiwan and China split after China's Civil War.