Antithesis – Taiwan’s Ineligibility Due To Historical Antecedents and Attributing Reasons
The PRC remains firm in its assertion that they are the sole legitimate ruling body that can lay claim over Taiwan. Historical antecedents provide the most compelling gist for the PRC’s framework in arguing that it has jurisdiction over the island. Jianming Shen, quoted as saying, “Taiwan has been part of China since ancient times” (2000, p. 1005), resolutely stands by the historical premise the mainlanders have stood by throughout their contest. For several times, rulers from the mainland renamed the island several times – a feat which highly reflects early strait interactions (Shen, 2000, pp. 1005-1108). Events leading to the 20th century have seen the rise and fall of Japanese rule over some Chinese territories, including Taiwan. The Chinese government, in the course of World War II, voided the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which effected Japan’s acquisition of Chinese territories that comprised the island (Shen, 2000, p. 1108). In this case, it appears that the PRC based its stand on the then-ruling government’s integrity to tighten its hold on the island, citing history as a tool to impress on their claim’s credibility.
Following the PRC’s historical argument are legal contentions seeking to fortify its claim. Firstly, Shen emphasized on history as an emphasis on PRC’s legal stand on the issue. Justifying that Taiwan experienced “particularly strong and continuous” relations with the succeeding mainland governments compared to other territories under the same breadth throughout history, it would appear that the PRC would not back down on its claim (Shen, 2000, p. 1109). The Shimonoseki Treaty’s lack of effect as stated earlier delivers another earnest foundation to the legal aspect of its stand. The PRC’s establishment in 1949 abolished treaties it deemed as “unequal”, including Shimonoseki. Furthermore, Japan and the ROC organized a 1952 peace treaty rendering all Japanese agreements with China unenforceable (Shen, 2000, pp. 1111-1112). The Cairo/Potsdam Declarations further fortified PRC’s assertion of right over dominion of Taiwan. Saying that Japan must return its acquired territories if it gets defeated in World War II, the ascribing consequence convincingly fulfilled the conditions of the declaration, rendering prima facie the PRC as the favorable side in Taiwan’s sovereignty question (Shen, 2000, pp. 1112-1114). Japan further reiterated its pronouncement on releasing its territorial acquisitions back to the original jurisdictions in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty and the 1952 Peace Treaty (Shen, 2000, pp. 1114-1117).
Critical to Taiwan’s assessment as an entity rightful under the control of the PRC is the international recognition that followed the aforementioned ideas. According to proponents of mainland claims, the legal effects of the treaties provide an international scope of recognition. The recognition given by over 160 nations as well as countless international organizations further support the PRC’s claim. The “one-China” recognition given by nations assigns a subsequent argument that those who chose to support such stand are against the legitimacy of the ROC (Shen, 2000, pp. 1117-1125).
Thesis – Taiwan’s Eligibility Based on International Law
While the points above provide a challenging front to the statehood question of Taiwan, reasonable grounds providing effective objections to the points above gives the island a potential foundation for its establishment of a formally-independent state. Cross-strait pressures notwithstanding, principles under international law provide the right direction in coming up to an independent Taiwan state conclusion. Christopher Carolan provided two key points in response to the PRC’s concerns –the first one being the background insufficiency in establishing mainland claims and the second one being the inadequacy of historical positions on treaties presented earlier (2000, p. 450).
The 1993 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States formally qualified the key elements in determining eligibility for statehood. The first out of six is a challenge on maintaining population growth. In terms of population, Taiwan is a clear candidate as it has more than 21 million people – a figure that is larger than most UN member-states (Carolan, 2000, p. 451). The second one, pertaining to clear territorial definition, does not need further justification as Taiwan claims the whole island as its boundaries (Carolan, 2000, pp. 451-452). The existence of the ROC satisfies the third element specified in the Convention - government, which bases its legitimacy through a national constitution drafted in 1947 (Carolan, 2000, p. 454). The ROC, as follows, engages in diplomatic relations with nations. Foreign relations - the fourth element in this context, can be seen through the observation that the ruling government in Taiwan is capable of establishing foreign linkages (Carolan, 2000, pp. 454-455). Subsequent studies have revealed that Taiwan has nurtured a system that observes human rights and full democratic principles – an “ancillary criteria” under the Convention (Carolan, 2000, pp. 455-456). The fact that Taiwan exists as a de-facto state brings forth its value of formal recognition as a nation independent from the PRC. A formal declaration of independence, whereas necessary and discretionary on the ROC’s part, can activate dissent from the mainland – an event sought to be avoided by the international community. The PRC’s “no interaction” policy against states which will choose to recognize an independent Taiwan places the nation at odds with coming up with their firm stand on the issue. Thus, most nations end up establishing informal relations with the ROC (Carolan, 2000, pp. 457-458).
With the way Taiwan is progressing, it would further appear as a more convincing case of a state deserving of independence. The PRC, which is highly suspected of plans to instigate military response to Taiwanese belligerence in the form of an official declaration of independence from the ROC, could end up incurring costly consequences. On a similar note, aggression will place the PRC’s global position in jeopardy, as the international community does not favor violence by default in any shape as a form of response to critical issues (Carolan, 2000, p. 465-467).
Taiwan possesses key factors to become eligible towards statehood. While the arguments pressed by the PRC are undoubtedly strong on the outset due to seemingly established historical underpinnings, a closer look on the nature of those antecedent facts would reveal that its case for ruling over the island does not pose a concrete assertion of their claim. It would seem that scholars would continue to refute a Taiwan under PRC due to the insufficient elaboration of the latter of its historical claims and the contextual nature of the past treaties involving the island. Transcending further to that idea is the fitness of Taiwan to become eligible under the criteria provided by the 1993 Montevideo Convention. The only requirement that needs to be fulfilled now is the formal declaration of independence coming from the ROC – an event which would provoke controversial thoughts and questions within the international community, particularly due to the PRC’s “one-China” stance and its militaristic means.
While an independent Taiwan remains a possibility to this day, a Taiwan unified with the PRC is also not out of the scene. Yet, the feasibility of such a reunion poses several controversies. It can be admitted that both entities have strived to communicate not just on political grounds but also on economic aspects, yet as George Crane has stated, “a fully integrated Greater China has yet to be achieved” (1993, p. 722). There is a further avowal stating that the sovereignty issue is responsible for hindrances to reunification efforts – one that also describes Taiwan’s independence movements (Crane, 1993, p. 722). Economic cooperation between the two entities appears to be a catalyst for progress in their relationship. Nevertheless, no one has yet to see the effects of such development on the aspect of Taiwan’s clamor for independence, despite being legitimate for the status of an independent state. Crane recognizes the sensitive nature of any bonds between Taiwan and the PRC, to which he related that “to maintain their individual identities of China and Taiwan” would seem better (1993, p.723)
Carolan, C. (2000). “Republic of Taiwan": A legal-historical justification for a Taiwanese declaration of independence. New York University Law Review, 75, 429-468.
Crane, G. (1993). China and Taiwan: Not yet “greater China”. International Affairs, 69 (4), 705-723.
Shen, J. (2000). Sovereignty, statehood, self-determination, and the issue of Taiwan. American University Intramural Law Review, 15, 1101-1161.