CHINA’S FUTURE – SOVEREIGNTY AND FEDERALISM

I

The question of the origin of the people of Taiwan can be answered with some certainty. The majority originates in Fukien province on mainland China. In addition there is a substantial number of ”mainlanders” who came to Taiwan after 1949. Then there are nine major tribal groups of indigenous inhabitants. But what about Taiwan as a part of China?

It is true that from 1683 to 1895 Taiwan was under the careless and weak control of the Manchu dynasty in far-off Peking. Officials representing Peking lived in a few towns on the island and squeezed the farmers in a way typical of central Chinese bureaucrats. They gave Taiwan nothing and took everything. Besides there were fifteen major rebellions between 1683 and 1843.

Before the Japanese occupied Taiwan in 1895 Formosa was proclaimed an independent republic, the first Asian republic. The new republic did recognize the suzerainty of the Emperor of China and regarded itself as a tributary State to China, but there was no question of Chinese sovereignty. Independent Taiwan was shortlived but ’Taiwan Min-chu Kuo’ is often overlooked by historians.

The Japanese saw the Taiwanese as a colonial people and few Japanese moved there. The Japanese were either in the armed forces, in Government service, or directors of industrial enterprises set up. But Taiwan was never pacified:

”…from the day the Japanese occupied the island in 1895 until they left in 1945…the number of arrested [Taiwanese] for attempts to overthrow the Japanese was never less than 8, 200 [1895 to 1920] …During the entire occupation there were nineteen major uprisings…By day the people toiled and sweated under the watchful eyes of their Japanese masters, but at night their choicest sons gathered in their poets’ clubs to talk and sing about the coming revolution”.

Following the Japanese defeat and surrender in 1945 Taiwan was retroceded to the Republic of China on October 25. After occupation by the Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, Manchus, and Japanese, Taiwan was again under Chinese control. In 1949 the Republic of China moved to Taipei. Economic aid flowed from the United States and a higly successful land reform program in 1953 laid the ground for an uncomparable Taiwanese economic development.

In 2000 the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the presidential election and Chen Shui-bian was installed as president. Already in 1999 the DPP National Congress had passed a resolution acknowledging that Taiwan, with the Republic of China as its formal national title, has been a sovereign country, and that this status can only be altered through a democratic process. Opinion polls have confirmed that 75 to 80 percent of the people of Taiwan reject PRC’s ”one country, two systems” model

for unification and more than 80 percent of the people consider Taiwan, the Republic of China, an independent sovereign country.

II

Thus it is never in doubt that Taiwan, Republic of China, is a sovereign nation. PRC has, has however, repeatedly claimed that it has sovereignty. In 1996 Li Peng stated that ”China has indisputable sovereignty over Taiwan”. In 1998 the PRC director of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office repeated ”that China has sovereignty over Taiwan.” These statements continued during 1999. Now it was the Communist Chinese Party Central Office for Taiwan Affairs:

China has sovereignty over Taiwan – and this fact remains unchanged. The two sides are de facto one China.

Finally in 2000 the PRC State Council Taiwan Affairs Office said that ”China has sovereignty over Taiwan [which] remains unchanged…”

Sovereignty is a term of international law and in state law independence. It is that which makes a state a subject in international law. Politically the term is a description of the independence of a state in relation to other states and its equality in relation to these states.

No other conclusion can be drawn from the PRC statements above that they do not describe the true status of Taiwan according to existing legal doctrines.

If Taiwan was to accept the sovereignty of Peking it would not longer have the ability to decide over what could be described as the basic meaning of the concept: ”Sovereign is he who decides on the emergency situation.” 5) The decision would be made in Peking.

III

The European Union is an attempt by democracies to integrate through peaceful negotations and mutual trust. It must be accomplished with the consent of each European people. Every step is evaluated and approved by the citizens. Under no circumstances duress can be applied. The integration process has started with economic cooperation and freedom of movement across the borders. Opinions of small countries are respected and on January 1, 2002, the process takes another step by issuing banknotes of a common currency to replace older ones. But it has been a long process in reality starting not long after Word War II. The final goal might, in the view of some politicians, be a federal system with a president and a federal parliament.

Germany’s social democrat president, Johannes Rau, in September, 2000, called for the adoption of a European constitution stating that a project was needed to replace seven treaties with 13 amendments and 25 changes. This was not understandable to the European peoples. Also the goal of a federal System is not to concentrate power, but to delegate:

Natürlich führt der europäische Einigungsprozess dazu, dass jeder Mitgliedstaat auf einen Teil Souveränität zugunsten gemeinschaftlichen Handelns verzichten muss…die Globalisierung [hat] die Souveränität der Nationalstaaten gravierend aushöhlt und dass das in einem demokratisch unkontrollierten Prozess geschieht.

Die Erweiterung und die dafür nötigen Voraussetzungen führen uns überdeutlich vor Augen, dass die Verfahren, nach denen Europa bisher gebaut und gesteuert wurde, reformbedürftig sind.

Gemeinsam mit dem italienischen Staatspräsidenten Ciampi habe ich die Schirmherrschaft für eine Konferenz europäischer Forschungsinstitute im November 2000 in Mailand übernommen, bei der den notwendigen Bestandteile einer europäischen Verfassung erörtert werden sollen: die Grundrechtscharta, ein europäische Kompetenzkatalog in klarer Abgrenzung zu nationalen und regionalen Kompetenzen und europäische Institutionen, die demokratische legitimation und politische Handlungsfähigkeit miteinander verbinden.

President Rau continued to state that the first part of a constitution would be a charter of basic rights. What about the second part:

Worum muss es im zweiten Teil der Verfassung gehen? Wir müssen präzise festlegen und abgrenzen, wer in Europa für welche Entscheidungen zuständig ist.

Die drei Abschnitte der Verfassung – Grundrechtskatalog, Zuständigkeitsregelungen und Verhältnis der Institutionen – geben einem Europa Gestalt, wie wir es uns für morgen wünschen können; ein Zusammenschluss von Staaten, die einen Teil ihrer Hoheitsrechte gemeinschaftlichen Einrichtungen übertragen, damit sie durch gemeinsames Handeln Souveränität und praktische Handlungsfähigkeit zurückgewinnen.

An alternative to a constitution of the European Union, which is necessary, could until then be a ”reorganisation of the Treaties”. The first part would list all constitutional regulations in a way understandable to every citizen. The second part would comprise the regulations of implementation.

Could this be a model for integration of Taiwan and PRC? First the matter of the political system of the PRC would have to be taken into account. PRC is not a political democracy but a one party state ruled in effect by the Chinese Communist Party. An integration of Taiwan with such a state could not follow the European example. The European Union is based on the existence of parliamentary democracy in all states. Secondly, even under those circumstances, there remains the problem of the member states handing over all or part of their sovereignty to a commission or government based in Brussels. At present the European Commission is not elected by the peoples of the union through a majority of the members of the European parliament. So under the present circumstances the European Union is not fully based on democratic rules. With a federal constitution and a commission responsible to a European parliament these flaws in the democratic structure could be rectified.

This of course does not mean that at some time in the future the European Union, if it fullfills all democratic demands, could be a model for the integration between Taiwan and China. But that means that both partners in the latter integration must be democracies. At this time only Taiwan is a fullfledged democracy while PRC remains a one-party state controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

IV

At the writing of this manuscript the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Shanghai has been completed. Taiwan correctly boycotted, after PRC refused to accept former Vice President Li Yuan-zu, after Peking repeatedly refused to accept President Chen to attend himself. Taiwan was also barred from an anti-terrorism ministerial meeting.

At Shanghai the PRC formula for reunification was repeated at a meeting between President George W. Bush and China’s Jiang Zemin on October 19: We hope that the United States adhere to the one-China principle and abide by the three Sino-U.S. joint communiques. President Bush reaffirmed that the U.S. government pursued the principle and the communiques.

Although progress has been made in the field of U.S. defense of Taiwan and willingness to sell military equipment, the one-China formula still seems to be the basis for USA-PRC relations. Former United States President Ronald Reagan commented as far back as 1978 on the interpretation of the Taiwan formula:

Commenting on the risks of treaties he said:

Let’s take an agreement which while not a formal treaty was still a joint communique between the heads of state of 2 nations enunciating a policy. I’m talking about the Shanghai communique that climaxed the visit of an American Pres. to the Peoples Republic of China a few years ago. In looking at it one is apt to be more confused than enlightened.

The Chinese made a statement with regard to our long time ally the Free Republic of China on Taiwan, that it, quote ”opposes the creation of 2 Chinas, and independent Taiwan or a seperate solution” unquote. The U.S, in turn, says quote ”that it does not challenge that view.” To Americans this was plain English that meant we neither agreed nor disagreed – we simply avoided the issue.

Unfortunately it is not that easy & simple. The Chinese translation of the phrase, ”does not challenge” is taken to mean that because we make no objection we agree with Chinas position. Then there is a sentence to the effect that there should be a peaceful solution to the problem of Taiwan. We would interpret that to mean that Peking won’t launch an attack or try to conquer Taiwan by force of arms. Again Peking denies that this language binds them to seek a peaceful solution.

These comments by Ronald Reagan before he became president no doubt shows that there could be a misinterpretation of the Shanghai communiques. It would really be deplorable if the U.S. one-China policy at least partly is based on an incorrect interpretation of the texts.

V

A step forward was made in 2001 the ROC accession to the World Trade Organization. President Chen Shui-bian rightly concluded that: ”as an independent sovereign country, the ROC” 10) would comply with the World Trade Organization ”and would actively participate in all WTO activities ”under the principle of equal participation”. No observer can seriously consider the PRC designation ”Chinese Taipei” forced upon the WTO by Peking.

It is to keep in mind that Iraq, Iran, Libya and Pakistan have developed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons with the aid of PRC. China is only too happy to use the struggle against international terrorism for its own purposes, although verbally supporting the coalition. The present ad hoc alliance between the United States and Pakistan can be used by the Chinese government to pressure India, which is regarded as one of the competitors of PRC in Asia. A move toward peaceful relations between India and Pakistan would remove opportunities for Peking destabilization. It is also important to point out to Russia that it must reduce its sales of advanced weapons to China. By providing help to build a stable, democratic, and free market the reliance of Moscow on weapons export can also be reduced.

Chinese attacks on American hegemony continue after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In 1999 two PRC colonels, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, published a text on ”War Without Limits”. The basic thesis was that attacks can be undertaken that go beyond the scope of military warfare but achieves the objectives of fighting a war:

The series of attacks taking place in the United States were very dreary and terrifying, but they must not be viewed from a single perspective. While the thousands of innocent people killed or injured in the attacks were victims of terrorism, they also were victims of US foreign policy. The September 11, 2001 very likely is the beginning of the decline of the United States, as a superpower.

The attacks demonstrated the United States’ fragility and weakness and showed that essentially it is unable to stand attacks. The National Missile Defense [NMD] system cannot save it. The United States, a giant ‘tiger,’ has been dealing with mice; unexpectedly, this time it was bitten by ‘mice’; it has been wielding a large hammer but has been unable to find the flea. From a short-term perspective, the attacks in the United States will very likely have some effect on China’s economy — they might affect China’s economic growth. However, from a long-term viewpoint, they could be favorable to China.”

These views expressed by the Chinese military no doubt reflects the basic attitude of PRC. There is interest in Peking to take advantage of trade as strengthening the economy. In this respect it is important for the leadership to retain good relations with the United States. But there is an undercurrent of belief that any weakening of the United States could be an advantage in the long term for PRC.

It is important, therefore, to view the continued cross strait relations between ROC and PRC in the light of realistic politics. No doubt there is value in continued expansion of contacts between the two nations but at the same time caution is recommended. There is an interest in Peking in a weakened Republic of China. As relations unfold vigilance is important. PRC’s long term strategy remains. It is a regional policy to weaken the influence of the United States to be able to achieve sovereignty over the Republic China as soon as possible.

An economic slump for PRC may mean growing aggressive nationalistic behaviour from Peking. There is reason for the Republic of China to be on its guard. Meanwhile it is important to look ahead for the possibly biggest victim of the September 11 attacks. The People’s Republic of China.

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