Is Taiwan a country or not? Why does China claim it is part of China?
We going to talk about Taiwan today And this is one of the most heated debates these days. Will there be a war in Taiwan? Is the question on many people's minds. I mean, we saw what happened in Ukraine and we can assume that if we've watched what happened the last weeks between China and the US in the region, well, the same thing could happen in Taiwan. And so why does China really want to reunify Taiwan with the mainland? And why do Taiwanese and many people in America and in the West these days believe that Taiwan should be a country and separate from the mainland? Why is that tension happening? And so I'm going to give you a little bit context of history and changes that happened. To understand, is Taiwan a country? Is it part of China? Is it a province? And as I call it, why I believe China sees Taiwan as the last missing piece of the puzzle. This is what I've explained in my book.
And so for China, it's really critical to reunite Taiwan with China, and they will do it, whether we like it or not. How is a very different question now? Where is Taiwan? Because we're always talking about Tyburn, but do we actually know where Taiwan is? Well, 1.4 billion Chinese, including all the Taiwanese, know exactly where Taiwan is. It's 130 to 180 kilometers apart from the mainland opposite the province of Fujian in the south east of China.
And so it's very clear where Taiwan is. And 99% of the Chinese people, of course, the 1% is the Taiwanese do not believe that Taiwan should not be part of China. So all of them believe that Taiwan is just part of China. There's no doubt in their minds. But what about us in the West? Well, a survey was done just recently, and only 34% of all the people in America that were in that survey knew exactly where to pinpoint Taiwan. So we don't really know where Taiwan is, but we feel that Taiwan should not become part of the greater China. Now, what is this all about? Now, I'm not going to go into detail on who's right and who's wrong. I'm just going to talk
more about contextually answer the question Was Taiwan ever part of China? Because that is a critical question before we can actually debate who it belongs to. And so if we go back in history, what we see is that for thousands of years, up to 1642, the Taiwanese indigenous people were ruling the island. I mean, ruling is a big word because there were kind of like indigenous people with different clans and tribes. And as the Dutch and the Spanish who colonized the area later said, they weren't very civilized. So a very different.
You couldn't call this a country. That's a fact. But the reality is that these people were actually the original people from Taiwan. The picture that you see here is a picture taken, taken in 1942 where the Japanese were ruling Taiwan. And what they really wanted is to eradicate this whole identity of Taiwanese indigenous people. It was almost a genocide.
So when many people in Taiwan say, yeah, we want to Taiwanese identity and we have that Taiwanese identity, well, that was the same identity Japan wanted to kill. So we have to know this also to understand, because from the 13th century onwards, the Chinese from the mainland were immigrating slowly, one by one, to the island. And so from the 13th century on, yes, China was actually immigrating more and more towards the Taiwanese islands. And so they became a little bit a mixed society over time. But in 6024, the Dutch and the Spanish actually tried to colonize the island, and so they were present in the island and they set up rules and they tried to civilize these indigenous people. That was the idea for about 40 years.
They were present in that region and more and more Chinese also went there during that time. But at that time you couldn't call it a Chinese territory yet. But it changed in 1662 because in 1662 Kinga, the Western name for Chin Tiangong, Chinese name, the Prince of Yan Ping, he was ruling around the area of Fujian, went to the island of Taiwan. And what he did is he established his own kingdom of Taiwan. He became the king of Taiwan, and he
kicked the Dutch out. Now, that is the first moment he was a Ming loyalist and the first moment that actually the Chinese were trying or could say, we're ruling the island. And at that point, he really said very clearly in a statement that this island, Taiwan, had.
Always belonged to the Chinese, to China. And that is an important statement because at that point it was like set in stone that Taiwan is part of China. Now, this is long, long time ago, 400 years ago. But that is the moment where basically he said that the Dutch had doubtless been permitted to live in Taiwan, the Taiwanese island.
But seeing that the Chinese did not require it for themselves, so they didn't really want it. But since the 13th century they've always considered it being part of China, but they required it now in 60, 62. And so it was only fair for the Dutch, the strangers who came from very far away to give it back to the masters of the island, which was China. So in that statement, in generally you
could say that from 1662 onwards, actually Taiwan belonged to China. From a Chinese point of view, I have to add that and for about 20 years, Taiwan was part of the Taiwanese island, was part of the Ming Dynasty. But that's the interesting part there, because the Ming Dynasty already started in 1644, the Qing dynasty, it started already in 1644.
The Ming Dynasty already died, most of it at least, but some of it was still remaining. And this is one of the last ones. And so in 1684, the whole reunification of China under the Manchus from the north east of China was complete. What that means is that China, under the Qing Dynasty from 1644 to 1911, was actually ruled by the invaders from the north east. And so for 200 years, Taiwan became part of the Ching empire.
And so even under crushing, actually the Ching empire was already ruling most of China at that point. And so from a Chinese point of view, for more than 200 years, Taiwan clearly had been part of China and mostly of the Qing Dynasty. But from a Taiwanese point of view, very often they say, Yeah, but we were part of a dynasty that was invaded itself by the Manchus. So that wasn't really China.
Was it China? Was it not China? I mean, debating tomatoes and tomatoes. But the reality is that at this stage for most Chinese, it's clear for 200 years it has been part of China. And so that's something to consider.
Now, in 1885, that's the moment and the only moment where the Taiwanese island became an official province of the mainland, an efficient province of the Qing Dynasty. And so you could say that for real, Taiwan has been part of China for at least these ten years as being an independent province, part of the whole Chinese empire, I mean, dependent province, of course. And so this is the real situation. So for the Chinese, there's no doubt in their minds. Now, in night, in 1895, something happened. This was the first treaty of Shimonoseki, and the Treaty of Shimonoseki is basically the end of the first Sino-Japanese war.
And what happened there is that the Japanese and the Chinese, the Qing Empire, were fighting specifically over Korea and other regions, and it was clearly that the power balance shifted from China as being the big empire to Japan being the big empire of the end of the 19th century. And so Japan won. And they treat it. They they forced the Ching empires to actually sign a treaty.
And part of that treaty was that Taiwan would be given to the Japanese. And so from 1895 on, after more than 200 years, a Taiwan is being considered under the Ching dynasty. Now, suddenly it's under the Japanese empire. And so that changed the whole
relationship. Now, for a long, long time, until 1945, Taiwan was ruled by the Japanese. Now, what happened in China in that meantime? In 1911, we had the end of the Ching dynasty, the last emperor. I'm sure you saw that saw that movie. I mean, this was the moment where the 20 plus year empire of China, all these dynasties from the Chin and the Han Dynasty, The Tung, the Ming, the song, I mean, all of them.
It ended after in 1911. That was the moment that after 1895, when the Japanese actually had signed this treaty, that there was a lot of revolutionary in the country under Sun Yat sen, for example, that started to really have a revolution. And they toppled the Qing Empire because it became so weak back then and so. The New Republic of China was established in 1912. Now, why is this important? Well, it's important because this is the date the Taiwanese consider as being the birth date of the Republic of China. Because the Republic of China, which was established by actually ending the Ching dynasty of the Empire, is actually the beginning of a new era. And that's also why the Taiwanese don't look
at the era before 1912 and wouldn't consider themselves being part of China under the Qing Dynasty because the real nationality or the nation of Taiwan, as they would like to have it actually started in 1912 when the nation of China was established. The big China, now, Taiwan at that point was actually under Japanese control. But the reality is that Sun Yat-Sen, he set up a revolution. And so between 1912 and 1949 and what you saw is a lot of civil wars in China against the Japanese. I mean, of course, we had the Second World War there and the communist and the nationalist, which is the people that established the Republic of China and later the Kuomintang in 1912, 1927, also together with Chiang Kai shek and Sun Yat sen. These people actually were fighting civil
wars between them, and sometimes there were allies against the Japanese, for example, or in the Second World War, and sometimes they were fighting each other. I mean, a lot of complicated history. But the reality is that this leadership from 1912 to 1949 is what is considered the leadership of Taiwan. Before the Taiwanese were actually or at the moment at the Taiwanese were still ruled by the Japanese. And that is important to know. And then you have the period from 1945 until 1949. That is the moment after the Second World War where Japan, because they lost the war, actually had to give back the Taiwanese island to China. And that's an interesting moment, because
that is a moment where actually Taiwan belonged to the Republic of China. And so that is five years or four or five years that actually Taiwan was under China as one rule, but the ruler was the Republic of China and the Chiang Kai shek and not the Communist and the Mao Zedong. So this is an interesting period, but this is also a period where the Americans did not support Chiang Kai shek that much because they were way too busy in Europe and other places, and they didn't want to get involved in another civil war between the Communist and the nationalists from Chiang Kai shek at that point in China. And so Taiwan was not a priority for America at that point. And the Taiwanese themselves, the Chiang Kai shek themselves and the Kuomintang themselves, they were way too busy to fight inside China to even consider anything outside China. But when they lost the war in 1949 and Mao
Zedong established the People's Republic of China, the Taiwanese, they all flat or the government all fled to Taiwan. And that is the moment where in 1949, actually Taiwan set up the government or the Kuomintang set up the government in Taiwan itself. But at that point, the People's Republic of China was controlling the Greater China and according to their words, that included Taiwan, because these were a government in exile that actually were part of the bigger China. So it's interesting to see these nuances. If you put it in a graph, I mean, anything before 1895, there is a debate is China.
China is China, not China. I mean, that depends on how you look at it. But the reality from a Chinese point of view, the Taiwanese or Taiwan was clearly part of the Ching dynasty. After 1895, you had a different evolution. But what you can see from this graph is that actually the People's Republic of China from 1949 was never ruling the actual Taiwanese island from a government or governance point of view. There were a government governance in
exile. And so this is actually what Taiwanese said. China never ruled Taiwan, so we could be independent. And so there's the debate for that
as well. So as you can see, it's very, very, very complicated. But the question we should also ask ourselves is why in 1945 or 1949 even more, why didn't Taiwan become independent? Why didn't they actually become a country on themselves? They fled to that country and they maybe could have established a new country. What is one interesting reason for that? And one of that reason one of the main reasons is that until up to the seventies or even early in the eighties, the. Taiwanese government that fled from China after they lost the civil war against the Communists.
They actually believed that they were the legal right owner of the whole China. They actually believed very clearly that the Republic of China and not the People's Republic of China was actually going to reunify the whole country. And so this is something that is often omitted. And so one of the reasons that many people say there's only one China has to do with the fact that both the People's Republic of China claimed Taiwan to be part of the People's Republic of China, as the Republic of China in Taiwan claimed that the whole People's Republic of China or the whole area of China, which is 1990 9% times bigger, was actually part of Taiwan under their governance. And so this is interesting to see, because both were in agreement that there was only one China. It just was the question.
Who's that leader? Is it Mao Zedong or is it Chiang Kai shek and his son later on? So that was the debate. And this is why this ambiguity continued, because both places believed that there's only one China or should be only one China. And the whole the whole world, the international world agreed with that.
And if you look from 1949 to 1971, what you see is that actually most countries in the world up to 90, 71 believed that Taiwan was still the legal representative and sole representative of the one China. And that is interesting to see. But every year you saw more and more countries actually believing that Beijing should be the legal representative of China and not Taipei. And why is that? Well, the main reason that the United Nations was basically to say, well, 99% of the population lives in the greater China outside of Taiwan Island. And so it's just logical that this 1%
should not rule the 99%. And so more and more members in the United Nations that was established in 1945 believed that Beijing should become the sole representative of China. And so that happened in 1971, because in 1971, China replaced Taiwan as the member of the United Nations as the legal sole representative of the one China. That included both China and Taiwan. And the Taiwanese leader actually lost at that point. His his or the leadership lost its position as being the leader of the soul, China.
And so this is interesting because if you look at 1971, one of the things to know about 1971 is that China was extremely poor. It was still in the Cultural Revolution. So people didn't do that under pressure of China? Not at all. They did it because it made sense that 99% should govern to 100% and not the other way around. And so if you look at the voting, what you see is that most countries in the world, two out of three, and that was the minimum they needed to change that leadership position.
Actually, two out of three believed that Beijing should be the sole representative of the one China. And this has not changed since. But interesting to know, America did not vote for Beijing becoming the leader of China. No, they vote against it, but they lost and Beijing became actually the legal representative or sole representative at the United Nations for the one China place or seat in the United Nations. And so something in 1971 also happened, and there was a secret trip from Kissinger, Henry Kissinger to China to prepare the trip of Nixon. And it's really could see that there's something brewing here.
There's something changing, because China was a Communist Party, a communist regime. And so why would a US President Nixon go to China? Well, this was all very hidden and secret, but in 1972 he went there and the main reason was to improve the relationship with China. And so they made a first, what they call the Shanghai communique, the first one in 1971 where Richard Nixon visited China.
And in that communique, a few things was very clear. It said all Chinese maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China. And so there's no doubt about that between America and China is being clearly said, there's only one China. And it also says that a peaceful, peaceful settlement and that's very important. Peaceful settlement of the Taiwanese question has to be done between the.
Chinese themselves and Chinese being Taiwan and mainland Chinese. And that's a withdrawal of the forces. The armed forces of the US would be part of that. And one wonder why, if America was voting against Beijing, become the sole representative at the United Nations for the one China, why would they then agree to these three principles where China clearly claims to be the owner, the sole owner of Taiwan? And so this has to do with three demands that America had three problems that America had. The first one was the war in Vietnam. And so Kissinger and Nixon, they just wanted help from China to end the war in Vietnam.
That has taken what had taken too much tolls. The other thing was also they needed to help from China or against the threat of the Soviet Union. Even in 1972, there were still a big challenge and they didn't want those two parties to become stronger together. The enemy of my enemy is a friend of me.
That was actually the whole idea. And then also they wanted the Chinese communists actually not to expand beyond the region. And so China being very poor at that time, being in a cultural revolution.
At that time, the Americans saw an opportunity to politically get support from the US in exchange for actually more peace and more control over the region and over communist the growing of communism at that point. And so it was very clear what their expectation was. You help us to actually contain the communist threat and we'll help you. And so we'll help China.
And so America helped China with two demands that China had. One was to keep its culture and civilization intact. And that means after so many years, more than 100 years of humiliation from the Western powers and Japan and so on. They wanted to be back on stage, on their stage, and so they wanted to actually show that this civilization had their chances to grow again. And the US could actually promote China as a country and as a civilization.
And it's very important to know that China considers itself much more a civilization state than a nation state, which actually only started in 1912. And so that means that for the Chinese, the civilization, the culture is critical. And to do that, they wanted Taiwan back. They wanted Taiwan back because that's part of that bigger culture from the Qing dynasty. This was that piece of the puzzle that they were still missing to claim that big culture being reinstated again after that humiliation.
And so this is something that the US gave up Taiwan to actually give China, you could say their image again, give face to China. And that didn't cost them too much at that time because Taiwan and China were not that big and important at that time, besides the ideology problem that they had with communism. But the other issue for China was that China really fears and they fear that for a long, long time encircling of other powers, Western powers around China, to actually not allow China to develop again. And so even under Mao Zedong,
China was developing very, very fast, different than we believe, maybe not economically in the same way, but it had developed a lot. And so the whole idea was like, we need to get the American out of the country, out of the region. And that is what Nixon agreed. So for Nixon, this was purely a deal. We'll get out of the Asian region, specifically out of Taiwan, and we will give a greater Taiwan as part of China in the one China. And in exchange, you help us with dealing with this whole communist issue that we have in the region and the threat for the world over time.
And so this was just a deal. But why is this so important? Because in 1972, that's the moment where the one-China principle, where Taiwan belongs to China or there's only one China had been settled. And it's very clear that since then 1972, this has not changed this position. So for 50 years, actually, politically, geopolitically, the whole international community has always seen Taiwan as part of China. So this is also why, from a Chinese point of view, they need to keep Taiwan as being part of China. When and how Taiwan is part of China and
whether they're ruled by another government is a completely different story. As long as it's not independent, with the potential of American soldiers and military going into Taiwan and a potential to destroy the long Chinese culture again. And so that is really the. Answer why. Taiwan is for China the missing piece
of this puzzle. Without dismissing peace, China fears too much that the peace for 1.4 billion Chinese would be disrupted because there would be a military presence probably in Taiwan and also because the culture could be under threat. And so this is both a military as well as a cultural threat for their identity.
And so this is why, in the end, China will always want Taiwan to come back to the mainland. Whether the Taiwanese want that or the world ones, that is a very different story and a story that we will actually talk about in a second part, which I'm going to share next week. See you next week for another weeks of pascals china. Let's.