China's Tenous Relations

China's Tenous Relations

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In the current international political climate, there are few more precarious situations than the one that has been long simmering between China and Taiwan. Taken at its simplest form, this dispute appears to be a simple battle among two places with differing vantage points. One, Taiwan wishes to form an independent
state and break the hold that the other, China, has over it. However, when examined more closely, it becomes clear that the outcome and actions of this disagreement have ramifications that reach far beyond Asia and well into the western world as well. Before a proper assessment of today's dispute can be made, it is vital to examine the events of many years past that have led to this point.
The story dates all the way back to 1945 and the end of World War II. After Japan formally surrendered to the United States of America, they begin a process of returning to China all territories that it had colonized. Among these territories was Taiwan, then known as Formosa. After Japan relinquished its controls of Taiwan, life for Taiwan's citizens does not change much under the rule of China's Nationalist forces, although they had held out hopes that the end of Japan's control would lead to their liberation. Instead, the Kuomingtang and imigrating mainlanders ended up exacerbating the country's problems.
The next significant incident occurs in 1947, when Monopoly bureau officials in Taiwan beat up a woman who is suspected of peddling cigarettes on the black market and also shoot a passerby who attempts to intervene. Known as the "2-28" incident because of its date of occurrence, the event sparks an island wide revolt which ends with upwards of 20,000 people being slaughtered at the hands of the Kuomingtang. In December of the same year, Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Communists end two decades of civil war by driving Chiang Kai-shek ad the Nationalist forces onto Taiwan.
In 1949 Mao lays the groundwork for the Chinese government's policy towards Taiwan by stressing unification of the two under a "one China" principle. This principle remains the policy for China today. Also during 1949, the United States ends all military aid to Taiwan while both the U.S. and the United Nations fail to give the People's Republic of China diplomatic recognition.
A major point in the ongoing saga involving China and Taiwan actually takes its root in the Korean War, which began in 1950.

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The United States' President at the time, Harry Truman, agreed to protect Taiwan against possible attack from mainland China by sending the Seventh Fleet to patrol the waters between Taiwan and China. Before this, the United States had never intervened in conflict between the mainland and the island. This incident was different in the eyes of the United States, who saw Taiwan as a buffer against communist expansion in Asia. Due to this fact the U.S. gave the island money and military supplies.
From this point until the mid-1960's the United States would offer 1.5 billion dollars in aid to the Republic of China on Taiwan. This aid was offered with the hope of turning the island into an industrialized nation. At this point Taiwan begins to make a quantum leap by beginning a reform project to redistribute the country's farmland to turn the economy around.
As time elapses, tensions thicken among the two areas, with China promising to "liberate" Taiwan. To accomplish this, China launches the first of several attacks on Quemoy and Matsu, the two largest island groups along the coast held by the Republic of China. In response to this, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower signed a Mutual Defense Treaty with the Republic of China which guaranteed U.S. protection for Taiwan.
In spite of the tumult surrounding the island, the 1960's was a time of great economic growth for Taiwan. Their economy had an average growth rate of ten percent and their dependence
on economic and technical aid from the United States begins to diminish. Eventually the United States would announce a "Two China" policy, which would pave the way for the People's Republic of China to gain acceptance into the United Nations, while Taiwan would remain a General Assembly member. This move obviously eases relations between Communist China and the United States. As the 1970's approach, there were more reversals in store in regard to the world and its acceptance of Communist China.
On the heels of U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's secret visit to China, the United Nations "expelled" Taiwan from is ranks and gave their seat to the People's Republic of China. Not long after this, U.S. President Richard Nixon made a visit to China and issued the Shanghai Communique, which was an official statement that severed ties with the Republic of China. In direct reaction to the actions of the U.N. and the U.S., many major countries around the globe switched their diplomatic recognition from Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, over to Bejing. On January 1, 1979, the United States announced that it would terminate all diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
With the exception of the ending of martial law, which had existed for 38 years, in the late 1980's, things remained status quo in regard to the two lands. This held form until the mid 1990's when China launched what it referred to as "military exercises" in the ocean near Taiwan. The timing of the "exercises" appeared somewhat "coincidental" due to the fact that they occurred on the eve of Taiwan's first free presidential elections. The United States felt this was an act of intimidation by China and responded by sending a naval fleet to the area. The incumbent President Lee Ten-hui would eventually win the election.
As this situation evolves, slowly China began to regaining territory it once held with the reversion of Hong Kong back to China. A few years later China would also regain Macau, a former Portuguese
territory that China had previously ruled. This would lead China to a somewhat sense of "entitlement" regarding areas that they previous held and also further propel their zest to prevent Taiwan from gaining independence.
During this time, U.S. President Bill Clinton visited mainland and embraced a "three no's" policy; no "two China's", no independence, and no membership for Taiwan in international organizations that would require statehood.. Around this same time Taiwan President Lee gave an interview where he stated that China and Taiwan should deal with each other on a "state to state" basis, which subtly indicated that Taiwan was moving toward independent status. A day later, officials from China would refer to Lee's message as a "monumental disaster".
In spite of President Clinton's declaration of support for the "three no's" and his disapproval of the bill, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act in 1999. The bill was designed to expand communication between the U.S. and Taiwan militaries. This communication included further training of Taiwan officers and also an annual report on Taiwan's security. As a response to the growing sentiment regarding Taiwan's independence, China issued a White Paper warning that in no uncertain terms declared that further heel-dragging on reunification, or any declaration of independence, would force China to take "drastic measures".
As the millennium came, to too did Taiwan's second free election. This time the results were a bit different than the prior one, as the Nationalist rule ended after fifty years at the helm. The voters elected a pro-independence candidate, Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party. Once again, China warned that "Taiwan independence, in any form will never be tolerated".
In contrast to his pro-independence platform, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian invited Chinese President Jiang Zemin to join hands at a summit for peace during his first news conference. Shui-bian referenced the agreement by North and South Korea to work towards unification as inspiration for his embracing of Zemin, however, officials from China were less than accommodating by reiterating their long stance that Taiwan must accept the "one China" policy before any talks could take place.
As the contentious relations between China and Taiwan continued, so too did the United States' involvement. This time the involvement came in the form of an arms sale package to Taiwan, the largest such package in almost a decade. Not surprisingly this infuriated China, who responded with a formal protest. This situation did nothing to ease already tense relations between China and the United States, as evidenced by China's embassador calling U.S.-China relations to be at a "crossroads".
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