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How Important Is Taiwan to China?

Autor:   •  December 29, 2018  •  Research Paper  •  1,155 Words (5 Pages)  •  660 Views

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Taiwan

How important is Taiwan to China?

The issue of Taiwan is of significant importance both for the people of the PRC and for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) however for different reasons. The island is more than just a territory that had to be given up in the past. Ever since the Communist Party came into power Taiwan has been the representation of national feelings for the Chinese people and also a question of regime survival for the CCP. (Shirk, 2007; pp 181-211.) The leaders of the PRC are taking the public’s opinion into account despite being an authoritarian regime (Brady, 2015). Taiwan symbolizes all the suffering that the Chinese nation endured during the century of humiliation. This has been reinforced in people’s minds for 50 years by communist rhetoric and propaganda. The issue affects Chinese people’s emotions and as with everything in politics that influences feelings of the masses it is much harder for a politician to change it with rational arguments.

Apart from being conditioned to care about this issue there is one more reason why the Chinese public is so involved with the question of Taiwan. There is a general fear that if Taiwan gains independence and separates from the PRC that will trigger other independence movements in China, for example in Tibet or Xinjiang. (Shirk, 2007; pp 182.)

For the CCP on the other hand Taiwan is crucial for different reasons. In fact Mao Zedong even admitted in the 1940s that China will let Taiwan go independent (Shirk, 2007; pp. 185). However ever since Taiwan has been democratized it symbolizes western ideals and everything that is the opposite of what the communist China stands for. Therefore acknowledging the island’s independence would imply the acknowledgement of the success of a different political system that would not resonate well with the Chinese public especially after decades of contrasting propaganda.

However none of the general secretaries of the CCP has ever actively attempted to reunify the PRC and the Republic of China before. On one hand the question of Taiwan is a domestic issue and in the public’s eye it would bring glory to the CCP if they could actually carry out the reunification of the two territories. But is it in their plans at all either in the long or the short run? Some scholars like Deng Yuwen (2018) say yes and he speculates that the reunification is a likely scenario that will happen by 2030. According to him the main motivation for Xi Jinping would be personal: he could surpass his predecessors and become a national hero.

Will China’s national interests be better served by adopting a hardline approach, or by adopting such moderate methods?

The reunification of the two territories would result in a significant rebalancing of power in Asia and would cement the longevity of the communist regime (Brady, 2015). Therefore the CCP’s propaganda is not only confined to the Mainland but also tries to extend to the Republic of China and attempts to mold the international opinion about this issue. The PRC has used the carrot and stick method to award or punish Taiwan mostly with economic tools or military threats. In case of Taiwan the opinion of the Taiwanese public is crucial, the island being a democratic republic. Beijing has used a number of tools to shape their ideas which in return determines the Taiwanese government’s approach. But what is the stance of the Taiwanese people on this issue?

Research shows that in the past few decades a Taiwanese identity has been born among the residents of Taiwan. According to a poll conducted by the Taiwan Braintrust (2015) nearly 90 percent of the population would identify themselves as “Taiwanese” rather than “Chinese” if they were to choose between the two.

However past elections in Taiwan show that people constantly oscillate between the pro-independence DPP party and the China-friendly Kuomintang party with the latter making a dramatic comeback last week with winning 15 of the 22 cities in the local elections (BBC, 2018). Is it a sign of Taiwanese people wanting to strengthen their political ties with China or just a backlash induced by the damaged economic relations that are the result of the ruling of the pro-independence DPP party? The poll conducted in 2015 suggests the latter: 56.2 percent of Taiwanese people preferred to maintain the “status quo”.

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