HPR2194: The low-down on what's up in the Taiwan Strait.

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Wow, my aim was really to be strict about the terminology and always talk about Beijing/PRC or Taipei/ROC, but I noticed that I was saying "China" and "Taiwan" a lot of the time. Lucky I'm not trying to be the President, eh?

I'm sorry it's so long, but on the other hand I think I speak pretty slow, so it's probably pretty amenable to sped-up listening. :-)

Or, you can skip ~27 minutes in to go straight to my overview of the current situation, without the "short" background.

Also, pardon my pronunciation of Chinese names, which is an unpredictable mix of Cantonese, Cantonese-accented Mandarin, Mandarin and English.


World powers cutting up China
(Image license: public domain)

Here's the text from IRC:

China doesn't want Taiwan to be independent because that would be a loss of prestige to China.

There are no technical details about it, it's all about symbolism.

The China thing is a really interesting thing to unpack. First of all, if you ask the traditional ruling party on Taiwan, the KMT or GMD (Guo Min Dang), there is no country called Taiwan. The KMT and the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) agree that there is only one China and Taiwan is simply a province of that China. Where they disagree is whether the true government of the whole is in Beijing or in Taipei. (fun fact: the official capital of the Republic of China (Taiwan) is Nanjing, which is not under ROC control)

Also, some de-facto parts of India and all of Mongolia is officially part of the ROC, according to their Constitution.

Map of ROC claims
(Image license: CC-by-SA, Wikipedia user ZanderSchubert)

If you fly from Beijing, there are domestic flights and "international flights and domestic flights to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan".

So the US and UN stance since 1972 is "there is one China, and its government is in Beijing". But at the same time US is giving military support to Taipei, which according to Beijing is an unruly province.

As long as the status quo holds – that Taipei claims to rule all of China and Beijing claims to rule all of China and no outsider that matters challenges that – China (both of them!) is happy. It works, there are extended business relations between the two jurisdictions (most of the electronics made in China are made in factories owned by Taiwanese companies)

Both the CCP and the KMT hope that in the long term, this can gradually creep toward a unification of China. If Taiwan would declare independence, that would mean war.

Now, the current ruling party, the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) officially support driving toward a Taiwanese rather than a Chinese national identity, and at some point independence. They are being very careful about it though, because they are also aware of how Beijing would react if they went out and did it. Also, while they do control the majority of the Legislative Yuan, there is a significant minority in Taiwan that adhere to a Chinese identity, don't want to upset China, and don't want formal independence. The current quirky situation works, and barriers have been coming down over the years. Relations are abnormal yet normal. On the rhetorical level it's all messed up, in practice you can fly between the island and the mainland, you can conduct business and send post, etc.

When ROC (Republic of China, "Taiwan") and PRC (People's Republic of China, "Mainland China") representatives meet, there are no embassies or consulates involved, because neither acknowledges the other as a country. Neither President will call the other "President", because that would imply they represent a country, rather than a rebel faction inside what the other side considers China.

So when Trump goes on Twitter and says "The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!" that's a huge scandal in the eyes of Beijing. There is no President of Taiwan, and to imply so is to imply that Taiwan is a country and should be independent.

That's as short as I can make it, but that's the low-down on what's up in the Taiwan Strait.

Further reference (all Wikipedia):

Tangential background (all except one from Wikipedia):

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