Xi Jinping’s Ambition
At the 19th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping mentioned that he would maintain the idea of “one country, two systems” after helping Hong Kong to develop its economy in return for the merger with the mainland. Xi mentioned his plan to merge with Taiwan in 2020, but the Taiwanese have strongly opposed this idea and argue that the Chinese Communist Party is eroding the democracy that they have preserved from the independence of China in 1949.
Thousands of pro-independence protesters gathered in Taipei, Taiwan on October 20, 2018, with signs on their hands said China was “bullying” and called for a referendum on the island’s autonomy. This is the largest independent demonstrate on this island for more than 20 years. Organizers said there were about 80,000 people attending. Protesters flocked to the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) shouting slogans, waving Taiwanese flags, demanding a referendum on independence.
China has always insisted that Taiwan is a rebellious province, waiting for the day to be unified by force if needed. President Xi Jinping announced on January that he did not give up the method of using force to unify Taiwan. Just a few days later, Xi continued to ask the Chinese military to prepare for a total war, raising fears that Beijing might launch a military campaign to recall Taiwan in next time.
This concern is not unfounded, because Xi always considers Taiwan’s unification goal to be his greatest achievement, as his predecessors gained when recalling Hong Kong and Macau.
One Country, Two Systems
The so-called “one country, two systems” is a term derived from the “17th Agreement” (Seventeen Point Agreement) signed in 1951 between the Chinese and Tibetan authorities. At that time, the Chinese government pledged, under the premise of “Tibetan sovereignty belongs to the People’s Republic of China”, to maintain the government in Tibet and let Tibetans autonomous.
However, after the agreement was signed, the Chinese government still enforced the commune of the Tibetan ethnic people outside Tibet, leading to the conflict between citizens in China. A series of victims flooded into Lhasa city, eventually forming the armed conflict of Lhasa in 1959. The 14th Dalai Lama had to exile in India, the agreement with Tibet ended in violence.
After the failure in Tibet, China signed two similar agreements in Hong Kong and Macau in 1996 and 1999, after helping these two cities to develop their economies. However, there have been many sources saying that the Chinese Communist Party has failed to win the letgitimacy towards Hong Kong people. According to an article from Minxin Pei on Project Syndicate, the Chinese government has bribed private capitalists in Hong Kong, bringing in many of the powers and privileges they could not afford under the British rules.
The “one country two systems” plan for Taiwan comes from the idea of “liberating Taiwan in peace” proposed by Mao Zedong in 1956. In 1963, Prime Minister of China Zhou Enlai formally presented the complete thesis called “One platform, Four headings”. In this thesis, China promises to preserve and maintain Taiwan’s democracy, the communist party will not affect the cultural life of the citizens here. However, from a personal point of view, the Chinese government can only adopt this policy to conduct a long-term takeover of Taiwan. The leader of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, President Tsai Ing-wen expressed her concern that Mr. Xi Jinping had a will to oppose democracy here. Xi’s message sent to the Taiwanese people made it clear that China is seeking to maintain autonomy in Taiwan. Taiwanese people will enjoy 10 privileges if they agree to merge with China. However, the essence of “one country, two regimes” is to destroy ROC and eroding Taiwan’s democracy. This statement has angered Taiwan netizens, leading to the biggest protests since 1949.
Taipei relations with Washington
Promoting cooperation with Taiwan seems to be a way for the US to increase pressure on China when relations between the two countries become tense. More military sales contracts between the two countries were completed under Trump’s administration.
The US State Department in late September announced Washington’s approval of a plan to sell $ 330 million worth of military weapons to Taiwan, despite protests from China. Taipei was also informed and published its own information about the patrol of two US battleships across the Taiwan Strait on October 22, which was kept secret by Washington in the past. These are just two of many signs that the US-Taiwan defense relationship is being strengthened at an unprecedented level in 2018 (The Reuters).
Despite the threats of using force from Xi, Taiwan has enough confidence in military hardware to counter a Chinese military landing. In order to attack Taiwan, the Chinese military will have to carry out a mobile campaign to cross the strait and land on small outer islands before reaching the mainland. This will be a huge challenge for the Chinese military, because the landfall from the sea is always the most difficult form of combat.
Xi Jinping’s “one country, two systems” ideology will most likely fail because of Taiwan’s strong resistance. From another point from Hong Kong and Macau, the Democratic Progressive Party led by Tsai, which has always gained support will not be bribed like those private capitalists in Hong Kong.
The statements of Xi’s use of force cannot be realized when Taiwan has backing from the US. Although Washington has always maintained a view of maintaining a peaceful relationship with Beijing, the US will not allow war on the Pacific Strait. Even if the US forces pulled all the military forces out of Taiwan, China would not be able to avoid huge losses if attacking Taiwan. Moreover, it is unlikely that Chinese people will agree with this plan as it will affect national resources. The economy that is being damaged by the trade war with Washington will be further undermined.
I think you did a great job touching upon all angles of the issue. You brought up the fact that the U.S. and Taiwan have worked out deals regarding military equipment purchases, something that I see as a repetitive cycle throughout time… The U.S. always seems to be finding allies that can use a bit of help with their military, in this case $330 million worth of help. I think the issue is very interesting and since the U.S. has intervened as a way to help Taiwan preserve its democracy that China may ease their pursuit to unite the republic. Overall, the U.S. may have more motives in the partnership rather then military sales; I can see the push of capitalism in Taiwan being another important motive for the U.S.’ benefit.
This is an amazing post that summarizes previous history of China-Taiwan relations, international involvement, and PRC’s future plans on Taiwan merger!
It provides an interesting take on the situation – I am doing similar research from the standpoint of Taiwan. It is a great observation that motion of merging with Taiwan will most likely fail, especially with the US funding to Taiwan. However, it is interesting to see the underlying motives of such generous sponsorship. In a rather old yet extensive and deeply analytical report by Richard C. Bush (https://www.brookings.edu/on-the-record/u-s-taiwan-relations-whats-the-problem/) has stated that US will ally Taiwan under four monumental conditions which can be all combined by the fact that Taiwan must be able to protect their state against Chinese Liberation Army by themselves without international enforcement. Yet what we are observing is that US is abandoning their own previous ideas for the sake of pressuring China about an unknown factor (though, one can make an educated guess that it is due to strained relationships with PRC and sponsoring Taiwan is just one way of retaliation).
In my research I claim that even though Taiwan has a great capacity at being the most democratic and liberated state in Asia, it is not gaining its independence any time soon. Therefore, combining your verdict and mine it can be stated that the limbo of quasi-independent Taiwan might go on for years on end. It is quite an interesting situation, but there is string evidence that the situation will not change in the near future.