On the 10th of October, 2020, the Republic of China, commonly known as Taiwan, had celebrated a live event in celebration of its national day and country’s anniversary, which was marked by the Xinhai Revolution in Wuhan, China dating back in 1911. Since then, its flag and government ideology has existed in the form of the Republic of China government on the mainland from 1911 until 1949, when the Communists took over mainland China. Since 1949, the Republic of China had exercised its attempt to remain a sovereign nation on the island of Taiwan and other islands like Penghu, the Pescadores, and Kinmen. 2020 marks the Republic of China’s 109th anniversary with 2021 to be its 110th anniversary, but in its current situation, many feel wary on whether or not this democratic nation may be able to continue to exist as a de facto sovereign state in the upcoming future.
Before continuing, there must be a discretion between three major entities within this blog post, mainly to prevent confusion for those that are not familiar with current geographic and political issues in the East Asia region, especially between the mainland and Taiwan. The Chinese mainland is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing under President Xi Jinping and is officially called the People’s Republic of China. Taiwan is currently controlled by the Democratic Progressive Party in Taipei under President Tsai Ing-wen, the first female president elected in Taiwan and is officially called the Republic of China. Alongside the Democratic Progressive Party is its major opposition – the Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, led by Chairman Johnny Chiang Chi-chen.
Earlier this year, the incumbent president, Tsai Ing-wen, was reelected as the President of the Republic of China on the 11th of January, 2020. Since then, she has continued to lead the Republic of China alongside her political party – Democratic Progressive Party (Campbell). Throughout her presidency in her first time and continuing into her second term, the Republic of China has become more resistant and resilient against the People’s Republic of China since 2016 when she was first elected. Relations between the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China is commonly referred to as “Cross Strait Relations” and has been strained in recent years.
These relations have only strained further as a result of the coronavirus as Tsai’s administration continues to make any and all moves possible to create a separate identity for Taiwan that is unique, which clashes against the desires of the People’s Republic of China, which claims Taiwan to be just a “rebellious province of the People’s Republic of China.” This defiance to the claims of the People’s Republic of China that has pushed for the reintegration of Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China has only weakened as a result of the coronavirus and the unrest occurring in Hong Kong.
With the increase of racial discrimination to Chinese people that had occurred especially in the earlier stages of the coronavirus, Tsai’s administration has taken advantage of the situation and took it as an opportunity to give justification for the changes in its national passport. Since the decisions made by the United Nations in 1971, which kicked the Republic of China off of the United Nations Permanent Security Council and as a recognized, sovereign nation in the United Nations in favor of the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China has been forced to quiet down their existence. From the Republic of China’s representation in the Olympics to not be Taiwan or the Republic of China, but rather as “Chinese Taipei” (Olympics) to the passports. As of the passport change that occurred earlier in September, common terms that have been generally acceptable for official use like “Republic of China” have been greatly reduced in font size and in form while the term “Taiwan” has been enlarged in its stead (Reuters). The “Republic of China” label has been integrated into its national symbol (the white sun and blue sky) and the word “Taiwan” having a larger font on the bottom of the passport with the only way to visibly see the words “Republic of China” is if you focus on the national symbol or can read the Chinese characters “中华民国” (the form written is in the simplified version due to being unable to access a traditional Chinese writing keyboard) (Reuters). Yet despite this redesign, the People’s Republic of China has continued to try and force the Republic of China to return back to accepting the “One China Policy”, which Tsai Ing-wen has remained strongly focused on all forms of resisting that by pushing for this new “Taiwanese Identity.”
Yet despite all of this breakthrough, the Republic of China still faces many hardships, especially in the competition and arms race against the People’s Republic of China. This doesn’t help with the fact that new models made by the Republic of China Armed Forces, at least according to the People’s Republic of China, will likely be incapable of being able to compare to any missile model of the People’s Republic of China (Liu). This has only shown to be worsened when the fatal helicopter crash back in January was a serious humiliation for the Republic of China’s Armed Forces and was seen as a weakening of its armed forces since its height at the end of the Cold War in the 1980s. It was when General Chief of Staff, Shen Yi-ming of the Republic of China Armed Forces, was killed in a helicopter crash, the highest ranked military officer of the military.
In recent months, it is quite difficult to truly determine the continuation of the Republic of China’s sovereignty. But their exclusion from the RCEP trade pact just a few days prior only makes the situation more concerning for this democratic nation, barely 400 miles away from the People’s Republic of China (Hioe). The RCEP is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which includes various nations in Southeast Asia and East Asia, which also includes the People’s Republic of China, with 2020 being a notable meeting of this trade pact that does not include the Republic of China (Hioe). Although the Republic of China has taken more politically aggressive actions under Tsai’s administration, much of the Republic of China’s survival since 1971 was its ability to balance the political demands of the People’s Republic of China, its neighbors, and the United States. But under Tsai Ing-wen, this little island of Taiwan has become a hotbed of political activity, hellbent on resisting the dictatorship of Xi Jinping in Beijing. As a result, this has strained relations on Taiwan’s neighbors, such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea, as the People’s Republic of China pushes its neighbors to favor their nation over this “rebellious Taiwan province”, forcing Taiwan into political isolation – a policy that has been actively in place for decades now since the late 1980s. All we can do now is to lay in wait and see what Tsai and her administration plans to do in the coming years until the 2024 election. If the Kuomintang comes into office, they will likely restore the positive, cross strait relations and return to a pre-Tsai administration status quo. But if Tsai Ing-wen, or a fellow Democratic Progressive Party member enters office, then the current policies in place for Taiwan may continue and we may see the potential idea of Taiwan to not be the Republic of China anymore, but instead, the “Republic of Taiwan.” But in order to see anything more than what we see now, Taiwan must survive and Tsai is at the center of its government and policies that have driven this little island nation for the past 4 years. And to do so, Taiwan must remain in this state of de facto independence and de facto sovereign, or else, we may not be able to view another Double Ten Day celebration for Taiwan’s 110th anniversary in 2021 if the situation remains as grim as it seems.
Campbell, Charlie. “Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen Wins Reelection With Record Support”, World Taiwan, Time Magazine, 11 Jan. 2020. time.com/5762629/taiwan-tsai-ing-wen-reelected/ . Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.
Gan, Nectar. “Taiwan military chief among 8 people killed in Black Hawk helicopter crash”, Asia, CNN, 2 Jan. 2020.
cnn.com/2020/01/02/asia/taiwan-helicopter-crash-intl-hnk/index.html . Accessed 22 Nov. 2020
Hioe, Brian. “RCEP Trade Pact Exclusion Debated in Taiwan”, Politics, New Bloom. 17 Nov. 2020,
newbloommag.net/2020/11/17/rcep-exclusion-debate/ . Accessed 22 Nov. 2020
Liu, Xuanzun. “Taiwan island’s new missile useless against Chinese mainland: experts”, 2020 Taiwan News, Global Times, 15 Nov. 2020.
globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/taiwan/2020/taiwan-201115-globaltimes02.htm . Accessed 22 Nov. 2020
Olympics. “Chinese Taipei”, olympic.org/chinese-taipei . Accessed 201Nov. 2020
Reuters. “Taiwan to change passport, fed up with confusion with China”, Emerging Markets, Reuters. 2 Sept. 2020. reuters.com/article/us-taiwan-passport-idUSKBN25T0JA . Accessed 20 Nov. 2020