The West and other nations wasted decades expecting that if they accommodated Beijing, the PRC would liberalize and adjust its behavior to the US-led world system.
A war in the Taiwan Strait might escalate and spread, with harmful effects on societies, commercial activities, economies and the entire global structure that has existed since 1945.
Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a state in East Asia. Neighbouring states include the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the north-west, Japan to the north-east, and the Philippines to the south.
The island of Taiwan has an area of 35,808 square kilometers (13,826 sq mi), with mountain ranges dominating the eastern two-thirds and plains in the western third, where its highly urbanized population is concentrated.
Taipei is the capital and largest metropolitan area. Other major cities include Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan and Taoyuan. With 23.7 million inhabitants, Taiwan is among the most densely populated states, and is the most populous state and largest economy that is not a member of the United Nations (UN).
Taiwan’s export-oriented industrial economy is the 21st-largest in the world, with major contributions from steel, machinery, electronics and chemicals manufacturing.
The Dutch East India Company attempted to establish a trading outpost on the Penghu Islands (Pescadores) in 1622, but were driven off by Ming forces. In 1624, the company established a stronghold called Fort Zeelandia on the coastal islet of Tayouan, which is now part of the main island.
In 1626, the Spanish Empire landed on and occupied northern Taiwan, at the ports of Keelung and Tamsui, as a base to extend their trading. This colony lasted 16 years until 1642, when the last Spanish fortress fell to Dutch forces.
Following the fall of the Ming dynasty, Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong), a self-styled Ming loyalist, arrived on the island and captured Fort Zeelandia in 1662, expelling the Dutch Empire and military from the island.
As the Qing dynasty was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), Taiwan, along with Penghu and Liaodong Peninsula, were ceded in full sovereignty to the Empire of Japan by the Treaty of Shimonoseki.
Inhabitants on Taiwan and Penghu wishing to remain Qing subjects were given a two-year grace period to sell their property and move to mainland China.
Japanese colonial rule was instrumental in the industrialization of the island, extending the railways and other transport networks, building an extensive sanitation system, and establishing a formal education system in Taiwan.
During this period the human and natural resources of Taiwan were used to aid the development of Japan and the production of cash crops such as rice and sugar greatly increased. By 1939, Taiwan was the seventh greatest sugar producer in the world.
Still, the Taiwanese and aborigines were classified as second- and third-class citizens. After suppressing Chinese guerrillas in the first decade of their rule, Japanese authorities engaged in a series of bloody campaigns against the mountain aboriginals, culminating in the Musha Incident of 1930.
Around 1935, the Japanese began an island-wide assimilation project to bind the island more firmly to the Japanese Empire and people were taught to see themselves as Japanese under the Kominka Movement, during which time Taiwanese culture and religion were outlawed and the citizens were encouraged to adopt Japanese surnames.
During World War II, tens of thousands of Taiwanese served in the Japanese military. Over 2,000 women, euphemistically called “comfort women“, were forced into sexual slavery for Imperial Japanese troops.
Important Japanese military bases and industrial centres throughout Taiwan, such as Kaohsiung and Keelung, were targets of heavy raids by American bombers.
After Japan’s surrender ended World War II, most of Taiwan’s approximately 300,000 Japanese residents were expelled and sent back to Japan.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s Taiwan, along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore, became known as one of the Four Asian Tigers.
The political and legal statuses of Taiwan are contentious issues. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) claims that the Republic of China government is illegitimate, referring to it as the “Taiwan Authority”.
The ROC has its own constitution, independently elected president and armed forces. It has not formally renounced its claim to the mainland, but ROC government publications have increasingly downplayed it.
In the latest survey conducted by National Chengchi University in 2014 and published in early 2015, 60.6% of respondents identified themselves exclusively as Taiwanese, 32.5% identified themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese and 3.5% identified themselves as Chinese.
To get through the next decade will be difficult. But with considerable effort, single-mindedness, nerve and good fortune. Time will tell. The United States has never faced an enemy like the People’s Republic of China.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point News 2020.