Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, October 26, 2020

Taiwan: China's Next Target? 

Watch this video. Very interesting discussion from German public television about the potential for conflict between Taiwan and the mainland. But I need to address a couple of issues.

First, at the beginning of the video we see a young man giving credit to Li Denghui for the change in Taiwan's system. It is true that he implemented the changes, as I have outlined previously. But Jiang Jingguo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) was the king maker who essentially put him in power. There is not a mention of Jiang Jingguo in this video. That is a galling historical omission.

Secondly, this video says that “only 15 countries in the world recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state.” This is not true. In fact no country in the world recognizes Taiwan as a sovereign state. Taiwan is not a country. Taiwan is an island. The correct name of the country is “Republic of China,” and yes, there are 15 countries in the world who recognize the Republic of China. So I need to explain this.

After World War II, which also ended the second Sino-Japanese War, China was left a war-torn and very divided country. This is because the Chinese Civil War was going on at the same time as the Sino-Japanese War. The Chinese Civil War was a conflict for control of China between the Communist and the Nationalists (KMT). Here is what Wikipedia says:

The Chinese Civil War was a civil war in China fought between the Kuomintang (KMT)-led government of the Republic of China (ROC) and the Communist Party of China (CPC) lasting intermittently between 1927 and 1949.
But this is incorrect. In fact, the Chinese Civil War did not end in 1949. It is still going on. A civil war ends when one side of the conflict surrenders to the other. But the KMT never surrendered to the Communists. They fled to the island of Taiwan, and they have been holed up there for seventy years, waiting for their chance to retake the mainland. That's why the official name of the government is the “Republic of China.” They still consider themselves to be the legitimate government of all of China, including Tibet and (incredibly) Mongolia.

But this is complicated by the fact that 70 percent of the population of Taiwan are native people. They did not invite the “refugees” from China. Taiwan was commandeered by Chiang Kai-shek's army in a bloody takeover.

For many years, these Taiwanese natives were totally dominated by the newcomers. But thanks to Jiang Jingguo, who announced that the country was not going to be led by a family dynasty, the Taiwanese natives now have their own party, and it should not surprise anyone that this party is now in power. After all, as I said, Taiwanese natives predominate.

So to help you grasp this, I better give you the preferred perspective of each of the three entities that are concerned here:

KMT This is the nationalist party started by Sun Yat-sen that originally ruled China during the period between the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, and the formation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. In fact, they didn’t really rule China consistently until the late twenties, and they escaped to Taiwan in 1949, after which they didn’t really control the mainland, but never officially admitted that they no longer rule mainland China. There official position remains to retake the mainland and govern all of China, although there is growing realization among the younger members of this party that retaking the mainland is a pipe dream.

DPP This is the independence party—the party of the Taiwanese natives. They have no interest in retaking the mainland. They would strongly prefer complete independence from China

CCP The Communist Party’s position is that Taiwan must return to China and they promise that Taiwan will be allowed to maintain their own system, but under the umbrella of the Communist Party. This is called “one country, two systems.” China (CCP) feels very strongly about this. Now, here is the historical irony: The CCP favors the KMT, bccause the KMT supports the one China policy. But the problem is that the CCP’s one China is very different from the KMT’s one China. They each think they should be in charge. So they don’t actually agree with each other. And the CCP (I believe) have deceived themselves into thinking that because the KMT supports one China, that means that they are more open to one country, two systems. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why? Because the full name of one country, two systems is “one country, two systems under the Communist party of China.” The KMT will never agree to being under the Communist party, because that is tantamount to surrender. So the KMT and the CCP both support “one China,” each with their own interpretation, and the KMT and the DPP both oppose one country, two systems. Vehemently.

Now, there is a new trend developing: It seems to me that among the younger generation(s), there is less and less difference between the DPP and the KMT with regard to the status of Taiwan. This is a very interesting and significant development, and I am watching it closely. I can’t say for sure, but it really seems to me that many of the KMT folks in the younger generation are resigned to the fact that they can never retake the mainland, so they are content to just be left alone (much like the DPP) However, being left alone sounds like independence, and that is not supposed to be what their party stands for, so they are opting for the status quo, which means kicking the can down the road.

The DPP has no problem saying they support independence, because they never ever had any interest in taking the mainland. But they are smart enough to realize that officially declaring independence would mean war, so they also tend to support the status quo.

So how long will the Beijing government allow Taiwan to say, “lets deal with this later?” It’s anybody’s guess, but it is important to point out that the reason so few countries recognize the Republic of China, is because when you recognize the Republic of China, you are saying that the Republic of China (essentially the Taiwan government in Taipei) is the only legitimate government of all of China. It is not possible to regognize both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China, because they both claim sovereignty over the same territory. And there is no way to recognize both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan, because Taiwan is not a country, and doesn't claim to be. It's just an island. Or is it?



Friday, October 02, 2020

When I started this blog back in 2003, there was no Facebook. I would typically write a blog post and sprinkle it with a few pictures to illustrate what I was writing about. I am now moving those pictures to the Facebook album format. Most of my travel around China has been by train, although I have also used busses extensively in the western mountains where there are no trains.


Hulunbuir is technically classified as a municipality, but the designation is a bit strange, because Hulunbuir is a largely rural area, and it's huge. It's really more like a small province, but it's not officially regarded as a province, because it is inside the province of Inner Mongolia.
Enhe, Summer 2013
Enhe is a little village in the north of Hulunbuir. The older townspeople are typically Russian women who married Chinese men who were working in Russia and returned to China with thier husbands. When I approached them, they generally started out talking to me in Russian. Sadly, the town is becoming a tourist area, so it will become more and more unpleasant as time goes on. The grassland is very beautiful. I would generally take my dinner out on the deck and look across the prairie at the sunset as I was eating.

Manzhouli, Summer 2013
Manzhouli had its beginings as a stop on the old railroad from Russia to China which was built at the end of the 19th century. But its importance today is as a port of entry—the largest land port of entry in China. Sixty percent of Chinese trade with Eastern Europe goes through this port. What I noticed more than anything is that many, many Russians come to Manzhouli. These are not really tourists in the sense of people traveling around and sightseeing. They are country people from Eastern Russia who come to Manzhouli because they can shop for such low prices that the money they save easily pays for their hotel bill. One result of this is that many if not most of the restaurants in town serve Russian food, and most of the waitresses speak Russian. I mainly went there because the cool summers are such a relief from the summer heat of Beijing.


Xingjiang is now officially the westernmost province in China. Historically, Xinjiang was not considered part of China proper. Travelers left China through a place called “Yumenguan,” the “Jade Gate.” This gate was considered the dividing line between China and the regions beyond to the west. It was located in the far west of Gansu Province, which, of course is on the eastern edge of Xinjiang. It was this gate through which travelers left China for the regions beyond to the west. Chinese government policy to this day is haunted by the traditional belief that the Central Asian people on the west side of this gate are foreigners who represent an existential threat, and can therefore be mistreated. This partially explains the horrific human rights violations going on now in Xinjiang, where at least hundreds of thousands of Uyghur people have been incarcerated in huge internment camps that have shocked the civilized world ever since the BBC published satellite photos of those Kafkaesque internment camps in 2016.
Kashgar, Summer 2005
In the summer of 2005, I flew to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and then took the train for 24 hours across the burning hot Taklamkan Desert to Kashgar, the 2000 year old Silk Road trading post on the far western edge of the desert.

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