Taiwan - Neither
'Renegade Province' Nor 'Tiny'
By Rip Rense

A plea to the American media. . .
Stop repeating the following phrase:
"Taiwan, which is regarded by Beijing as a renegade province. . ." Wrong.
Communist China has never ruled Taiwan, so how can Beijing claim it as a "renegade" or "breakaway" province? Taiwan never broke away from the communists in the first place. For that matter, it never broke away from anybody.
Check the history. (See In its 400 or so years as a recognizable society, Taiwan has been claimed by the Dutch, a Ming Dynasty refugee (Koxinga), the Manchus, Japan, France (northern Taiwan), and finally Chiang Kai-Shek and his nationalist (Kuomintang) government. Today, for the first time, this multi-party democracy is governed by a Taiwan-born group, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP.) Its history, in other words, is a crazy-quilt. Communist China contributed nary a stitch.
Yet the western press persists in using the term, "renegade province." Beijing must chuckle. It is, after all, free propaganda for Chinese hegemony; free PR for China's bogus, bellicose claim to Taiwan. You don't hear newspapers, radio, and television reporters balancing things out by saying:
"China, which is regarded as a separate country by Taiwan. . ."
The more the media repeats the "renegade province" phrase---as they do in nearly every news article, radio and TV story about Taiwan---the more people just hear the words, "renegade province." It becomes accepted fact. In some cases, journalists have altogether eliminated the "which is regarded by Beijing as" part of the phrase, and merely refer to Taiwan outright as a "renegade province."
Most irresponsible.
Taiwan is an island, literally and figuratively. It is barely even a part of Chinese history---technically only part of China for about 200 years, under the Manchu Dynasty (which never bothered to govern it.) It wasn't until 1887 that the Manchus officially declared the island a province, strictly as a move to counter Japanese threats to take it by force. The threats prevailed, though, and Taiwan was ceded to Japan, which ruled from 1895 until 1943. It was at the Cairo Conference of the Allies in World War II that Taiwan was turned over to Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalist China (without ever consulting anyone living in Taiwan, incidentally.) In 1949, Chiang was defeated by the communists under Mao Tse-Tung, and moved his government and army to Taiwan, renaming it "Republic of China."
*Taiwan never rebelled against China.
*It did not split from, or desert the Chinese government---communist or nationalist.
*It was referred to as a province only once, at a time of convenience, yet the residents of the island never agreed to that. (In fact, the locals tried to declare Taiwan an independent Republic as early as 1895.)
Today, the people and government of Taiwan consider the island a sovereign state. And well they should! With a population of 23 million (larger than over two-thirds of the members of the United Nations), Taiwan's economy is number 17 in the world, with an estimated gross national product of $314 billion (U.S.) in 2000---according to Taipei Review. Only two countries in the world have greater foreign exchange reserves ($122 billion U.S. in 2001.) Taiwan's citizenry is a mix of old refugees from the mainland: largely the "Taiwanese," (descendants of immigrants from the coastal Fukien province of China who came during the past 300 years); the Chinese who fled with the Chiang government; lesser factions like the Hakka; and yes, tribes native to the island.
Which brings up another distortion uniformly chanted by the western press:
"The tiny island. . ."
Relative to what? "Tiny" suggests something the size and significance of the Pitcairns---or one of them. But as islands go, Taiwan is a whopper.
Thirty-six thousand square kilometers isn't a flyspeck (think Massachusetts and Connecticut), but size is not measured in area alone. Aside from being an economic powerhouse---even considering the enormous investment in the mainland---Taiwan is amazingly diverse, for a "tiny" place. Consider the climate: the south is subtropical and sunny, there are snow-capped mountains and lush forests in the central area, and the north gets a deluge of rain. There are rollicking, modern metropolises: Taipei in the north, Taichung in the central, and Tainan in the south; renowned universities such as Taiwan Normal University and Fu-Jen Catholic University, first-class train and city transit systems, and. . .
Everything about Taiwan is big, from its ambition and industry to the ren-ching-wei---roughly, the "spirit of the people"---the enthusiasm which fuels everything from hospitality to occasional fistfights in the Legislative Yuan.
Yet the "renegade province" line was there again in the recent coverage of China Vice-president Hu Jintao's visit to Washington---when Hu, shoo-in successor to President Jiang Zemin, rattled the old Taiwan saber again: "If any trouble occurs on the Taiwan question, it would be difficult for China-U.S. relations to move forward, and a retrogression may even occur."
A "retrogression?" Ho-hum. Pretty mild threat. Considering how much money Taiwan has invested in China, and how much cultural and economic exchange already exists between the two countries, one can only doubt Hu's sincerity. To disrupt such a profitable enterprise merely for the sake of "face" or "pride"---or to needle the U.S.---would be self-defeating. But then, Hu also claimed there is religious freedom in China, and great respect for human rights.
Sure there is. And Taiwan is a "tiny island" and "renegade province."


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