The civil war that was never ours
Mon, Jun 08, 2009 - Page 8
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By the time of the Sino-Japanese war [in 1937], China's civil war had narrowed down to two surviving factions, the Nationalists and the Communists.
What about Taiwan throughout this period?
The island that the Qing had partially ruled from 1683 and which became a province in 1885 quickly exited the stage in 1895 when the Qing ceded it to Japan as part of the Treaty of Shimonoseki.
This was long before 1912 and China's Civil War, and Japan would be the first nation to control the entire island of Taiwan.
World War II ended in 1945, but it would be seven more years before the San Francisco Peace Treaty was ratified.
Note: The end of hostilities and the end of the war are two different concepts. In regard to WWII in the Pacific, the Fall of 1945 only marked the end of hostilities. The war ended when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect, namely on April 28, 1952.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Civil War supposedly ended in 1949 with the KMT retreating into exile. Here the murkiness begins.
China did not want to revert to the borders of the Ming empire; instead, it wanted to possess and control kingdoms that the Manchus conquered. It wanted Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang.
Taiwan was not considered to be part of China at this time because it was part of Japan. And, as things played out, Mongolia had support from Russia and was able to maintain its independence.
Tibet was not as lucky. Britain sought to divide Tibet between itself and China to preempt Russian influence in that area. Xinjiang, for its part, had no support from any neighbors.
After Japan's surrender, US forces landed on Taiwan in September 1945. They liberated and transported Allied prisoners of war that had been in Japanese camps around the island. These forces later ferried soldiers of Chiang Kai-shek's army to Taiwan as a caretaker force.
Taiwan thus has always been outside China's Civil War, and when the San Francisco Peace Treaty stated that Japan would surrender the islands of Penghu and Taiwan, it never stated to whom.
This is why the US considers Taiwan's status to be undetermined.
The Constitution of the Republic of China (ROC), which came into effect in 1947, claimed that Taiwan was a part of the ROC.
Yet the San Francisco Peace Treaty did not grant Taiwan to the ROC in 1952.
The same Constitution also claimed Mongolia and Tibet as part of the ROC, but Russia called Taipei's bluff when it supported Mongolia's entry into the UN as an independent nation. The ROC backed away from vetoing the application.
Taiwan indirectly participated in China's Civil War in that the KMT stripped it of all food and materials that could support its losing civil war campaign in China.
Likewise, many Taiwanese were conscripted and forced to fight on the KMT's side in that war -- but that was all.
Taiwan has always been separate: before, during and after China's Civil War.
Isn't it time, then, to give up the canard that Taiwan and China split after the Civil War in 1949?
Taiwan is Taiwan; China is China.
The TSAC agrees that Taiwan and China are separate entities. However, it also recognizes that currently Taiwan is not an independent state in the world community.