The continent and the island – 2

THE article I did about the ambivalent relationship between the People's Republic of China (the continent) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) sparked the interest of many friends. So, I thought I should bear my testimony on the topic, that is very important – actually, essential – to understand what's going on across the Taiwan Strait.

I had the opportunity to serve both on the Continent and on the Island, as I already pointed out, and at a particularly tense moment between them when serving in Beijing. Was 1995/6, when the then President (with or without " ") de Taiwan, Lee Teng-hui, who was the leader of the Kuomintang – the same party as, founded in mainland China, por Sun Yat-sen, in 1928, accompanied nationalist President Chiang Kai-shek on his escape to Taipei when Mao Zedong's Communists seized power in Beijing, in 1949 -, made an “informal” visit to the United States, on the eve of the presidential elections on the island. The Continent reacted vehemently, and the People's Liberation Army carried out intimidating maneuvers across the Taiwan Strait.

This question, that had been “dormant” until then, gained stridency and mobilized international public opinion. It was then that I dedicated my thesis to this topic in the Course of High Studies at Itamaraty. I visited the island to deepen my research, and serve, later, on two occasions, at the Commercial Office of Brazil in Taipei, in 2007/8. My impressions are, therefore, fruit of my experiences on both sides of the strait.

What I found was that there is a generational gap in Taiwan on this issue, surely the most important for your society. The older population, that still maintains family and / or affective ties with the Continent (in an ever smaller percentage), does not want to break ties with the ancestral land. The younger generations, in its turn, who had no experience with mainland China, feel totally disconnected from this context and want to go their own way, as an independent country. The “watershed” is the ideological factor, that is, the rejection of the communist / Maoist ideology that endures in the social psyche of the Taiwanese regarding the Beijing regime. Younger people absolutely refuse to be considered as Chinese. Despite this, there is a common denominator: all Taiwanese think of themselves as a Chinese strain, that is, share ancestry.. It's not like they are two nationalities, but one, divided by history and ideology.

Beijing, From you, considers Taiwan to be the “rebel island” and does not allow any separatist initiative. In fact, the PRC conditions its diplomatic relations with other countries to the observance of the commitment to “one China”, although in the format of “one country and two systems”, only possible hue for Beijing. However, the vast majority of countries that have diplomatic relations with the Continent, installed commercial and cultural offices in Taipei, that perform almost “diplomatic” activities. For example, grant visas to Taiwanese, and the heads of these offices are, in most cases, career diplomats, although “uncharacterized” from their titles and called “Chiefs” of these offices. We have our office in Taipei, just as the Taiwanese installed a similar representation in Brasilia.

Now, what are the “practical” consequences of this “quid pro quo”?

I analyzed, in my thesis, three possible scenarios in which our diplomacy should act. The first one is that of separation, traumatic and incalculable consequences, in view of the alliance forged by the Taiwanese with the United States, that through the “Taiwan Relations Act”, of 1979, took responsibility for the defense of the Island. In view of the current circumstances, this option seems almost impossible, Unless something very traumatic happens. The second would be that of annexation, by force, of the Island by the Continent, also hardly doable, for the severe reaction that Beijing would receive from the international community. Indeed, in the quest to become the greatest world power of this century - Chinese President Xi Jinping's “dream” - the PRC cannot risk raising the opprobrium of the international community.

Let's go, So, to the third scenario: the negotiation. Let's see: Taiwan's economy is totally dependent on the Mainland. PRC is the island's main trading partner. We're, like this, in the face of two antipodic forces: on one side, that of cissiparity, desired by the majority of the population (so much so that the government is currently exercised by a separatist party), and on the other, the continuity of “the status quo”, that entrepreneurs increasingly aspire to be able to interact and trade freely with the Continent.

The Taiwanese economy is currently in a process of decline; and if the island loses its main trading partner – and political antagonist, at the same time – she will no longer be able to finance complicity ($$$) of the sixteen countries that recognize their sovereignty, and so survive as a state. Without international recognition, Taiwan ceases to exist…the third scenario, therefore, that has been the predominant one so far, is that of negotiation - inconclusive – between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, in the eagerness of “gain time” until the course of history decides the common future. By the way, even when the two sides almost reached the armed conflict, in 1995/6, well ”Chinese style” – Confucius will not have existed in vain, neither??? - they chose to ease tensions when the situation got really serious. This is, for me, definitely, the standard: rhetoric X reality…

What the future holds for everyone is still unknown… What I do know is that around 24 millions of Taiwanese, larger population than many countries, and the 1,38 billion continentals will have, sooner or later, to formalize what they are already living, indeed: an ever closer relationship, away, believe - and hope – a suicidal confrontation. Is not, At my point of view, neither the annexation nor the separation that would be the solution, but negotiation… negotiation… negotiation…, until they reach an agreement. (?)…A Confederation “a la Commonwealth” maybe it's a possible solution. This is why Deng Xiaoping said that the issue should have been resolved by Mao and Chiang Kai-shek…

This subject, for me, does not admit intrusions by the international community, because it is a very sensitive and very own theme to the Chinese soul. For this reason, I am very concerned about the daring attitudes of those who, without real knowledge of what is going on in those parts, propose measures that could cause profound damage to our relationship with the Chinese. And China is no joke…

I would also like to include the reflections of my friend Chateaubriand Neto, Chancellery officer, with which I served on different occasions and posts, especially in China, who has vast knowledge and experience on the subject. Here is the text he wrote in response to my facebook post. I believe it has great historical value:

Fausto, I experienced the conflict of the missiles of 1994/1995. I landed in Taiwan in September 1992 to open a visa office, at an office of the National Trade Confederation in Taipei, which was headed by a retired Ambassador. Like this, I was the first active member of the Foreign Service in Brazil to be assigned to serve on the Island, after the breakdown of diplomatic relations in 1973. For not being a diplomat, while on active duty I will not talk about diplomatic relations. As soon as I arrived on the island I was enchanted with the Chinese universe and the complexities of its internal political relations. That's when I started to study the formation of the Chinese state. I was lucky to find translations of philosophical writings made in the century 19, so without communist or capitalist bias. I learned that democracy in China is to have a strong government that leads people to social welfare. Social well-being is giving every citizen the opportunity to have something to do that guarantees a dignified livelihood.. In other words, to give everyone the opportunity to get rich. Another important point is respect for social hierarchy and ancestors. These are some of the points that organize Chinese society. As long as the governor keeps society organized in these standards, he will have popular support, because the ruler is fulfilling the Heavenly mandate.

This brief introduction was to reach the point of your excellent reflection. Even today, China being much more powerful than Taiwan, the two sides of the strait respect each other due to a shared culture for millennia. The inhabitants of Taiwan are descended from Chinese people who moved to the island in various migratory waves. The original inhabitants of Taiwan, of malaysian origin, were pushed into the mountains. So they have the same culture, the same ancestors, the same beliefs and religions.
The Chinese Communist Party and the Nationalist Party had the same power structure. While the CCP killed opponents, KMT did the same, getting to perform, in 1947, the massacre of more than 28 thousand people in a street mess against the cigarette monopoly. The two parties acted in a similar way to bring well-being to the people, but in a different way. Relations between the two sides of the strait went well until Lee Tang Hui decided to put an element that was out of the script: the independence of the island. Until then, KMT had enunciated to win back the continent. From there, the thing got ugly. China began testing surface-to-sea missiles that flew over the island. Other sea-to-sea test, ships launched misses towards the island. Some even crashed on beaches in northern Taiwan. The American president ordered the seventh fleet to pass through the Taiwan Strait. The Taiwanese government promptly said that it had not asked for assistance and that if an incident happened it would be the fault of the United States. This attitude reinforces what Faust said about Confucianism. Sai Hui, entra Chen Shui Pian do DPP – Progressive Democratic Party, elected with ostensible support from Hui, do KMT. Chen, who remains in prison accused of corruption, launched several statements to try to justify an independent movement. One of the statements was to deny the existence of a common past. In this way, was broken, partly, the confucian paradigm, which coincided with the beginning of the decline of Taiwan's economy and the move of several factories to the Mainland. With the economic decline, Taiwan lost firepower in the check book diplomacy. KMT returned to power with Ma Ying Jeou, period when there was peace. Even leaders on both sides of the strait met in Singapore. Mrs. Tsai assumes power for the DPP and with each independence movement China “takes” a country.
From my perspective , this is the dynamics of the relations between the island and the continent. The CCP and the KMT want to maintain the status quo according to the theory of one China and each part of the strait interprets its own way. DPP wants independence.
I believe that one thing is certain. The issue will be resolved peacefully. It will be a hit among Chinese, within a logic that only they understand, without third party interference.

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Doctor of Public International Law in Paris. He entered the diplomatic career in 1976, served in Brussels embassies, Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Washington, Beijing, Tokyo, Islamabade (where he was Ambassador of Brazil, in 2004). He also completed transitional missions in Vietnam and Taiwan. Lived 15 years in Asia, where he guided his career, considering that the continent would be the most important of the century 21 - forecast that, now, sees closer and closer to reality.