Written after Taiwan’s January 16th election
Today marks a special day in the history of a young nation taking its first steps toward independence. Taiwan today held it’s federal elections, and for the first time in history elected a woman as its president. However, even more special is the fact that this woman represents a party that supports Taiwanese independence from China, a taboo topic for many. To better understand the importance of this, an understanding of Taiwanese history must first be covered.
After being defeated by the Communist Party in the Chinese Civil War of 1949, Chiang Kai-Shek and his party fled mainland China with two million refugees to the nearby island, which had been ruled by the Japanese for the last 50 years until surrender at the end of World War II. That island is now known as Taiwan. Remaining that he and his party were still the true and original China, Chiang Kai-Shek established Taiwan as the “Republic of China (ROC)”. Angered by Chiang’s actions, the Communist Party called the mainland the “People’s Republic of China (PRC)”. After that point, both governments claimed to represent the legitimate China. The PROC, now in control of the much more powerful mainland nation, instated the “One China Policy” which stated that in any international relations, countries could only recognize one of the two Chinas. If any country recognized ROC as a country, the PRC would cease any relations with that nation. Unfortunately for Taiwan, this left the world with an easy decision. They could choose to interact with Taiwan (ROC), a young, small nation, or the industrial and economic giant of China (PRC).
There are only 22 nations around the world that have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. As a result of this, in most countries, you can not find a Taiwanese Embassy. You will instead find a “Taipei Economic and Cultural Office”. Although it performs many of the same procedural tasks that would take place at an official embassy, the office can not be called an embassy, for Taiwan is not recognized as a nation. Despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations, Canada and Taiwan keep close economic ties. Canada exports large amounts of metal ore, mineral oil, asphalt, coal, wood, nickel, and more. Taiwan’s major exports to Canada include mobile devices from companies like Acer, HTC and ASUS, recording equipment, steel products, and plastic products. Interestingly, Bombardier Inc., a Canadian brand, manufactures many of the trams used in the Taipei Metro System.
This election marked an important moment for Taiwan as a young emerging force. The largest topics of debate in election campaigns were Taiwan’s relationship with China and the economy. After four years of leadership by the historically powerful Kuomintang Party (KMT) in which Taiwan China relations were brought somewhat closer, many Taiwanese citizens were keen to keep the status-quo. All Taiwanese understand the incredible impact that would take place if Taiwan were to declare its independence, but they also want to keep distance from the big brother China.
Tsai Ing-Wen, the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was expected to win by a landslide. The DPP opposes the One-China Policy and supports an independent Taiwanese indentity. Although she has given statements giving support to the status quo, the president elect has stated clearly her opinion on Taiwan China relations. “Our democratic system, national identity, and international space must be respected. Any forms of suppression will harm the stability of cross-strait relations.”
Looking to the future, I am excited for Taiwan. I hope that this nation of beautiful culture, language, and people can be recognized for its individual identity. Relationships with China are vital, and finding the balance of power is our new president’s responsibility. With care, I know that the world will hear about Taiwan, the true heart of Asia.
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