Taiwan Struggling for Independence:
A Historical Perspective

By Tsai Pai-chuan and Chi-ming Ng


Taiwan As Possessed by the Republic of China

  1. "Pigs Come After Dogs Are Gone" (1945-49)

    @A popular saying "Pigs come after dogs are gone" vividly reflects how bitter Taiwanese felt about the transition of colonial rule from the Japanese to the Chinese. The "Japanese dogs," albeit an epithet used by Taiwanese to refer to the cruel Japanese colonists, were duty-bound and carried to completion certain significant modernization programs, brought in law and order and took to their hearts the lives and prosperity of Taiwanese, while the "Chinese pigs" were considered avaricious, corrupt and exploitative. Both "pigs" and "dogs" denote the ruling class, not the general public.

    @Like Japan to U.S. Gen. MacArthur, Taiwan was entrusted, not gifted, to China by the Allies in the wake of the second world war. But Commissioner Chen Yi, assigned by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to rule Taiwan, unilaterally declared at the transition ceremony held on October 25, l945: "From today onward, Taiwan formally becomes a part of Chinese territory again." From then on, the Commissioner's Office succeeded to the Japanese Governor's Office as well as all the Japanese public and private properties on Taiwan. To the amazement and disappointment of Taiwanese, Chinese soldiers on Taiwan began to commit robbery, pilferage and rape, though they had welcome them with an open heart upon their arrival in the island. These Chinese spoke mandarin and different Chinese dialects which most of the Taiwanese did not understand.

    @The "February 28 Massacre" in 1947 would not have been considered a regrettable development if and only if the Taiwanese had known in advance how corrupted the Chinese nationalists were. Angered by the brutal beating to death of an old woman suspected of having offered for sale smuggled cigarettes, the Taiwanese, after having sought pardon in vain and gunned by the armed forces on the order of the authorities in Taipei, first stormed the Chinese officials in protest. The protest turned into a riot that spread to other parts of the island. Commissioner Chen feigned to consult with the then Taiwanese opinion leaders, but stealthily seeking the help of Generalissimo Chiang to send armed forces from China. The forces arrived at Keelung and Kaohsiung on March 8, l947 and began to massacre Taiwanese, whether culpable or innocent. The number of death or casualities was incalculable, ranging from roughly 20,000 in official figure to approximately 100,000 in private figure out of the then 6.5 million population. The massacre terrorized and alienated the Taiwanese from the Chinese on Taiwan, thereby planting the seed of Taiwan independence ever since. Just as the Eritreans in northeast Africa who, after having been ruled by Italy and Britain, could not fit themselves into Ethiopians and then struggled for independence, so did the Taiwanese, after having been ruled by the far more advanced Japan, find themselves incompatible with the Chinese who fled Taiwan from the Chinese mainland. The subsequent "country cleansing campaign" and "white terror" were even more terrible in that they operated to stifle all the dissidents in Taiwan.

  2. The "Chiang Dynasty" (1949-88)


    @On October 1, l949, Mao Tse-tung declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing. On December 7 of the same year, the defeated Chinese nationalists fled to Taiwan, with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek holding himself out as the reinstated President of the exiled Republic of China from 1949 to 1975. Chiang Ching-kuo, his son, succeeded to the presidency in l978, thenceforth ushering in a dark age of the "Chiang Dynasty" in the history of Taiwan.

    a).Temple Keepers Expelled by Beggars (1949-87)

    @ On May 19, l949, Generalissimo Chiang proclaimed martial law on China. Although the Chinese Civil War had ended upon the establishment of the PRC in October of the same year and had been no longer relevant to the Taiwanese people, the exiled Nationalist Chinese regime continued to enforce the martial law in Taiwan on the excuse that it would counterattack mainland China. A popular metar has it that Taiwanese, like temple keepers, was expelled by the Chinese political refugees, the beggars.

    @The martial rule, which met its gravest challenge on September 28, l986 when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was founded, was not lifted until July 15, l987. In its place, the National Security Law was enacted, which discourages "people from forming associations in violation of the Constitution and national policy of anti-communism, and maintaining the division of national territory," an implied prohibition of Taiwan independence.

    b).A Parliament of "Old Thieves" (1949-92)

    @ In l949, a rump Chinese parliament was reinstated in Taiwan as a rubber stamp for the "Chiang Dynasty," with several additional members elected by Taiwanese since l970. Those life-long parliamentarians were dubbed "old thieves" as they did not stand re-election, but forced to retire in l992.

    c). An "Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier" During the Cold War

    @ On August 5, l949, the U.S. Government issued its White Paper on China, calling to tasks the Nationalist Chinese regime's corruption and incompetence and declaring that the U.S. Government would no longer intervene in the Chinese Civil War and would cease its aid to Chiang Kai-shek. But unexpectedly the Korean War broke out in l950, thereby prompting the U.S. to resume her military and economic aid to the Nationalist China on Taiwan, with an intent to use Taiwan as a military base to contain Communist China. On December 2, 1954, the exiled Nationalist Chinese Government signed with the U.S. Government the so-called "Mutual Defense Treaty Between the Republic of China and the United States of America." Accordingly, Taiwan became an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" from the U.S. perspective of strategic deployment during the period of the Cold War. Taiwan did not cease such status until l979 when the U.S. normalized its diplomatic relations with the PRC and terminated the treaty with the Nationalist China.

    d).A Pariah State

    @ Taiwan under the rule of the fascist Nationalist China was considered a "pariah state" like Israel and South Africa when the latter was under the apartheid regime. In l971, Chiang Kai-shek's representatives were expelled out of the United Nations after the resolution No. 2758 was adopted at the U.N. General Assembly. Subsequently, Taiwan became more and more isolated in the international community which continues to this day.

    e).Taiwan Independence Movements

    @ Under the martial law of the exiled Nationalist Chinese regime, maintaining Taiwan independence runs the risk of being prosecuted for high treason until the recent years. Even today any civic organization would be considered "illegal" if it uses "Taiwan" as part of its name and thus would be non-registrable with the government registrar. In 1964, Dr. Peng Ming-min stealthily drafted the "Declaration of Self-Salvation of the Taiwanese People," stressing the necessity of Taiwanese independence. In l982, the then non-Kuomingtang (or KMT, the ruling party) candidates unveiled their uniform electoral program - "Taiwan's future should be determined by Taiwanese according to the principle of self-determination," which was later incorporated in the platform of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in l986 when it was set up.

    @It is acknowledged that overseas Taiwanese enjoyed more freedom of political activities. In l956, a "Provisional Government of the Republic of Taiwan" was established in Tokyo, followed by other independence groups in Japan. In l970, World United Formosans for Independence was formed in Tokyo with presence in many major countries throughout the world, and then relocated to New York in l987 and then to Taiwan in 1992. The Formosan Association of Public Affairs, founded in the U.S. in l982, is continuing its relentless efforts to lobby for foreign affairs for Taiwan.

  3. Post-Chiang Period Since 1988

    @ In l988 when Chiang Ching-kuo passed away, Lee Teng-hui, the then Vice President, succeeded to the presidency. Being the first native Taiwanese to assume the highest public office, President Lee has since enjoyed popular support and effectively put to rest, albeit not exterminated, the old guards in his ruling party. He holds himself out as a Moses to lead Taiwanese to walk out of the current doldrums arising out of the "Chiang Dynasty." Instead, however, he seems to take more interest in consolidating his personal powers to maintain the status quo of the ancien regime doggishly. Specifically, he appears to be crawling within the graveyard of the "Chiang Dynasty."

    a).Party Politics

    @ The DPP which received about an average of 35% of the popular votes in recent elections has been the largest opposition party mainly because it advocates, among other things, Taiwan independence, and has adopted two resolutions (Nos. 417 and 1007) in April l988 and in October 1990 respectively to promote the cause. The first resolution reiterates the principle of self-determination and denies China's claim over the sovereignty, while the latter represents that "Taiwan's sovereignty does not cover mainland China and Outer Mongolia."

    @In l992, the DPP invited representatives of public interest civic organizations in Taiwan to a convention at which the draft Constitution of Taiwan based on the presidential system was approved. But during the first-ever popular presidential election held on March 23, l996 under the military intimidation of the PRC, the DPP had an about face and changed their constitutional proposition and seeking the chances of forming a coalition government with the ruling party, thereby betraying their own presidential candidate. Worse still, they went a step further by declaring that "Taiwan is already independent," and dubbing some of their supporters as "Taiwan independence fundamentalists." Some supporters later founded the Taiwan Independence Party in October l996.

    @Meanwhile, the old guards of the ruling party - KMT - broke away and founded the Chinese New Party upholding reunification with China or the PRC, though undoubtedly the so-called "reunification" is generally thought to be the equivalent of annexation of Taiwan by or Taiwan's surrendering to the PRC. With a majority members speaking mandarin, the Chinese New Party, though benefiting inproportionately from their control of the mass media in Taiwan, won only 13% support of the popular votes in the last parliamentarian election in 1992, a percentage conforming to that of the Chinese political refugees in the total population in Taiwan.

    b).Taiwan Still a Chinese Colony

    @President Lee Teng-hui, albeit winning the popular support, is reluctant to renounce the existing impractical Chinese constitution based on the five-power governmental system. Instead, the constitution has been recently amended so much so that it becomes more and more unconstitutional. The political procedure appears democratic in form, but plutocratic in substance. Even today, Chinese political refugees are still appointed to head the education, defense and foreign affairs ministries, thus making Taiwan preserving its Chinese colonial system.


    @Currently, the Taiwan government can be said to be a "Republic of Confusion" as it is called "Republic of China" at one time and "Republic of China on Taiwan" at another, the latter name more preferable to President Lee Teng-hui due probably to the fact that it denotes the Republic of China is in fact a government in exile in Taiwan. Because of this, some people has been misled into believing that he may proceed to change the name into "Republic of Taiwan" someday in the future, just like the Republic of Zimbabwe which has gone through the transitional stage of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia" from the colonial Rhodesia to full independence. While whether he will do so remains to be seen, Taiwan is still being plagued diplomatically because he continues to stick to the suicidal foreign policy of "There is one China only and Taiwan is a part of China," constituting an invitation for China to take over Taiwan someday.


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