October 7th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Green energy push has left us blowin' in the wind

EDITORIAL Lessons for Australia in NZ election results

CANBERRA OBSERVED Assurances on religious freedom needed now

ENERGY Peak oil turns out to be another moral panic

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Timor Leste, Australia reach new border treaty

BUSHFIRES Disaster awaits as advice again goes unheeded

GENDER POLITICS Does biological sex matter?

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Intolerance of the 'Yes' campaign for all to see

EUTHANASIA Medical murder: three historical cases

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Gallant Taiwan survives alone in the bitter sea

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Prepare for apologies in a generation's time

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE A reflection on the use and abuse of the thought of the Angelic Doctor

MUSIC Stupendous talent: What to do with all that ego?

CINEMA Trollhunters: Guillermo del Toro's TV fantasy

BOOK REVIEW Debunking the 'harmless' tag


EUTHANASIA Victoria's death bill: questions that need answers

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Gallant Taiwan survives alone in the bitter sea

by Jeffry Babb

News Weekly, October 7, 2017

Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China (ROC). The ROC national day is celebrated on October 10 and is known as Double Ten. Double Ten is a day of celebration. On this day in 1911, 5,000 years of dynastic Chinese rule came to an end and the Chinese republic was established.

The Ching Dynasty was established in 1644. The Ching were not Han Chinese, but Manchus from Manchuria, now northeast China. The Manchus usurped the Ming Dynasty, who were Han Chinese. The overthrow of the Ching Dynasty had been the aim of Chinese nationalists for many years. One common slogan was “Overthrow the Ching, restore the Ming”.

The Hsinhai revolution established the Chinese republic. The Hsinhai Revolution, or Revolution of 1911, was led by Dr Sun Yat-sen, who was a Hong Kong medical doctor. He was not present at the Hsinhai Revolution, but is generally given credit for leading it. Both the ROC and the People’s Republic of China (PRC – Communist China) regard Sun Yat-sen as the father of modern China.

Initially, following the revolution, things were chaotic. Warlords carved out fiefdoms independent of the central government. Gradually General Chiang Kai-shek gained the upper hand. The Northern Expedition of 1926 allowed Chiang and the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, to gain control and unify the country.

Then China went through a period of economic prosperity. Eventually hostilities broke out between the ROC government and the Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong. The communists usurped the Kuomintang (KMT) government. The People’s Republic of China was declared on October 1, 1949, when Mao allegedly declared at Tiananmen Square “The Chinese people have stood up”.

As a consequence, Generalissimo Chiang and the KMT central government withdrew to Taiwan in 1949. Since then the KMT never renounced its claim to be the government of all China.

The Taiwanese initially welcomed the KMT, but hostilities broke out on February 28, 1947. This is known as the “2-28 Incident”. No one knows how many Taiwanese were killed by the KMT authorities, but it was certainly in the thousands.

Taiwan has four main social groups. The original inhabitants were the Aborigines, or Austronesian Taiwanese. They are Polynesians. The Polynesian move to settle the Pacific began in Taiwan. They are not Chinese. Until recently, they were known in Chinese as shan di ren or “mountain people”. This term was abandoned as it was considered to be insulting. They had originally inhabited the plains as well, but those were mostly killed off by the Chinese settlers.

They are now known as the yuan zhu ming or “the original inhabitants” or “Taiwan’s First Nations”. The political and social situation of the Aborigines is comparable with that of indigenous Australians in the 1960s. The Aborigines now constitute around 2 per cent of the population.

The most significant social group is the Taiwanese. They are Han Chinese from China, mostly from Fujian Province. They began settling Taiwan in the 17th century. In excess of 95 per cent of China’s population is Han Chinese. Within this group, there are around 100 subgroups. The Taiwanese are one of these subgroups. In recent years, surveys have found that an increasing number of people – especially young people – describe themselves as “Taiwanese” rather than “Chinese” but this is a matter of cultural identity rather than ethnicity. The Taiwanese constitute around 70 per cent of the population.

The Mainlanders are descended from the people who followed Chiang Kai-shek from China to Taiwan. Until recently, they were the ROC’s ruling elite. They came from all over China, but mostly from the coastal provinces, because they could escape the communists more easily. The Mainlanders form about 15 per cent of the population. It can be easily seen that the mainlanders’ political vehicle, the KMT, could not have ruled without the support of a large number of Taiwanese.

The Hakka, or Ke jia ren (“guest people”) are a distinct ethnic group within the Han Chinese. They have the reputation for being hard working, studious, clannish and parsimonious. Many famous Chinese have been Hakka, including Sun Yat-sen and Deng Xiaoping. Taiwan’s Hakka population, at around 15 per cent, is comparatively large and politically influential.

The ROC has not renounced its claim to be the government of all China.

The main division in Taiwan politics is between the “pan blue” faction and the “pan green” faction. The “pan blue” faction, dominated by the KMT, seeks reunion with China, probably at some distant time in the future. The “pan green” faction seeks eventual independence from China for Taiwan, when the political situation allows. The leading “pan green” party is the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). For the first time in the history of Taiwan, the DPP now has a national leader, President Tsai Ing-wen, and also controls the legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s unicameral parliament.

The PRC will not accept “two Chinas” or “one China and one Taiwan”. Under KMT President Ma Ying-jeou, both the PRC and ROC accepted the “1992 Consensus”, which was “One China, with each side having its own interpretation”. This modus vivendi allowed for a remarkable improvement in relations between the ROC and PRC under Ma. Relations are now back in deep freeze with the independence-leaning DPP in control.

Taiwan is widely regarded as a viable political entity, even though the number of nations the ROC has formal diplomatic ties with is down to 20. If, however, it comes to pass that the ROC passport is no longer accepted as a legitimate travel document, Taiwan will be in deep trouble. The PRC can’t conquer Taiwan militarily nor will the people of Taiwan accept the PRC as their government. The PRC’s only option is to slowly grind Taiwan down.

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