The East Asian island nation of Taiwan has its own flag, national anthem, public health-care system, and national legislature.
It's been colonized over the past 400 years by the Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, Ming and Qing dynasties, and nationalist forces from China following the Chinese Civil War.
In 1987, Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of long-time dictator Chiang Kai-shek, lifted martial law, giving birth to democracy in Taiwan.
There's freedom of the media and tremendous freedom for artists, writers, and musicians.
Taiwan, which has a population of 23 million, is home to a thriving movement of proudly rebellious student protesters.
But Chinese president Xi Jinping wants to turn the clock back to dictatorship and colonization. He's in the mood to impose the government of China's censorious rule on one of the freest countries in the world.
In a speech yesterday in Beijing—billed as the "40th anniversary of issuing a message to compatriots in Taiwan—he's called for "peaceful unification" of Taiwan under the one country-two-systems basis.
This approach has led to creeping authoritarianism in Hong Kong since the British returned this port city to China in 1997. It's being reflected in the arrests of pro-democracy activists and self-censorship in parts of the media.
Xi also said that China has the right to use force to implement its will on Taiwan.
The reality is the historical situation is far different between Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Hong Kong was part of China before the Opium Wars and the humiliating Treaty of Nanking in 1842.
Taiwan, on the other hand, is an island across a 180-kilometre strait that was never truly a part of China.
Taiwanese historian Su Bing conclusively demonstrated this in his 1962 book, Taiwan's 400 Year History. The English-language version was released in 1986.
He documented this by citing the Qing dynasty's Official Historical Record of Taiwan, Vol II, by Liu Liang-P'i.
"Taiwan is a wilderness land and, from the beginning, never a part of the Chinese domain," Liu wrote.
Another book by Chinese scholar Fan Hsien, Record of Taiwan, characterized the island as "a haven for criminals who had escaped".
Su declared that "from beginning to end, the colonial contradictions between the two were preserved and Taiwan developed differently from China".
Yet now, China's president is purporting that Taiwan is a "long-lost province" when it was never treated like other provinces in China while it was being colonized by its giant neighbour.
It's historically fictitious to suggest that Taiwan is a long-lost province of China.
It's not. It's an independent country. Xi's imperial ambitions need to be called out for what they truly are.
His desire to take over Taiwan, if achieved, would be worse than Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea.
That's because the Taiwanese, unlike many ethnic Russians in Crimea, have absolutely no interest in coming under the authority of a ruthless despot.More