With Nancy Pelosi travelling to Taiwan, let's set the record straight on the island nation's independence from Beijing

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      U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to touch down on the independent island nation of Taiwan on Tuesday (August 2).

      That has elicited the usual sabre-rattling from Beijing, which continues to claim that Taiwan is its long-lost province even though Taiwan has a democratically elected president, Tsai Ing-wen.

      That’s not the only trapping of nationhood. Taiwan also has its own flag, constitution, currency, health-care system, armed forces, and national assembly, which includes representation for the Indigenous people of the island. They never had any connection to the mainland.

      China’s historical claim to Taiwan also doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

      In fact, China has been one of many colonizers through the centuries, along with Japan, Spain, and the Netherlands.

      This is documented in Taiwanese historian Su Beng’s landmark 1962 book, Taiwan’s 400 Year History, which was republished in a shorter English-language version in 1986.

      The Qing dynasty asserted control over Taiwan in 1683. But Su Beng explained in his book that imperial rulers of China and Chinese dynastic scholars never saw Taiwan as actually being part of their country on a few occasions.

      For example, in the Qing dynasty’s Official Historical Record of Taiwan, Vol II, author Liu Liang-P’i described Taiwan as “a wilderness land and, from the beginning, never a part of the Chinese domain”.

      Another Chinese writer, Chang Ju-shen, called Taiwan “a place where pirates band together”, according to Su Beng, in An Unofficial Record of Taiwan, Vol. II.

      Another Chinese writer, Fan Hsein, called Taiwan “a haven for criminals who had escaped” in Record of Taiwan.

      "Yet, in spite of the 215 years of rule from the mainland, 'the Taiwanese people and the Taiwanese society' in essential quality, never became one with China," Su Beng declared in his book.

      Moreover, people from Taiwan were banned or restricted from immigrating to China until 1875, he reported.

      As a result, Su Beng characterized China’s authority over the island as “discriminatory” and “colonial”.

      Jurisdiction over Taiwan was transferred to Japan in 1895 as a result of the Treaty of Shimonoseki after the first Sino-Japanese War.

      It remained in Japanese hands until the end of the Second World War. That’s when the nationalist Chinese regime led by Chiang Kai-shek reasserted authority, leading to a notorious massacre of Taiwanese people on February 28, 1947.

      After Chiang lost the Chinese Civil War to the Communists, he and about two million of his followers from the mainland moved to Taiwan, in effect launching yet another colonization effort. He ruled with an iron fist for decades.

      As a result of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Japan peace treaty of 1952, sovereignty over the island reverted to the Republic of China (Taiwan).

      Following Chiang’s death in 1975, he was succeeded first by Yen Chia-kan who finished his term, and then by his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, a former head of the secret police. Following the son’s death, the next president, Le Teng-hui, ushered in democracy.

      Tsai Ing-wen is currently the elected president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), which has authority over the island under the 1952 treaty with Japan.

      Despite this reality, the People’s Republic of China continues trying to bully the world into seeing Taiwan as an essential appendage of the country.

      It’s false from a historical point of view. It’s also false from an ethnographic perspective, given that Indigenous tribes are the true first peoples of the island.

      “We are not the so-called ‘ethnic minorities’ within the ‘Chinese nation',” declared more than a dozen representatives of Indigenous peoples of Taiwan in a 2019 response to a bellicose speech by Chinese president Xi Jinping.

      “The stories our ancestors tell of the mountains of Jade, Alishan, Dabajian, Kavulungan, Beinan and Dulan, forests, grasslands, valleys, rivers, islands, and oceans of Taiwan testify that Taiwan is—and has always been—the traditional territory of the Indigenous peoples on this land,” they asserted.

      “Taiwan is the sacred land where generations of our ancestors lived and protected with their lives," they noted. "It doesn’t belong to China.”

      Pelosi wouldn't be the first house speaker to visit Taiwan. Republican Newt Gingrich did this in 1997 when he was in this role.


      Nancy Pelosi has landed in Taiwan. She teeted a link to her opinion piece in the Washington Post explaining why she decided to lead a congressional delegation to the island nation.

      Prior to Pelosi touching down, the spokesperson for foreign affairs for the People's Republic of China, Hua Chunying, said that her government has "repeatedly and unmistakably expressed to the US side our firm opposition to Speaker Pelosi's potential visit to Taiwan."

      "First, any US government institution, executive, legislative and judicial alike, must act on the foreign policy recognized and committed to by the US government," Hua said. "In 1979, the US government made a clear commitment in the Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations that 'the United States of America recognizes the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China. Within that context, the people of the US will maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan.' The US Congress is part of the US government, and it should strictly abide by the foreign policy recognized and committed to by the US government. When the House Speaker, being the third-highest ranking figure in the US government, flies on US military aircraft and makes a provocative visit to the Taiwan region, it is by no means an unofficial action.

      "Second, the wrongful actions of certain US politicians in the past do not constitute a precedent and still less should they become an excuse for the US to repeat its mistake on the Taiwan question," Hua continued. "And third, the one-China principle is a universally recognized basic norm in international relations and a common understanding of the international community. It is on the basis of the one-China principle that China has established diplomatic ties with the US and 180 other countries. This is a solemn commitment the US has made on the one-China principle to China in the three Sino-US Joint Communiqués."