In Opinions

By John Burrows,

Published on NCW, Sept 15, 2022:

In this opinion piece by John Burrows, he explores the history of Taiwan since the end of WW2. He examines how the foreign policy of the West, specifically that of the US, shifted from supporting China’s sovereignty over Taiwan when it seemed that the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-Shek would defeat the People’s Liberation Army, to attempts at undermining the PRC following the PLA’s victory.
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In the peace and boundary settlements of the Second World War it was agreed that China held sovereignty over Taiwan and Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. The west in general, and the USA specifically, had no problem with this, because China at that time was ruled by the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-Shek and was wholly dependent upon the USA for economic, military and food aid.

In the euphoria of the victory over Japan, Chiang assured his American masters that the communist rebels under Mao would soon be defeated and liquidated by his large and well-equipped army. Indeed, the USA believed that Nationalist China would provide a vital part of the encirclement of the USSR in the war they and the UK were planning against that country. Chiang, with US approval, instructed the defeated Japanese Armies to surrender only to his nationalist forces and to keep fighting the Communist Red Army.

The USA brokered a peace conference between the Nationalists and Communists at which a power sharing deal was agreed by both sides. Within a day of the conference ending, Chiang had reneged on this agreement and formed a Nationalist only Government and ordered his army to attack the Communists.

For the next 14 months Chiang’s prediction appeared to be correct; the Nationalist Armies pushed the Communists back and took control of cities and towns that had been Communist controlled.

The Communists however, had merely been buying time, while the various elements of the Red Army, the Resistance Groups and Nationalist deserters were forged together and trained as the new Peoples Liberation Army. In the months that followed, the Nationalists were pushed back by a highly aggressive PLA that never gave them an opportunity to regroup. From the North and the South, the PLA pushed relentlessly forward until the remnants of the Nationalists were forced to retreat to Taiwan. This was despite direct military assistance from the USA, which supplied them with weapons as well as direct assistance from the US air force that strafed and bombed the communists.

Now China had become the Peoples Republic of China. At this point, America abandoned the agreements of the boundary commission and began a campaign to bring down the PRC.

The history of Taiwan shows that it had been under Chinese control, in the formal sense since the 12th century. Archaeologists affirm that the ancestral origins of the indigenous Taiwanese date back to migrations from China around 50,000 years ago. Furthermore, the older Hakka language spoken by indigenous inhabitants of Taiwan is a variant of Hokkien, which still spoken in some regions of China and by ethnic Chinese in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

The Japanese occupation of Taiwan in 1895 forced at gunpoint and approved of by the British Empire saw a determined attempt to wipe out the Chinese culture of the island and enforce the Japanese language and obedience to Japan. Taiwanese conscripts in the Japanese army took part in the massacre of Nanking.

The reunification of Taiwan and China approved of at the Cairo conference in 1943, the Potsdam conference of 1945 and ratified by the post WW2 boundary commission was greeted with great joy in China. However, the brutality of the nationalist government led to riots in Taiwan in 1947, in which the nationalist army opened fire on protestors and in the following weeks more than one thousand Taiwanese were shot by the nationalist army. As the Chinese civil war came to a close Chiang moved his government and some remnants of his army to Taiwan, he imposed martial law, and just as he had intended in mainland China, set about liquidating anyone who might lead a political challenge to his leadership. Martial law in Taiwan was not lifted until 1987.

Chiang dreamed of invading the mainland, and was successful, amidst the anti-communist hysteria of the McCarthy era in the USA in getting a mutual defence pact between Taiwan and the USA. The US seventh fleet sailed up and down the Taiwan straits to prevent the mainland from invading the island.

American, British and Taiwanese warplanes regularly flew over the mainland spying on the PLA . They flew with impunity above the altitude of effective PLA anti-aircraft guns and missiles until, in a brilliant feat of engineering, the Chinese adapted a Russian supplied anti-aircraft missile to improve its range, speed and accuracy. One American U2 aircraft was shot down followed by two Taiwanese aircraft and a British high altitude Spitfire reconnaissance aircraft flown from Kaitak airfield in UK occupied Kowloon. The Chinese shared this technology with the Russians who in turn used it to bring down another U2 aircraft overflying Russia and piloted by Gary Powers, a CIA employee. Nationalist soldiers who had fled to Myanmar in 1947 took control of the poppy fields there and began to try and import opium into China on a large scale, they failed and instead turned to producing heroin, which they sold increasingly to US drug barons, and which played a significant role in the huge sales of Heroin to US troops in Vietnam and Thailand and the US mainland. The profits helped to support the near bankrupt government of Taiwan.

As the old leaders of both the KMT and CPC died a hesitant move by both parties began to encourage discourse between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. Over the 90’s and early 2000’s the relationship improved to the extent that discussions became open, tourists from both sides visited each other, families torn apart by the civil war were re-united and both the political and social climate of relations between the mainland and the island improved dramatically. A peaceful resolution and re-unification became a reality. The mainland invested heavily in Taiwanese industries and Taiwanese businessmen flocked to China to open new companies and share in the growing prosperity of the mainland. The USA eager to enlist China in its encirclement of the USSR recognised The Peoples Republic of China as the sole legal government of China including Taiwan and restored the PRC to its rightful seat in the UN Security Council. In its haste it threw its old allies in Taiwan under the bus. When it became clear that China would not dance to a US tune the policies of the USA began to connive to undo these past promises and agreements.

In 2009 Obama became president of the USA, a protege of the Clintons, he reflected Hilary Clinton’s deep dislike of the Chinese, at his bidding the US military began to plan the encirclement of China, and the CIA began a campaign to destabilise the relationship between China and Taiwan. The USA had always maintained an unofficial embassy in Taiwan, one of its senior local employees was Tsai Ing-wen, she had been infiltrated into several senior jobs in the Taiwan administration and had been useful in gathering intelligence on the intentions of the existing government’s attitude to the mainland and re-unification and had helped to formulate propaganda to counter these progressive developments and recruit local agitators to disrupt KMT meetings. Now she was ready for higher tasks, armed with large funds from her US masters she joined the Progressive Democratic Party and began to agitate for Taiwan to declare itself an independent state. Her access to large funds soon saw her take control of her party and with a steady campaign of bribery she was able to win the 2016 election in Taiwan with 57% of the vote and was declared president.

With Tsai Ing-wen as president relations between Mainland China and Taiwan entered a steep decline. US interests became embedded into Taiwan, including covert bodies of US army personnel.

The US influence was baleful, and Taiwan became enmeshed in the illegal drug trade, prostitution, and the international pornography market.  Tsai Ing-wen often boasted of the higher wages of Taiwanese workers compared with China, an illusion still used by academics today to undermine the feasibility of re-unification with China, but that issue is a blind alley as the price of food, energy, fuel is very much higher than in mainland China. In terms of purchasing parity, the Mainland enjoys a higher standard of living. Over half of Taiwan’s economy is dependent upon China. Despite heavy bribery and gerrymandering her majority dropped to 52% of the vote in the 2020 election. In local government elections later the same years her party lost all but one of its 25 seats in local government. Protests by the Taiwanese against her policies and her subordination to the USA are largely ignored in the west.

Tsai Ing-wen has faithfully served her US masters and today Taiwan is being turned into an aggressive part of the USA’s threat against China. Billions of dollars of weapons have been shipped to Taiwan by the USA and they promise a lot more.  The one China policy and agreements made between the USA and China in past decades has been cast aside by the American desire to throttle China’s growth and incite a military confrontation between Taiwan and China. Just as in the Ukraine, the USA is willing to fight to the last Taiwanese to pursue its hegemonic goals.

John Burrows is a pseudonym.

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