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Chinese unification is a goal of Chinese nationalism which is the unification of all of China under a single political entity. As Hong Kong and Macau have been reunited with mainland China under the sovereignty of the People's Republic of China, the only outstanding issue is between the mainland and Taiwan, which is controlled by the Republic of China. The two sides have been separated since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.
Unification is controversial with varying and sometimes conflicting definitions. It is supported by the government of the People's Republic of China and to different degrees by the Kuomintang, People First Party, and New Party (known collectively as the pan-blue coalition) in the Taiwan. It is opposed by varying degrees by supporters of Taiwan independence, which include supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (known collectively as the pan-green coalition). Some of them refer to it as Chinese unification, Chinese expansionism or annexation by China. Within the political scene of Taiwan, unification versus independence defines the political spectrum with the caveat that much of the support to either bloc is unrelated to the pro-unification versus pro-independence issue and with the caveat that most people in Taiwan are in the middle of the spectrum.
The concept of "one China" has been part of the Chinese political orthodoxy since ancient times. Oftentimes, if one claimed to be the emperor with the mandate of heaven, then all other regimes within the country were either considered rebel or tributary. Accordingly, from the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 until the mid-1970s the concept of unification was not the main subject of discourse between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China; each formally envisioned a military takeover of one by the other. The Kuomintang believed that they would, probably with American help, one day retake the mainland while Mao Zedong's communist regime would collapse in a popular uprising and the Nationalist forces would be welcomed back. The Communist Party of China considered the Republic of China to have been made defunct by the newly-established People's Republic of China and thus regarded the ROC a renegade entity to be eliminated for the sake of unification. The concept of unification replaced the concept of liberation by the PRC in 1979 as it sought, with the death of Mao, economic reform and pursued a more pragmatic and less ideological foreign policy. Within Taiwan, the possibility of retaking the mainland became increasingly remote in the 1970s particularly after the death of Chiang Kai-shek.
With the loosening of authoritarian rule in the 1980s and the shift in power within the Kuomintang away from the Mainlanders who accompanied Chiang to Taiwan, the KMT began to move away from the ideology of Chinese unification. In 1991, President Lee Teng-hui announced that his government no longer disputed the rule of the Communists on the mainland leading to semi-official peace talks between the two sides. These talks broke down in 1999 when President Lee proposed to deal with the PRC on a "state-to-state" basis.
Until the mid-1990s, supporters of Chinese unification on Taiwan were also bitterly opposed to the Communist Party of China. Since the mid-1990s there has been a considerable warming of relations between the Communist Party and supporters of Chinese unification as the pro-Taiwan independence bloc in Taiwan has come to power as a common enemy. This has brought about the accusation that unification supporters are attempting to sell out Taiwan. The standard response is that closer ties with mainland China, especially economically, are in the interest of Taiwan.
After the presidential elections of 2000, which brought the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party's candidate Chen Shui-bian to power, the Kuomintang, faced with defections to the People First Party, expelled Lee Teng-hui and his supporters and shifted the party toward unification. Also, the People's Republic of China has shifted its efforts at promoted unification away from military threats (which it has not renounced but which it has not emphasized) toward economic incentives designed to encourage Taiwanese businesses into investing in the mainland and creating a pro-Beijing bloc within the Taiwanese electorate.
Within Taiwan, supporters of unification generally do not assert that the Republic of China should be the sole Chinese government. They tend to see "China" as a larger cultural entity divided by the Chinese Civil War into separate states or governments within the country. In addition, supporters of unification also do not oppose localization of culture or a Taiwanese identity but rather see the Taiwanese identity as one piece of a broader Chinese identity rather than as a separate cultural identity. What supporters of Chinese unification do oppose is desinicization or the effort to create a Taiwanese identity that is separate from the Chinese one.
The People's Republic of China maintains itself as the sole legitimate government of China and has proposed the unification of Taiwan under the principle of "One Country, Two Systems", as has been done for both Hong Kong and Macau. According to the proposal outlined by President Jiang Zemin in 1995, Taiwan would also be permitted to keep its armed forces and to send a representative to be the "number two leader" in the PRC central government. Thus, under this proposal, the Republic of China would be made fully defunct. Outside of the government, less formal relationships, such as one in the draft National Unification Promotion Law of the People's Republic of China have been proposed.
Unification supporters in Taiwan no longer advocate the position that the Republic of China is the sole legitimate government of China. Proposals among unification supporters in Taiwan have varied, with more extreme supporters in Taiwan such as Li Ao advocating "One Country, Two Systems" while more moderate supporters arguing to uphold the status quo until the mainland democratizes and industrializes to the same level as Taiwan. In the 2000 presidential election, independent candidate James Soong proposed a European Union-style relation with the mainland (this was echoed by Hsu Hsin-liang in 2004) along with a non-agression pact. In the 2004 presidential election, Lien Chan proposed a confederation-style relationship (though he later moderated his stance amid a tight race). Beijing rejected the plan claiming that Taiwan, being part of China already, is not a state and therefore could not form a federation with the PRC. Proposals for unification are not being actively floated in Taiwan and the issue remains moot since President Chen Shui-bian has refused to acknowledge the One-China Policy, which is required by Beijing for talks to begin.
The overwhelming consensus on the mainland is support for unification by all means necessary, much as a matter of national pride for the PRC but also for economic reasons. In this light the method by which unification is achieved becomes irrelevant. However, according to the PRC government, the only acceptable format of reunifcation is under the PRC—either by "One Country Two Systems" or by force. Analysts predict Beijing will go to great costs to obtain Taiwan, even if it means international isolation or economic destruction as the issue has been ingrained into the concept of Chinese nationalism.
In Taiwan, support for unification had varied. Chinese unification is often stereotyped as being the ideology of the Mainlander community on Taiwan, although there are many non-Mainlanders who support unification and some Mainlanders who oppose it. The proportion, however, of mainlanders who support unification when compared to the native Taiwanese is much higher. The parties which do advocate a stance more sympathetic towards unification often command considerable support for reasons that have nothing to do with cross-strait relations. Furthermore, even strong supporters of unification often have deep reservations about the timing and nature of unification.
Most polls show declining support for unification and increasing support for independence in the recent decade. Historically, throughout much of the last decade polls consistently suggest that 70% to 80% of all Taiwanese support maintaining the status quo—although the definition of the status quo is an area of intense debate. Immediate unification is a distant notion in Taiwan supported by only a 10% of Taiwanese residents and endorsed by none of the major political parties. The People First Party officially advocates that Taiwan should maintain the status quo. The Kuomintang has been consistently defending the sovereignty of the ROC, and the issue of unification has been conveniently dropped out. Although the latter two have often been viewed as supporters of Chinese unification, in most cases they are so in a traditional sense only. Their main difference to the pan-green coalition is that they believe Taiwan should identify itself culturally with China more, and opposes switching national identities. This sets them to be more sympathetic to the concept of unification in the future. "One Country Two Systems" has only as low as 6-7% support among Taiwanese. The main argument for this is the belief that Taiwan, a tiny island, ultimately can not compete with the mainland, and hence will benefit the most by reunifying as early as possible.
Polls in Taiwan are often criticized as being biased and inaccurate. After the October 10, 2004 speech by President Chen, polls suggested that as little as 5% support for unification with 60% support for maintaining the status quo and 65% opposition for the founding of a Republic of Taiwan in 2008 (the speculated product of the 2006 constitutional reforms proposed by president Chen in his speech). An independent opinion poll conducted by United Daily News later in Nov 2004 indicated that the support for the status quo had dropped to 36%, while the population in favor of immediate independence surged up to 21%.
- Cross-Strait Relations between China and Taiwan collection of documents and articles.
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