A naive question:

With all the pressing social problems China is facing, why is it still so interested in Taiwan?

It all seems so irrational to my western mind. The civil war was nearly 50 years ago. While a potential conflict would certainly be bloody, Taiwan is no real military threat to China. Taiwan has little to offer China in terms of natural resources or geography. It’s a country with a budding democracy, an educated, skilled workforce, mostly peaceful and prosperous. So, why is the idea of a small, democratic nation such a threat to them? What are they afraid of?

Assuming Taiwan were officially to declare it no longer has any notion that it is the legitimate ruler of China, that it only had the governance of the island as it’s primary concern, that it considers cooperation and free trade with all nations a priority, that it was willing to make certain good-faith concessions (like handing back Kinmen, for example)…assuming all this and whatever else China could reasonably ask for, would China still insist on it’s one China policy?

Why can’t China just leave Taiwan alone? Why the longstanding grudge? Call me naive, but is it simply a matter of face?

the Chinese are a pretty intensely nationalistic people however you slice it, and nothing gets those kind of hackles going more than lost territory. With the history of China in the last few hundred years such sentiments have long been in full gear. It has nothing to do with Taiwan being small, democratic or anything else in particular. The Chinese honestly feel that it is part of China by right.

A fair question, and I wouldn’t call it naive. I’ll do my best to respond… although like all difficult issues, the simple answers aren’t fully satisfying, and the satisfying aren’t fully simple.

It’s most definitely not a grudge. There’s no sentiment of anger towards the Taiwanese at large, and it’s certainly not due to some mortal fear lingering from the Civil War. To borrow the words of one Abraham Lincoln, who in turn borrowed the words of Constitutional drafters a century prior, the Chinese desire to unify with Taiwan can be explained as a quest to “form a more perfect union”.

As I’ve said earlier, Chinese civilization is relatively unique amongst men. It is one of the few nations that has placed such a premium on unity, on harmony of all lands underneith the sky. For over 2000 years, China has been united far more (in terms of calender years) than it has been divided. Given the chance to segment into smaller kingdoms + fiefdoms, the intellectual and cultural philosophies that guide our nation have always led us back to a unified state.

We believe that we can not thrive as individuals unless our nation also thrives. Is that such a hard concept to understand?

As we look out over the world today, we see suffering, disease, war, and poverty in nations throughout the world. We know there are men out there who wage an individual struggle of heroic proportions, men who worker far harder than you or I, trying to bring wealth and security to his family. But if their nation is chaotic, if their nation is poor, if their nation is the military play-thing of another serving their own interests… their struggle will be an impossible one.

A unified China will be a strong China. The inverse of that statement is equally true. When European powers began to colonize and exploit China, they first weakened it by dividing it. They emasculated the central government, supported local warlords, and carved out local territory. Hundreds of millions of Chinese lived in poverty for 2 centuries, and it surely wasn’t because these Chinese were unwilling to work to better their lives… it was because their efforts were meaningless.

The 19th and 20th centuries are reminders of the importance of a strong, unified China. The presence of Taiwan is in itself insignificant. It represents 2% of the Chinese population, and in another 5-10 decades, it’ll likely represent 2% of the Chinese economy. Taiwan is more or less a symbol, the testing point for a principal.

China is more than just the geographic area where 1.3 billion Chinese-speaking, yellow-skinned, slant-eyed Mongoloids happen to congregate… just like a “family” is more than 3-4 people who happen to live in the same house. China is a nation with a history, and hopefully, a nation with a future.

For centuries, our forefathers lived up to their commitments; they sacrificed and worked to create this more perfect Chinese union, building a nation that give hundreds of generations of Chinese safer, more harmonious, and prosperous lives. In the 19th and 20th century, this “commitment” faded, and China collapsed into poverty and decline.

Well, that has stopped today. We’re living up to our commitments, again.

I personally can imagine several scenarios where the Chinese, as a people, accept that the Taiwanese have become an “other” after a long period of reflection and contemplation… and accept their independence. But I will not accept a scenario where we just shrug our collective shoulders and say out of apathy, “who cares… let’em go”. That doesn’t become an option until we’ve exhausted all other paths.

I firmly believe the majority of Taiwanese are proud of their Chinese identity, and can come to appreciate the advantages of a unified, stronger Chinese nation. I also firmly believe that under the current political environment, they’re being fed a steady, demonized view of this possibility. I say, after 2-3 decades of reconcillation, if I’m proven wrong on the above… then we can cast’em loose and let them make their own way.

But we aren’t going to weaken what makes China, China. If Lincoln can sacrifice the lives of millions of his countrymen to preserve his union, the least we can do is sacrifice some money and a few decades trying to preserve ours. And if anyone tries to deny us this opportunity for reconcillation, then our determination will be challenged yet again. I think we’ll be ready for that challenge.

I don’t know about anyone else here, but the idea of strength through unity chills me to the bone. Perhaps I’m failing to appreciate a different culture and an alternate way of thinking, but when I hear the word “unity”, I think groupthink and indoctrination.

There are strong, open and diverse societies in the world. One might argue stronger than China and ultimately better for the individual. How much of the west’s strength is derived from vigorous debate, checks and balances, elected representatives, free press and freedom of expression (the current state of USA notwithstanding)?

In nature isn’t diversity the rule rather than unity?

And of course, the civil war was about more than just keeping the union together.

:notworthy: Best thread ever. :bravo:

[quote]And of course, the civil war was about more than just keeping the union together.[/quote]The American Civil War was about exactly that: keeping the Union together. At least, that’s how the man who started it perceived it.

In 1862, Abraham Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune:

As far as whether “unity” is chilling… I’d observe that any values we do not ourselves understand can appear as chilling. I’ve heard self-righteous criticisms in every arena, not just this one.

  • Couples who don’t believe in the sanctity of marriage find it chilling that others would “sacrifice” much to rescue theirs; on the other hand, couples who’ve been married (and suffered) for 50 years find it chilling that others would tear apart their families so easily.

  • Parents who believe children should raise themselves find it chilling that other parents play such an active role in guiding theirs; parents who try to better their children find it chilling, that other parents only care about little more than feeding their children until they turn 18.

  • Adults who believe in the importance of respecting their parents to the end find it chilling that others would abandon them to a retirement home; others find it chilling some are so attached to an older generation, that they’d (gasp) choose to live with them at the cost of personal sacrifices.

Let me just say that we all have our own reasons for living our own lives. There’s nothing innately evil or malicious about believing in the importance of “unity”, whether it’s in the home or at a national level. There’s nothing innately evil or malicious about feeling a sense of responsibility towards others. China is like … well, the Chinese family down the street who forces their kids to dress neatly and attend piano lessons 5 times a week. You don’t have to act like us, but you don’t need to force us to live your life either… do you?

Whoa CCtang Horsey Whoa!!!

Is this yet another example of your relentless Chinese Ultra-nationalist /fundamentalist rhetoric? Are you yet again trying to use the US Civil War “example” -albeit selectively- at that? Okay, it’s time to ask a temporary stop and some questions.

You have in the past argued the US Nationalism angle at the expense of the Negro Slavery/Human Rights Angle. You’ve done your rhetorical level best to deny the importance of the latter. This isnt to say there was not a US Nationalism angle, but to deny the omni-present slavery issue is to me “rather convenient”. Shall we say at least?

Your focus has been in the past completely upon the former at the expense of the latter. That appears crucial and absolutely -central- to your rhetorical arguments. You have in other fora argued that Lincoln was nothing more than an American Nationalist, not an Emancipator. A mere operative that wanted unification of a country. In this debate you have even compared Hu Ji Tao as the new “Abraham Lincoln of China”. {sic}

You deny and then derided and rhetorically attack those whom bring up the Negro slavery and human rights arguments as in essence nothing more than irritants to the entire scope of the historical debate. {Rather convenient eh??}

You have over time used {wittingly or not} the now refuted “Lost Cause” Southern Nationalist" argument as Jefferson Davis has argued in his book as a means to confuse and -TO EFFECT confusion- to what the US Civil War was. Blaming Lincoln for everything. Denying at all costs what was truly and centrally fought upon; the issue of slavery itelf. Not the diversion of states rights as ole Jeff D’ argued. You have done what you could to argue essentially that the matter of Negro slavery meant nothing in the Civil War, that it was nothing more that a nasty “diversion”.

That in your mind it was more centered upon a matter of mere nationalism. And for the most part, solely so. As you argue and so hint…

Fill all of us in shall we? Educate all of us…
And let the fun begin…

I think Abraham Lincoln has done all the talking for me. I have no position on the American Civil War. I didn’t own any slaves; I didn’t fight on the part of the North or the South. I don’t need to investigate the underlying motives of everyone.

I don’t argue, and I don’t hint.

My point boils down to a simple observation, which Abraham Lincoln repeats in 4-5 different ways for absolute clarity in his own letters. Abraham Lincoln fought the Civil War to preserve the Union. If he could have preserved the Union, even if that meant keeping millions of Africans in chains, he would have done so. That’s exactly what he has said in his own letters above. I have nothing to add or take away from his comments.

The Civil War observation was also a tangent from the overall point of the above post. If you want to focus on that, feel free to. If you have some proof of my “hyper-fundamentalism”, feel free to emphasize it here. If you’re only here to sling mud and distrct discussion by painting me with a Red brush… well, you wouldn’t be the first.

No I dont need to, that would be an utter waste of time…all I’m asking for is asking you to explain exactly what you supported…You have stated in the past that Lincoln acted only as a nationalist and in effect cared nothing of the slavery matter. That a war was fought on only one argument at the total elimination of another is highly presumptuous in my view, particulary given the popular divisiveness and discontent of the matter of slavery at the time in so many places.

He also was acting within his own political constraints given those “letters” you bring up and I know which ones you are referencing, still that does not at all distract from the popular discontent the American people were grappling with the issue of slavery in and of itself and to deny that is being historically fraudulent.

Overall the war was fought over the issue of slavery as being inconsistent with a Constitution that was framed with the very words of “All men are created equal…” rather top to its header.

That there were quite glaring inconsistencies with that, in which bothered and even enraged the public back then and given the situation as existed was point blank -why it went from bad to worse quite quickly.-

The economic situation as afforded in the Southern states by the practice of slavery commanded a response! it was totally hypocritical to have a Constutution that said all were equal and yet this practice was happening inside its borders. That there was a level of social consiousness going on at a grand scale and affecting policy is -fact-. Even in the mid 19th century.

Debate/Deny all you want with that, that was the cause raised back then. Not ole Abe’s sense of “Nationalism”.

Even old Southern Confederate soldiers, not at all following ole Jefferson Davis’s hateful script, admitted years after the war that their cause was overall quite vain, stupid and even illegal…

Until the Chinese comprehend that the democratic principle is more important than their, or anyone else’s, notions of history, ethnicity or statehood, they will remain in the wrong. China should be offering an olive branch, guarantees that Taiwan will be able to keep it’s democratic institutions after unification. Instead it’s aiming missles. Is it any wonder they are not trusted?


Respectfully, there is the size and scope problem with your comparison to US History. It’s a stretch to think that little-bitty Taiwan with a fraction of China’s population and some ninety miles off its coast compares to the question of losing control over the lower contiguous half of the United States and nearly half the US population.

But the US civil war was also fought over a moral question that was begging to be answered. Politicians, like Lincoln, avoided talking about it to newspapers due to its controversial nature, but it was a primary motivation.

In this regard, the comparison to the China-Taiwan conflict is more accurate. One is tempted to think there is a moral question that begs to be answered. Namely, is the mere existence of a democratic, Taiwanese nation an intolerable threat to China? If such considerations exist, I believe the situation is dangerously irrational.

To paraphrase your answer above, “it is more a question of unity, not one of fear or threat. And if there has been a meaningful opportunity for reconciliation that ultimately fails, so be it. China will cut them loose.” No?

I agree

It’s opposite in so many ways to the importance of the whole rather than individual. Their rise is one they and only they can define. They need to end the politics of hard fisted brinksmanship, divide and conquer. Not that other countries dont practice this, by far not, but the Chinese practice a rather harsh adaptation of it. It needs to stop. When they do, then and only then will they approach just the start of getting trusted.

Its a long road ahead.

You’re incorrect on the last point. There’s a huge library of public comments, made by Lincoln before 1860, in which he documents his personal opposition of the institution of slavery. And in the campaign of 1860, this was very much a matter of public debate, and Lincoln came out to bravely speak against the injustice of slavery. This is not a man that was “shy” or ambiguous about speaking on this controversial topic.

I see no reason to do anything but take him at face value. Again, this wasn’t a comment he made in passing. He repeated himself 3-4 times, stating again and again that he believed the Civil War must be fought not to free slaves… but to preserve the Union.

As far as the relative “threat” to China if Taiwan was to become independent, I personally don’t think there’s any threat in a material sense. There’s a host of other nations that could represent a “national security” threat… in this modern day and age, a hostile enemy really only needs a long landing strip and little else. And even if Taiwan was independent, Taiwanese would still be flocking to the mainland with their capital + expertise.

I think the “threat” to China is strictly at the symbolic level. We don’t believe it’s in our long-term interests to allow any small segment of the Chinese population to decide, unilaterally, that they should form an independent nation.

[quote=“bob”]Until the Chinese comprehend that the democratic principle is more important than their, or anyone else’s, notions of history, ethnicity or statehood, they will remain in the wrong. [/quote]I really can’t tell if you said the first sentence above with a straight-face. I’m reasonably sure the idea that there’s a government out there for whom “the democratic principle is more important than … notions of history, ethnicity or statehood”… is little more than myth. But perhaps you could name a few examples for me.

I think you’re right that China should be doing exactly what you said. Beijing should be offering an olive branch and guarantees that Taiwan will be able to keep its democratic instutions after unification. Of course, as you seem to imply yourself, that is exactly what they are offering. The problem isn’t that it isn’t offered, but rather the trust issue you described.

These are new changes, and it’s taking time for an adjustment to occur. The pan-Blues are building trust with Beijing as we speak, and if all goes smoothly, the level of mutual comfort will grow with time.

The presence of missiles are one factor that those ideologically opposed to any form of reconcillation can exploit. But trust is a two way street. Beijing doesn’t “trust” the CSB administration to not bolt for international recognition, change the national language to Hoklo, build a military base for Japan, and ban the study of Chinese history as soon as the mainland disarms. If/when cross-strait trust levels rise, then a perpetual peace treaty complete with joint military exercises, is definitely possible.

Very interesting thread.

Why does China want Taiwan so badly? I would like to raise the good old geostrategic argument that is a favorite of the military types.

Between Japan and the Philippines, there are very few passes that China can use to send its ships and submarines into the Pacific without being detected (or stopped if necessary) by neighboring countries. In this sense, military control over Taiwan is a must if China wants to become a military power to rival Japan in the sea.

I’ve always wondered why China insists on the one country, two systems model and rejects everything else, including the confederation model that used to be the good old Lien Chan’s favorite. I mean, the ROC and the PRC can exist side by side and they can build some kind of umbrella conferedation. Why is this idea so anathema to Beijing? I mean, even now Lien doesn’t dare utter the word Republic of China in his visit.

My rather limited understanding is that Beijing eventually wants to establish military control, and a confederation that recognizes the ROC basically makes it much more difficult to establish military control in the future.

Of course, this sounds rathe paranoid. I would like to hear what others have to say about this.

There was a provincial vote on the issue of seperation about ten years ago. Besides, Taiwan is already seperate. Seperate currency, seperate government institutions, seperate history to some point now. I don’t know how many times that needs to be said.

Bolt for international recognition? Why in God’s name shouldn’t Taiwan be recognized for what it already is? Why shouldn’t Taiwan, through a democratic process, decide for itself what its national language should be, what language to teach its children. In one breath you say that China is willing to allow Taiwan its democratic rights and in the next you define for Taiwan what the limits of those rights would be. China can’t guarantee democracy. China doesn’t know what democracy is.

saying that the us civil war was fought primarily to eliminate slavery is wrong. Slavery was the cause of the war in that the better part of Northern opinion held it should be restricted at least in its expansion into new territories, and that it probably would be eliminated one day. Southerners found that intolerable. However if the South had not broken away, the North was not in any rush to see slavery ended in the south. I find CC’s statement “If Lincoln can sacrifice the lives of millions of his countrymen to preserve his union” completely correct.


China is chasing ghosts of a historical boundaries (sort of in the way the Germany did at the outset of WWII) (uh oh its the Nazi’s again! :astonished: ).
It is also a nation with a historical ‘chip’ on its shoulder. Don’t forget that the modern Chinese state came to be out of a feeling that “foreigners done us wrong” - and the issue that got the ball really rolling was specifically the transfer of certain posessions straight from one foreign power to another. The current regime has not forgotten this lesson…

And in case you were sleeping in history class, the US Civil War is about state rights vs. federal rights - not slaves - not even the “unity” of the nation - which is equivalent to federal right.

What’s this. If the American-Indians vote democratically that they want to secede from the Union, then they can do it?

Wow, don’t tell this to those Hispanic who want to retake the Southwest for Mexico. Also, don’t tell this to those Alaskans and Hawaiians. Certainly don’t tell this to thsoe Aryan nation dudes in the Northwest. :slight_smile: