Sunday, July 13, 2008

Political Geography: China and Taiwan


From the page: "Taiwan is the island which has for all practical purposes been independent for half a century, but which China regards as a rebel region that must be reunited with the mainland - by force if necessary."

Communicative power of maps

NOTE: Republic of China (RoC) is commonly known as TAIWAN whereas People's Republic of China (PRC) is CHINA.This map shows TAIWANs territorial claims!

From Strange Maps: "The Chinese nationalist party Kuomintang that was defeated when Mao Zedong's communists triumphantly took control of China in 1949, retreated to Taiwan, a small island off the coast of mainland China, roughly halfway between Hong Kong and Shanghai. Almost 60 years later, the Taiwanese government still maintains it is the rightful government for all of China, and the official name of the state is not Taiwan, but Republic of China (RoC).

The length and breadth of that fiction can't be illustrated any better than by this map, detailing the territorial claims of the RoC on the mainland. These revanchist claims are truly spectacular: not only do they include all the area presently under the control of the communist regime, but also many outlying areas controlled by China's neighbours."

This map made me understand more about the relationship between China and Taiwan. I knew this area was sort of touchy, just like many other areas around China - and other parts of the world.

First I thought it was China's territorial claims we saw. But with a closer look at the map I find this is not the case. What the map illustrates is that Taiwan (Republic of China - ROC) actually claims China plus more! Whereas China of course insist that Taiwan is included in China.

This map complements the BBC story and gives a deeper meaning to the current message from public Chinese news People's Daily Online when they are very early announcing that UK prime Minister Brown does not support Taiwans request to the UN. Brown visited China Friday to Sunday last week.

It is a good example of the power of maps.


andrew said...

One thing you forget to mention is that many in Taiwan realise how archaic and outdated the R.O.C. constitution is and wish to redifine the actual area that the modern day R.O.C. government exercises actual effective sovereignty over. A few years ago the previoius D.P.P administration wanted to address this reality but was thrawted. It is not so much that anyone in Taiwan realistically claims that the government in Taipei exercises the soverignty of the geographical area laid out in the R.O.C. constitution but rather the Chinese Communist Party threatens military force should the government in Taiwan change the official national title i.e. R.O.C., the flag or the constitution. Resulting in the R.O.C constitution being so hopelessly archaic. The irony is a couple of Chinese tourists recently left their guided tourist party in Taiwan and claimed they were entitled to stay in Taiwan as according to the R.O.C. constitution they were citizens of the R.O.C. But this claim was denied by the Taiwanese government illusrating they don't take the R.O.C constitution literally. Many in Taiwan argue that the R.O.C. only exists in history and that their country is Taiwan. But changing Taiwan's official title to Taiwan would provoke the Chinese Communist Party.

Bente Lilja Bye said...

@ Andrew. Plenty of books can be written about the history of China and Taiwan. I had never seen this side of the story before (the R.O.C. map) and found it enlightening. Of course it doesn't by far tell the whole story. It illustrates very well though, that this political conflict is rather complicated.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. :-)

Robert said...

I've been told numerous times that the technicality that Andrew mentioned (i.e. that the ROC doesn't still claim the whole of China, but the const. hasn't been changed) is in effect the strongest legitimization of the PRC's claims to Taiwan. If Taiwan had long ago given up the farce of representing all of China and made it official in their constitution, then the PRC's claims over Taiwan would essentially have vaporized.

All of China's historical claims over Taiwan are tenuous at best, but Taiwan's technical claim to all of China along with the PRC's official recognition as the sole government of "China" is something that anyone can point to and say, "It says it right here. You're a part of China."

If I'm not mistaken, the Chen Administration was working on writing a new constitution for Taiwan. I wouldn't count on that continuing under Ma's KMT dominated gov't.