Saturday, March 25, 2006

Taiwan History

Taiwan did not belong to China from the beginning. If many countires in this world can declare their independence, why can't Taiwan?

Birds in Taiwan don't sing; flowers lack fragrance---Li Hung-chang

2006-03-21 / Taiwan News / Edited by Tina Li/Translated by Susanne Ganz

The comment "Birds in Taiwan don't sing, flowers lack fragrance" was made by Prime Minister Li Hung-chang of the Ching Dynasty just before the empire relinquished Taiwan to Japan after the 1894 Sino-Japanese war. The Chinese prime minister went on to say that Taiwanese men on the island were heartless, and the women had no loyalty to their lovers.

With that comment, Li's aim was to persuade the emperor that there should be no regrets in giving up an island far from the mainland in exchange for the empire's safety. As a leading negotiator, he was responsible for making the infamous Treaty of Shimonoseki to wager peace with Japan after the Ching Dynasty's military defeat.

Before his departure for Japan to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki, Li submitted a letter to the Chinese emperor, making the case that surrendering part of China's territory was vital to finalizing the peace treaty.

Apart from Li, there were other imperial officials calling for negotiations with Japan before the empire lost the war and was forced to cede lands near its capital to foreigners. Prime Minister Li was one of those who suggested that the emperor keep the capital at all costs. He advised that relinquishing offshore islands such as Taiwan and Penghu was the best choice since they were far enough from Beijing.

His suggestion did not upset the royal rulers, since the emperors on the mainland were already thinking that including Taiwan in the empire's territory was a mistake. This view emerged as soon after Emperor Kanghsi took over the island in 1683. The mainland regime was plagued by frequent uprisings throughout its 212-year rule of the island. The empire was forced to send its mainland forces to Taiwan every three to five years to quell revolts, big and small.

A sense of distrust existed among many officials in the royal court toward the Taiwanese, and the empire retained its policy of stationing soldiers from China on the island. From the beginning to the end of the Ching Dynasty, the Taiwanese were deprived of the right to join the military to protect their homeland.

The islanders further suffered economic hardships under Ching's governance, as they were forced to supply grain to Chinese soldiers' families on the mainland. The order placed a burden on many Taiwanese families, not only because of the huge food production demand, but also because the government forced them to pay the cost of shipping the grain.

Under Japan's colonial rule, some Taiwanese, opposed to the new rulers, sought support from the government of Republic of China founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen in 1912. But they were disappointed for the most part.

A prominent figure and advocate of Taiwanese independence from Japan at the time, Lin Hsien-tang, was notably one of those seeking help from China to attain this goal.

Lin met with Liang Chi-chao in 1909 in Japan. He turned to Liang for advice on how the Taiwan people could get rid of the political, economic, and legal discriminations imposed by the Japanese colonialists.

Lin was however unexpectedly cold-shouldered by Liang, who could only advise the young Taiwanese to emulate the Irish people who had attained the right to political participation by enlisting the help of British opposition forces.

Liang clearly told Lin that "within 30 years, it would be impossible for the mainland to offer any assistance to help the Taiwanese people realize their goal."

One of Lin's aides held another discussion with Chinese revolutionist Tai Chi-tao in Tokyo four years later. Tai listened to the account of the Taiwan people's miserable conditions under Japanese colonial rule, but he had no substantial ideas or advice for the Taiwanese delegate.
Tai acknowledged that for next 10 years the R.O.C. government would likely be stuck fighting Yuan Shih-kai and would need to rally all the country's forces to win the battle. Therefore, any hopes of the republic assisting Taiwan were slim.

Successive Chinese governments after the Ching Dynasty also showed a marked indifference toward Taiwan.

Both the Chinese Nationalist Government and Chinese Communist Party remained apathetic toward Taiwan, but once suggested that the island should be autonomous, as was Korea, another Japanese colony at the time.

Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the R.O.C., had urged that Taiwan should establish its own parliament and independent government, said Tai Chi-tao, a revolutionist and top aide to Sun. Sun thought that the Taiwanese people should strive toward establishing an independent country, and even leaders of Communist China offered similar comments.

Mao Zedong and Zhao Englai publicly backed Taiwan's liberation and independence movement. Mao said that Communist China under his rule had supported Korea's efforts to break away from Japanese colonialism and "Taiwan should also be encouraged to do the same."

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