Anyone know about China?

What I want to know is why China cares about Taiwan so much. Is it just their pride at getting back the ‘one that got away’, do they have a legit claim over the territory? I tend to think of the modern Chinese government as evil tyrants, but that may just be that the only thing in the news is how they’re oppressing some different group at one time or another. Maybe they’re great philanthropists but the US media just never picks up those stories. So what’s the straight dope? BTW, all of the above could go for China’s stance toward tibet also.

Imperial China sold Taiwan to Japan in 1895, and were given it back after WW2. At the time the revolution was just getting into swing, and when the Communists won, the Nationalist government fled to Taiwan, where they got US protection. So both have claim to the island, but under different circumstances.

The Communists consider Taiwan a province per the WW2 arrangement and, therefore, in revolt against the winners. The Nationalists and the Taiwanese believe the mainland surrendered all claims after the sale of 1895 and their independence should be accepted. In the past decade Taiwan has been eliminating the old Nationalist claims to the mainland with an eye toward recognition by the People’s Republic, but so far it hasn’t been forthcoming.

There is pride involved - eliminating the original enmy of the revolution would be a treat. It would also demonstrate that they can’t be pushed around by another superpower. There’s also the PRC’s own nationalist agenda, the one where Tibet is part of China, thanks to another moribund claim from the imperial era. This probably isn’t the fairest critique of the PRC’s standpoint I could offer, but it does cover the basic points.

By itself, the traditional mantra of “reunifying the motherland” has waxed and waned in Communist Chinese ideology; Deng Xiaoping said the question could wait a hundred years or more to resolve. But now the Communists don’t have the luxury of time, because their own power base is under threat. So, Jiang and company dearly wish to eliminate Taiwan as an example of a viable, alternative system of government.

The current Chinese regime has never felt very secure in its mandate to rule, and Taiwan has been a constant reminder of its doubtful legitimacy. At first, it was the last holdout for the Communist party’s ancient enemy, the KMT. Now that the KMT is out of power, however, Taiwan is an even more galling thorn in Beijing’s side. That’s because the island’s democratic election of an opposition candidate (Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party) creates a very troublesome example for the folks back home. “If our compatriots in Taiwan can throw the bums out, why can’t we?” It’s fear of this potentially popular question that keeps Jiang Zemin and his crew up at night. Remember that all politics is local.

Furthermore, Beijing painted itself into a corner with its clumsy threats and efforts to intimidate voters in Taiwan. In 1996, the mainland lobbed missiles into the sea off of Taiwan’s two major ports in an effort to discourage Taiwanese for voting for then-President Lee Teng-hui (whom Beijing despised). In 2000, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji issued a heavy-handed threat to the people of Taiwan, warning them to “choose wisely” and not go for the pro-independence DPP candidate; otherwise, he said that Taiwan voters might never get another chance to make such a choice again. I’m very proud to say that the people of Taiwan ONCE AGAIN flipped China a great big ol’ bird and elected the candidate who represented Beijing’s worst fears come true. So, now that China’s leadership has whipped up a militaristic and patriotic frenzy at home over the question of Taiwan, what can they do now that their intimidatory tactics have failed? On top of their original weak legitimacy, the regime now has to deal with an increasingly impatient military; for this reason, they can’t afford to back away from their past rhetoric by even an inch.


A not-so-minor nitpick: the Nationalists (also known as the Kuomintang, or KMT) has never advocated Taiwan’s independence. As evil as the KMT is in the eyes of the Communists, that party is still vastly superior to the pro-independence DPP–which currently holds the presidency in Taiwan. Right now, Beijing apparently hopes to undermine the elected government of Taiwan by setting up a new “united front” with officials in the KMT.

To state the issue in even balder terms: the Chinese Communists (justifiably) fear that Taiwan is drifting toward independence. If Taiwan does declare independence at some point, and the Chinese leadership is unwilling or unable to stop them, then there’s no doubt that Beijing will be facing a real, hard-core, stringing-Mussolini-up-by-the-ankles revolution at home.

Ah, it all starts to make sense now. the reason i posted this thread in the first place was in response to an article i read this morning about taiwan ‘embracing’ the falun gong movement, I gather just to buck the chinese once more.

If you mean that Taiwan’s government has somehow officially endorsed “falun gong” in an effort to needle Beijing . . . I don’t think that’s the case. From what I read of (what I assume is) the same article, private citizens in Taiwan are practicing “falun gong” for its health benefits–since it’s basically an early-morning exercise routine with some spiritual mumbo-jumbo given as an explanation and point of reference for the exercises (at least AFAIK, which may not be a lot). Note that in Taiwan, “falun gong” practicioners have registered as a sports organization, not a religious movement.

Here’s the article I read on this topic–the same?

Of course, Taiwan’s government is still more than happy to point out that people there can practice any religion they want without fear of “accidental death” in a dank jail cell someplace . . .


yes, same article. perhaps ‘embrace’ was too strong a word, but like you said, definitely pointing out China’s hypocrisy (out and out lies) as far as claiming religious tolerance.

I have discussed the China-Taiwan issue extensively in other threads so I am not going to do it here.

Regarding Falun Gong and other issues you have to understand Chinese mentality is very different from western mentality. First of all they do not have the concept of freedom of thought, opinion and expression that we have. They see it as normal that the government would prevent the dissemination of “lies” (not realizing the government lies as much if not more as others would). They have been told FalunGong is a dangereous organization similar to cults like the one that used poison gas in Japan. People do not spend their lives in search of wisdom. everywhere in the world people generally believe what is common belief around them and common beliefs are very different in China.

There the government can easily have people believe anything they want. They can agitate them against the USA or against TAiwan or for whatever cause they want.

Most people in China believe they have a right to use force against TAiwan. When I object they try to reason but you can see how it is a posteriori. Like creationists trying to reason, they have reached their conclusions beforehand.

Another topic of dissent with my Chinese friends is Tibet. They always reply with the stereotype that the standard of living of Tibet has improved greatly since they are ruled by China. The do not even realise the contradiction when they told me two minutes earlier that Tibet was always part of China. I always mention that if improving the standard of living of a people is a justification for invading and colonizing a country, not only was western imperialism (much criticized in China) justified but even today the West would be justified in conquering China. heck, even Taiwan should rule China and not the other way around.

It is ironic that in Washington DC I can watch the Chinese news everyday and they have the freedom to tell us how good things are in China and to condemn the USA and call them “imperialists agressors” and things of the sort. (I hear these things every day here.) On the other hand they would not dream of allowing such freedoms in China, not for foreigners and not even for the Chinese people.

The Chinese government is a product of Chinese history. They do not have the traditions of freedoms that we have had for centuries. They are behind us by hundreds of years in this respect and are barely beginning to learn now.

You cannot think the Chinese government is essentially different from the Chinese people and oppresses them. Most of the Chinese people see it as a normal thing and only an educated minority would see it shortcomings when compared to western democracies.

I get very frustrated when discussing these things with Chinese people. They do not feel oppressed by their government. They feel America should mind its own business. Unless they are one of the dissenters of course.

If freedom of thought, opinion, and expression is so alien to the inscrutible Chinese mind, then how do you explain the vibrant democratic culture in Taiwan, including freedom of religion, free and fair elections, and a free press? I suspect, Sailor, that you’re encountering people who toe the party line because they have to. People working at Philip Morris aren’t stupid, they know that cigarettes kill, but they can’t admit it because they don’t want to lose their jobs. By the same token, Chinese students, diplomats, and assorted personnel stationed in Washington D.C. can’t admit their government is a murderous totalitarian regime because they don’t want to ruin their careers and/or receive a bullet in the back of the head.

Sorry to follow up my own post, but I just have to point out:

This is demonstrably untrue. If the government could get people to believe whatever they’re told, why is Beijing still having to arrest people for advocating “falun gong” in the middle of Tian’anmen Square?

Damn… I read a review a few days ago in the NYT-BR of a new collection of articles by somebody or other that essentially pokes a big ol’ gaping hole in the archaeo-Orientalist habit of chalking up all of the east/west cultural differences to “Confucianism.” Too bad I already tossed Sunday’s paper.

Anyway, in the case of Taiwan, the deep-rooted mistrust of the Chinese people for the KMT should not be discounted. The KMT still holds that it is the rightful leader of the mainland. Granted, some portion of that feeling expressed in the PRC is due to propaganda/fear, but remember, the “nation” of Taiwan is the legacy of a regime more brutal than Mao could have ever been in his wildest wet dreams. Taiwan is democratizing, but the KMT has not changed its position re unification any more than the PRC has. In any case, I’ve said before that the PRC would never seriously jeapordize its single largest source of foreign investment by invading it or bombing it to the ground.

As for the Tibetan question, well, an argument over whether a totalitarian, xenophobic, theocratic regime is better than a totalitarian, agressor, communist one probably belongs in GD. Lets just say that Tibet, pre-invasion, wasn’t nearly as peachy as the Dalai Lama would have you believe.

>> If freedom of thought, opinion, and expression is so alien to the inscrutible Chinese mind, then how do you explain the vibrant democratic culture in Taiwan, including freedom of religion, free and fair elections, and a free press?

Well, I never said that, let’s start with that. Those concepts are foreign to Chinese culture and tradition. Thier mind is pretty much the same as ours, it grows accostumed to whatever it sees daily.

Let’s follow by saying that Taiwan only very recently has become somewhat democratic and this has been totally due to western influence. During the cold war Taiwan was pretty much another anticommunist dictatorship propped up by the good ol’ USA.

Japan is another example. It took losing a world war, millions dead and a couple of atomic bombs to convince the Japanese that Western ways were better. It is not like Taiwan or Japan have arrived at the concept of democracy on their own like western countries did.

Of course in China there are people who believe in western style government and freedoms but they are a minority and they are often regarded with suspicion because they are perceived as antinationalist.

As in any other country, things get mixed up with nationalism.

Regarding Tibet, I am not arguing the merits of the Lamas or their government. I am saying that, if being a backward country justifies being invaded and ruled by a country with a better system, then this automatically gives Europe and America the right to recolonize Africa and Taiwan the right to rule China.

>> This is demonstrably untrue. If the government could get people to believe whatever they’re told, why is Beijing still having to arrest people for advocating “falun gong” in the middle of Tian’anmen Square?

Zarathustra, I am telling you my experience in dealing with Chinese people. I do not know what your experience is but I spend there some time every year and have close friends there.

The followers of FalunGong are a miniscule minority in China by any standards. The immense majority sees them as crazy people in the best of cases and as dangerous most of the time.

You are using the same argument they use against America. America has the highest per capita prison population of any country. I would say Americans believe stealing is wrong and send people to prison for doing so. Their propaganda says the oppressed masses resort to appropriating what is rightfully theirs and are then unjustly punished by the oppressive government. They imply the rest of Americans would do the same if it wasn’t for the repressive system.

IMHO, most americans agree with the system. IMHO most Chinese agree with their system.

FWIW, I’ll throw my two cents in; I’m an anglo who recently finished 2 years living in Taiwan, and have travelled in Hong Kong and the mainland.

Sailor is right in stating that there are very real cultural differences that put premiums on obedience, loyalty, discretion, tradition, etc. To anyone who has lived or even traveled much in Asia, this is so obvious. It’s not a stereotype, it’s not an insult; it’s the reality, and even people who are “westernized” are still the products of a very different set of values. And the active dissedents are a small minority. 10000 Falun Gong folks aren’t that many in a country of 1.3 Billion.

Having said all that, I’m not sure that we can just say that that’s the way it is and they’re happy. We do see that in Singapore, Indonesia and your local laundromat, Chinese minorites take to free markets like fish to water, succeeding wherever they have the chance. And In Taiwan and Hong Kong, we see populations eagerly embracing democracy.
Especially since most Chinese do not have an accurate picture of democracy, I think its safe to say that given an informed choice, the Chinese MIGHT choose democracy.
Don Jaime and Zarathustra did a terrific job of answering the OP. The mainstream media in the US has just no understanding of how much of the Communists’ bluster about Taiwan is based on a need to distract the people at home.

I will nitpick Zarathustra’s nitpick though: In Taiwan, right now, nobody with a political future, including the KMT, is advocating reunifying anytime soon. The politically viable options for anyone hoping to win elections in Taiwan are 1)Reunify, but ONLY after the mainland democratizes, 2)Wait until the mainland democritizes and then decide, 3)Keep stalling and hope conditions open up for independance.

And this is the crucial factor: as time goes by, the people who were born on the mainland and think of themselves as Chinese are dying off. Anybody under 40 on that island thinks of China no more fondly than our founding fathers did England.

furt, I have never been to Taiwan but have travelled several times to HK and GZ and know quite a few people there as well as in Taiwan. You are very correct in your observations but please I do not say they are different from us in any way. Of course, if given the opportunity and the right environment, they will adapt to western style freedoms like anybody else. Japan and Taiwan are examples of this. But the conditions in China are not the same. Westerners who think China is one big country full of unhappy Chinese who feel oppressed by their government ios just plain wrong. They do not miss what they never had and they see life as they know it as the most normal thing. Of course there are a minority of dissidents who have other views but they are not in the majority.

The Chinese government shapes public opinion very effectively. Even when I talk to people about the incidents in Tiananmen square most will say it it the role of the government to prevent disorder etc. Most people I have met do not side with the demonstrators just as they do not side with Falun Gong or with the Lamas of Tibet. They also have the opinion that China would be justified in using force against Taiwan. Almost all Chinese are antiAmerican in the issue of the US supplying arms to Taiwan and they feel very strongly about this. They see the “problem” of Taiwan as one created by the interference of the USA. (Of course, the people of Taiwan see it very differently)

We forget how a government can shape the public opinions of the people. Cuba is another good example. Of course there are many Cubans who try to escape due to extreme poverty but if you go to Cuba you would be very surprised by the opinions of the common people as most of them do not want to go anywhere and they believe their government is right in it’s confrontation with the US who they blame for their condition.

At the same time, as we all know, the Cubans in Florida are of another opinion. It goes to show you the environment you grow up in and you live in shapes you very forcefully.

At any rate, I expect to return to China in about a couple of months. I always like to follow Chinese news, especially regarding the Taiwan issue.

I have quite an interest in things Chinese