Taiwan question and Ukraine issue: not the same thing

China Military Online
Li Jiayao
2022-05-17 18:41:36

By Hu Wenli

As the Russia-Ukraine conflict comes to a stalemate, some people with ulterior motives begin to turn their eyes to China.

In March, the Biden administration sent an inter-party delegation to Taiwan island, where the one-time Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen expressed to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities the America’s support. In the meantime, the DPP vowed its “support” for Ukraine and “concerns” over the Taiwan Strait situation multiple times. It’s clear that Washington wanted to contain China through Taiwan while Taiwan dreamed of seeking independence with Uncle Sam’s backing, and they jointly came up with the fallacy that what happens in Ukraine today will happen to Taiwan tomorrow, while each harboring its own calculations.

As China’s Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said, there is no comparison between the Taiwan question and the Ukraine issue. Some people emphasize the respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but blatantly trample upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by crossing the “One China” line when it comes to the Taiwan question. That’s an outright double standard.

What are the differences between the Taiwan question and the Ukraine issue?

The two cannot be mentioned in the same breath either from a historical perspective or in terms of international law.

There is a long and complicated history through which Ukraine has become what it is today. Unlike that, Taiwan has been an inalienable part of China since ancient times, with a consistent territory and cultural tradition. Starting from the 12th century, Chinese dynasties had successively set up administrative organizations in Taiwan to exercise jurisdiction, and the local society had carried on the traditional Chinese culture, which wasn’t even disrupted or shattered during Japan’s colonial rule after the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). When China won the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression in 1945, the Chinese government resumed administrative organization in Taiwan Province. Even though the KMT forces’ retreat to the island in 1949 separated it from the motherland for a while, reunification across the Taiwan Straits has always been the common wish of people living on both sides.

As far as international law is concerned, Ukraine is a sovereign state – this is a fact universally acknowledged by the international community, including the UN, on whose official website Ukraine is recorded as one of the founding members. As of December 2019, the country had established diplomatic relations with 183 countries, including China. Its sovereignty is recognized by Russia as the two sides established diplomatic ties in 1991 after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, but that broke off as the war broke out between them in February this year.

In contrast, Taiwan has always been a Chinese province and has never been a sovereign state. Due to the interference of external forces, China’s seat at the UN was occupied by the “Republic of China” before 1971. But as the People’s Republic of China grew stronger with greater international influence, on October 25, 1971, 23 countries, including Albania and Algeria, filed a motion to the UN General Assembly to restore all the lawful rights of the PRC in the United Nations and immediately expel the representatives of the Chiang Kai-shek clique from the United Nations and all its affiliated agencies. The motion proceeded to pass with an overwhelming majority of votes (76 votes for, 35 votes against and 17 abstentions).

This historical moment established China in a new international position. From then on, the international community recognized the “One China” principle, which means that there is but one China in the world, Taiwan is part of China, and the PRC is the only legitimate government representing the whole China. The “One China” principle is built on an unshakable and indisputable factual and legal basis. All countries have established or resumed diplomatic relations with China on the premise of recognizing this principle.

Two chess pieces at different places on America’s chessboard

Why are some people so eager to bring together the Ukraine issue and the Taiwan question? According to Zhao Huirong, a researcher at and the director of Research Office of Ukraine Studies of the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, there may be three reasons. First, they want to elevate Taiwan’s political position and international influence, and create the misperception that “Taiwan is also a sovereign state”. Second, they want to meddle in China’s internal affairs and internationalize its domestic issues with the goal of disrupting its pace of national reunification. Third, they attempt to deteriorate the development environment for China and clear the way for America to continue pushing its hegemony.

It is wrong to make a comparison between the Taiwan question and the Ukraine issue in any aspect, but they do have something in common – both are chess pieces on America’s chessboard, but at different places. Francis Sempa, author of Geopolitics: From the Cold War to the 21st Century, analyzed that Ukraine is just a tool used by the US to contain Russia and balance Europe, whereas Taiwan is a strategic position on the “first island chain” in the West Pacific that the US can use to curb China’s rise.

But chess pieces may easily be abandoned whenever America’s core interests come into play. Before the Russia-Ukraine War broke out, NATO snubbed Kyiv’s application to join; after the war broke out, Biden repeatedly declared his decision not to send a single soldier to Ukraine. While both America and NATO kept denouncing Russia for destroying peace, they themselves have been sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine.

In the eyes of observers, as far as America is concerned, Taiwan is just as easily dispensable as Ukraine whenever its own core interests are on the line.

Editor's note: This article is originally published on the youth.cn, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.

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