Thursday, March 13, 2008

Five Things That Never Happened: Taiwan

Big rumblings in Taipei yesterday, flying all over the emails and chat rooms last night. More on that later....

Frog in the Well, the China history blog, has an interesting post on Five Things That Never Happened, basically, a list of five non-events in Chinese history that might have radically changed things. What's your list of five for Taiwan? Here's mine, in no particular order:

1. The PRC takes Taiwan in 1950. Everyone thought Chiang was on the ropes and Taiwan's fall was inevitable. Suddenly, the Korean War breaks out, saving Chiang. Just one of them coincidences....US-China relations take a different turn. Taiwan remains impoverished and backward. Chinese colonialism on Taiwan triggers a powerful independence movement, with ongoing violence by both sides over the next 50 years.

2. The reactionary right-wing KMT defeats Lee Teng-hui and re-imposes the KMT security state in the early/mid-1990s. The democracy movement is suppressed and hollowed out. We might yet see that if Ma wins the presidency.

3. The Americans buy Taiwan in the late 1860s. This was never too seriously entertained, but it was seriously proposed. Interesting to speculate.

4. The Chengs do not retreat to Taiwan in the 1660s. The Qing never come over to annex the island, which was outside of China. There is no Qing state here in the 17th-19th centuries. Instead, the Dutch lose the colony to the English in the long run. Think Singapore and Hong Kong, on a galactic scale.

5. In the wake of the ROC's loss of its UN seat, an ROC official floated a proposal to make Taiwan the Chinese Republic on Taiwan, with no claim to sovereignty over China, and no connection to that state: real, sovereign, independence. It vanished into the memory hole...

What are your five?

8 comments:

Feiren said...

Chiang Kai-shek convinces the Americans to support his invasion of China in the late 1960s. The ROC army marches into China at the height of the Cultural Revolution and is joined by Republican loyalists to overthrow the People's Republic. Chiang Ching-kuo takes over from his father a few years later and the Deng reform era begins 20 years earlier. Taiwan is a forgotten backwater in a new authoritarian, nationalist superpower.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, no time to answer this question.

As Clinton proposed --- It is "Election", stupid! XD

Ahistoricality said...

Regarding the US purchase in the 1860s, there's also the quirky legal matter of US ownership/protectionate of Taiwan after 1945, as a former Japanese colony. That formal status was never properly revoked: Imagine Taiwan as Okinawa....

Thomas said...

The ROC accepts Italy's suggestion of resolving the China problem in the UN during the early 60s, later accepting a two-China model. The ROC is a fully recognised state by today.

B.BarNavi said...

If the Clinton Administration stood by Lee during his visit to Cornell, then there just COULD have been enough leverage against China to call off its policy of aggression.

David said...

The Dutch and Spanish never come to Taiwan in the 17th Century. A few Chinese migrate and set up small settlements along the coast farming, trading and intermarrying with the aborigines. In the late 19th century the Japanese, British and French start to battle for control of the island. Japan wins. 20th century history remains unchanged.

James Soong becomes President in 2000... Lien Chan becomes President in 2004... I sure am glad neither of these things happened.

Anonymous said...

Japan is allowed to keep Taiwan at the end of WWII. The island eventually becomes a self-governing commonwealth, with Japan responsible for foreign affairs and defense. Under the cover of the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty, American forces hold periodic military exercises on Taiwan in conjunction with Japan's Self-Defense Forces, to counter any threat from the KMT dictatorship governing China.

Jack said...

Oh, so a bit of alternate history. How about this one, eh?

In 1987 there is no defection by the director of INER about Taiwan's furtive nuclear program. Instead research proceeds and during the 1996 Strait Crisis Taiwan responds to China's missiles by testing a nuclear weapon off an uninhabited South Pacific Island.

The PRC is put on high military alert, while the world admonishes Taiwan. The US strongly rebukes Taiwan, but responds to China's military build up by sending two carrier groups into the Taiwan Strait.

This averts war, but the Taiwan Strait is even on a higher tension. China places a complete embargo on Taiwan and forces Hong Kong to capitulate to this embargo in 1997. It also begins equipping the ~800 missiles in the Nanjing Military Zone with nuclear warheads.
Chen is elected in 2000 and swears that the weapons will only be used defensively.

Taiwan suffers in even greater isolation as a rogue nuclear state until 2006.

The US, under President Bush, begins to make signals about bringing India into the NPT. China is against this, as both India is a regional rival and the Democratic Congress wants to bring Taiwan under a similar deal, with an eventual disarmament agreement. Taiwan's argument of the unfairness of being treated similarly as North Korea or Iran while being a democracy is starting to erode American sentiment for China's position.

And...I don't know how to end this. But at least I created a situation that's worse than it is now!