Is Taiwan part of China? This sounds like a simple question to ask, but it’s actually extremely contentious, and increasingly so as time passes.
If you live in the United States, Australia or most other free countries, your answer is probably “no,” perhaps with some expletives added. Citizens of democratic nations realize that Taiwan’s democratic system of governance, all on its own, signifies its de-facto independence from Communist China.
On the other hand, speaking out against Taiwanese sovereignty has become a popular past time, not only of the Chinese wumao trolls that attempt to police the internet, but among Communist sympathizers in Western nations, who see the freedom the Taiwanese enjoy as antithetical to their dreams of global socialism.
Is Taiwan an Independent Country?
At the root of the question “is Taiwan part of China?” sits a more fundamental one: Is Taiwan independent from China? In many ways, the answer is “yes”—and it isn’t especially close. Taiwan has its own currency, military, immigration system and constitution, to say nothing about the fact that it also has its own leader, who happens to be democratically elected.
On the other hand, some observers (including, inexplicably, non-Chinese citizens and residents of free and democratic countries) believe that China has a legitimate claim to the Taiwanese nation, people and landmass. In some cases, this is based on historical and cultural reasons, while in other instances it’s more cynical, and reflects a desire for Chinese-style communism to be the hegemonic global political philosophy.
5 Reasons Taiwan is Not Part of China
Taiwan has its own president
Although it hasn’t always been the case, Taiwan is home to a vibrant democracy. The country elects its own leader every four years. Most recently, the president of China (the Republic of China, this is) is Tsai Ing-Wen, who was elected in 2016, and re-elected (by a landslide) in 2020.
If you consider Taiwan part of China, you’ll need to explain the existence of the Taiwanese dollar. This currency, abbreviated as NTD, TWD or $NT, operates totally independently from the Chinese yuan, which is the currency of the People’s Republic of China.
(And system of laws)
While China is a totalitarian wasteland plagued by laws that restrict speech, expression and movement, and enforced by farcical kangaroo courts, Taiwan’s constitution and system of laws protect individual rights. Moreover, Taiwan’s justice system is recognized as one of the fairest in Asia.
(And border controls)
Is Taiwan China? Well, given that you need to complete customs and immigration procedures in order to travel from Beijing to Taipei (or vice-versa), the answer seems likely to be “no.” To be sure, Chinese nationals need a visa in order to enter Taiwan, a more restrictive arrangement than that to which passport holders of most Western countries are subject.
The most important reason Taiwan is independent from China is also the one that’s the most difficult to put into words. After spending as little as an hour on the streets of Taipei or Kaohsiung, you will get a sense of the vibrant, lively culture that differentiates Taiwan from China—and indeed, from most every other country on the planet.
Will China Attempt to Re-take Taiwan?
The bad news? China’s saber rattling vis-a-vis Taiwan is louder than ever of 2021. This is in part because Communist China will celebrate a century since its founding later this year. Many outside observers believe that Xi Jinping will want to crown this milestone with at least some semblance of victory, and that military subjugation of Taiwan would be a great way to do this.
On the other hand, while new US president Joe Biden is considerably weaker than his predecessor when it comes to support of Taipei from Washington, the consensus among American people is that Taiwan is not part of China. To say that failure to defend ROC in the wake of an attack from the PRC would be political cyanide to the nascent Biden administration is an understatement of the highest order.
Other FAQ About the Political Status of Taiwan
Does the US recognize Taiwan?
The US does not officially recognize Taiwan as an independent country, and hasn’t done so since 1979, when hapless former President Jimmy Carter switched recognition the the PRC. On the other hand, the US maintains strong economic and military ties with the ROC, and is legally obligated to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself from Chinese provocation.
How powerful is the Taiwan military?
It’s difficult to quantify or even meaningfully quality the power of the Taiwanese military, especially as it compared to the Chinese one. However, it is generally recognized that Taiwan’s armed forces punch significantly above their weight, and would give Communist soldiers the fight of their live, even if they narrowly lost a war. One way to think of Taiwan’s army is as the “Israel of the East.”
Why did Taiwan leave China?
Taiwan left China because the government of the Republic of China, run by General Chiang Kai-Shek at the time, was forced off the mainland by the Red Army in 1949, having lost most of its political clout during the Chinese Civil War over the preceding decades. Taiwan remains separate from China because it is a free, democratic country and wishes to remain as such.
The Bottom Line
Is Taiwan part of China? Absolutely not, at least if you have even the semblance of a brain inside your head. Unfortunately, the political status of Taiwan has become even more politicized in our polarized era, in particular after former US president Donald Trump supported Taiwan with his words and actions. While it remains to be seen whether Communist China will take military action in order to bring Taiwan back into its fold, you need only visit Taipei and Beijing and compare life in the two to realize that free, democratic Taiwan is a different nation (if not a different world) from the repressiveness of the People’s Republic just across the strait.