Ten Questions and answers About Taiwan today
Q: 1. Is Taiwan part of China?
A: Taiwan has only been under the control of China's government for four
years of this century. Following periods of Dutch, Spanish, and Chinese
rule, Japan ruled the island from 1895 to 1945, and there is a strong
legal case to be made that the people of the island should determine its
future international status, without interference form their own government
of China. However, the present government of Taiwan and the government of
mainland China both insist that Taiwan is an integral part of China.
Q: 2. How did the present government come to power in Taiwan?
A: In 1945, the Chinese Nationalists(KMT) occupied the island on behalf of
the Allied powers. Not until Dec. 21,1991 have the present authorities ever
held a general parliamentary election on the island, but instead transferred
their parliament from China to Taiwan after the Communists took over. The
surviving members of the legislature have not faced elections since 1948,
Q: 3. Is Taiwan a democratic country?
A: No. The people cannot change the government through the electoral
process, and although the government has lifted martial law and other
emergency regulations, it continues to place serious restraints on civil
and political rights. Yet, under pressure from grass-roots organizations
and the democratic movement, Taiwan's government has been forced to make
political reforms in recent years. There is greater freedom of expression
and freedom to organize than during the martial law period(1949-1987).
There will be elections for most parliamentary seats in 1996. However,
there will still be seats representing China in the parliament, and it
remains to be seen whether the KMT will let itself be voted out of office.
Q: 4. What is the human rights situation in Taiwan?
A: While the number of political prisoners is much smaller than it was just
a few years ago, the government continues to jail non-violent dissidents,
especially those who advocate independence(i.e., Taiwan's permanent
separation from China) or criticize the military.
Q: 5. Who are Taiwan's people?
A: Most of people(nearly 70%) who now live on the island are descended form
immigrants from China's Fukien Province, and are called Hoklo. About 10-15%
of the population has roots in Kwangtung Province, and are called Hakka.
Another 12-15% are more recent refugees form China and their Taiwan-born
families. They came form various Chinese provinces and ethnic groups, and
fled to Taiwan when the Communists took over the mainland. The remaining
two percent come from nine non-Chinese Aborigine tribes, which occupied
Taiwan before the first Chinese settlers arrived. Many Hoklo and Hakka
have some Aborigine blood. Excluding the China-born inhabitants, all of
these people can be called Taiwanese, although the word is also sometimes
used to refer to the Hoklo people alone.
Q: 6. Isn't Taiwan's culture basically Chinese?
A: Chinese culture has exerted considerable influence, but so have Japanese
and Western culture. And there are some uniquely Taiwanese aspects of local
culture as well, such as opera, folk music, literature, and film.
Q: 7. What is the economic situation in Taiwan?
A: There is much greater economic freedom in Taiwan today than in China.
Many people own small businesses and factories. However, the government
plays a major role in the economy through the ownership of major companies,
fiscal and monetary polices, economic plans, licensing and contracts and
political connections with corporate leaders.
Q: 8. Is Taiwan prevented from having normal international relations?
A: Yes. There still are very few governments which officially recognize
Taiwan, and Taiwan belongs to only a few international organizations, where
it usually sits as a "province of China". If the people of Taiwan want the
international community to support their desire to decide their future
peacefully and by themselves, they have to be part of that international
community. Also there are many social and economic problems caused by the
lack of formal ties. With the admission of the two Koreas and the Baltics to
the United Nations, there is hope that Taiwan can become a member as well.
Q: 9. Dose China really pose a threat to Taiwan?
A: The people of Taiwan have got to view China's threat to use force, if
necessary, to "recover" Taiwan, as serious, especially after the June 1989
massacres of Chinese students by the PRC government. Obviously, it would be
costly for China to make good on this threat, but not impossible. This is
why Taiwanese must rejoin the international community and insist that the
future of Taiwan is an international issue.
Q: 10. Could Taiwan be a viable independent country?
A: Of course. It has the world's 25th largest economy and is the world's
13th most important trading nation. It has trade links to almost every
other country. It has more people than about 75% of the members of the
United Nations. Its people are ready for nationhood.
Taiwan today is undergoing rapid and dynamic changes in political, economic,
and social spheres. After decades of authoritarian rule by the Chinese
Nationalist Party(Kuomintang, or KMT), grass-roots groups around the island
are pressing for genuine self-rule and self-determination. The economy faces
major challenges, as rising wage rates have made Taiwan's goods less
competitive internationally, and as rapid industrialization has exacted a
devastation toll upon the island's fragile environment. Socially, Taiwan
must ensure in the years to come that women, ethic minority group members,
the handicapped, and other groups receive their fair share of the fruits of
economic growth. Culturally, there is a struggle between the growing "Taiwan
consciousness" of those who identify primarily with the island and
government's "we are all Chinese" policy. Internationally, Taiwan must
grapple with diplomatic isolation that contrasts sharply with its economic
power and a complex relationship with China, which insists that it has
sovereignty over the island.
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