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Since young, I am informed that Taiwan is always a part of China and should not seek independence, and that the Chinese Communist Party will not hesitate to use force to stop the Taiwanese from seeking independence.

The newspapers I read were mostly CCP party organ, so you can imagine my skepticism.

My question is, what is the historical basis for the claim that Taiwan is always a part of China because from what I know, national territory expands and shrinks all the time? And is such a claim valid (in whatever sense), and therefore the CCP can send tanks and airplanes into Taiwan to prevent independence?

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Perfectly good question. Why did someone downvote? – Felix Goldberg May 26 '14 at 12:49
The Taiwanese government contends the exact opposite: that mainland China is, and has always been, part of Taiwan! – David Richerby May 26 '14 at 15:12
@Max I think it's clear I meant "The Republic of China" rather than "The Island Formerly Known as Formosa". – David Richerby May 26 '14 at 21:52
You know about Imperial Japan controlling Taiwan for several decades, right? – Andrew Grimm May 27 '14 at 0:29
@FelixGoldberg, maybe the Chinese Communist Party propagandists were here and that's how they tried to moderate internet posts :) just kidding – Graviton May 27 '14 at 1:55
up vote 26 down vote accepted

Well, the short answer is no, unless you define "always" to start at around 1683.

Historically, Taiwan is in fact the ancestral home of the Austronesian language family. Prior to modern times, this was the world's most geographically diverse language family, with speakers ranged from Madagascar to Easter Island to Hawaii.

enter image description here

There are several subgroups in this language family, but all but one of them are found only on the island of Taiwan.

enter image description here

Han Chinese is of course a language with its own proud history, but it is quite unrelated to Austronesian. Its language family is Sino-Tibetian, almost all of the speakers of which have historically lived on mainland Asia.

Where Chinese history and Taiwan really start to intersect wasn't until 1682, when Ming loyalist forces, seeking refuge from the victorious Qing on the mainland, kicked out the Dutch colonists on the island. The Qing themselves soon followed. Since then the aboriginal Austroneasian component of the population has been on a steady decline, replaced by Han. Today, they are only about 2% of the population.

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Why not: "Well, the short answer is yes, unless you want to go further back than 1683." I'd prefer a more neutral formulation here. – reinierpost May 27 '14 at 9:17
@reinierpost the question was "always", the answer to which is "no". – jwenting May 27 '14 at 9:27
True - it's the use of that term that is loaded, not your answer. – reinierpost May 27 '14 at 10:57
Even if you use 1683 as you're start date, you still have the period of 1895 to 1945 when Japan was sovereign of Taiwan. – Readin Feb 23 at 7:08
I do believe your answer is informative, but is not answer for the question. PRC officially exists from 1949, so that period is in the scope, not before. – CsBalazsHungary Mar 18 at 10:17

And if you'd lived your life in the Republic of China you'd have learned that Taiwan is an independent nation, the one true China, and that the rebel government in Beijing is illegally in power there (that may have been toned down now, but that used to be the line in the ROC).
Both are of course propaganda.

Truth is Taiwan wasn't "always" part of China because China didn't always exist. And yes, the government on Taiwan predates the government in Beijing, the latter being created by Maoist forces after WW2 when the ROC government is the direct descendent of the government that was in place in China before WW2, which was driven off the mainland by Mao and his revolutionaries during the civil war.

So in a way both are right. Taiwan was for a long time part of imperial China, but never was part of the PRC which was built on the ruins of what was left after WW2 and the Chinese civil war that followed it.
And the old ROC claim to the mainland has validity based on the same history.

You'd say after 70 years almost it's time to let matters rest and for each to recognise the independence of the other.

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North Korea is officially still in war with South Korea, but I'm not sure the UNO (in fact the US) would find it acceptable if they started actually invading South Korea. – Pierre Arlaud May 26 '14 at 7:51
@Graviton it's a bit late now, the country's been independent for longer than many other countries have been in existence... And the ROC has quite a few friends who'd not take kindly to a PRC invasion of the ROC. Which most likely wouldn't be with tanks as the PRC lacks amphibious capability, but with nuclear and poison gas tipped missiles followed by airborne assault. – jwenting May 26 '14 at 7:55
@Graviton The ability of a country to send tanks and airplanes isn't based on historical justification, but on the question of whether they can get away with it. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan May 27 '14 at 3:47
As a developer for a large multi-national software company, I was told not to make a UI like this: Country: [___]. If the drop-down shows Taiwan, then PRC government may boycott your product. And if it doesn't show Taiwan, then Taiwan government may. This applies to other areas as well, such as the Palestinian Authority. Solution: Country/Region: [___] – Jonathan May 27 '14 at 13:24
@Jonathan, well, that's getting into political correctness more than historical correctness. If the decision is made to refer to Taiwan as a "region" of the PRC, to avoid losing customers in PRC, that's politics and marketing, and you have to live with it. There will never be a solution that's agreeable to all, when wars have been fought over the issue and tensions remain high. – Phil Perry May 27 '14 at 14:42

I assume your question is: Since People's Republic of China (PRC) exists, was Taiwan considered as part of it?

It is more like a political question than historical, since the current situation of PRC and ROC (Republic of China) is still unsettled since the end of the civil war.

I am sure most of us know that People's Republic of China claims Taiwan, but it is de-facto independent country. So in a way Taiwan is part of PRC.

Importantly on the other hand maybe less people know that ROC renounced in 1992 the conquest of PRC-controlled territories as a national goal, there is still dispute over whether the constitution still gives legal support to a claim of sovereignty over all of China's pre-1949 territories, including Outer Mongolia and the entirety of the present PRC. From Wikipedia
So in a way PRC's territory belongs to ROC as well.

Objectively, these two territories function as separate countries. Separate governments, currency, foreign relations.

Taiwan's independence is recognized by various countries, and most of countries have unofficial relationship with Taiwan (without embassy), but there are couple of countries have completely official foreign relationship with Taiwan including embassy.

Taiwan's de-facto independence is reinforced by USA through Taiwan Relations Act accepted in 28th February 1979.

So the answer is "yes and no in the same time", entirely depends on political view. Also answer is no for practical way, they both do function as two separate countries.

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When Mao drove Chiang Kai-shek out of China, the latter took over Taiwan by military force. What would be the need to do that if it was a part of China? He then required all Taiwanese to join the army because he wanted to go back and take over the mainland. That never happened, so the pure Chinese came in 1949~1954 period, when Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan with 0.94 million Chinese refugees until then the island was made up and controlled by the Taiwanese.

I see it as it's own country and not a part of China. Mainland China sees it the other way. When I lived there in the 1960's the island of Taiwan and China were still shooting at each other each day just to prove they were still at war. There wasn't an invasion from either side, just shelling. There were no free elections, Taiwan became a military dictatorship.

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China hasn't always been China. Modern China is currently being ruled by insurrectionists. China can't handle what territories they already posess:

  • negative side effects of industrialization
  • famine
  • poverty
  • huge portions of the population uneducated and or living in 3rd world conditions
  • disease
  • population control problems
  • problems with the culture leading to huge discrepancy with the male to female population ratio
  • using extremely aggressive nationalist propaganda to placate the masses

These reasons are just the tip of the iceberg. All things considered, even if they did have legitimate historical claim to the region it would be irrelevant. Most Taiwanese have no interest in being part of China, in no small part because Taiwan is being poisoned by Chinese pollution and is under constant threat of Chinese invasion.

Historically, Chinese settlers only colonized parts of coastal Taiwan:

enter image description here

There is no legitimate claim to the territory. Outsiders relocated to already populated areas, largely integrated, only spread incrementally over a long period of time and only controlled a relatively small portion of the land.

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I'm not sure this answers OP's question; there are lots of interesting opinions here, but no evidence of research and no clear response to the question. – Mark C. Wallace Mar 21 at 14:27
@MarkC.Wallace Everything I posted is easily verifiable, but if you would like elaboration on anything specific, I will provide. – Minativ7 Mar 21 at 14:55
I would also add that there is a theme to the heart of this question that is external to historical right to sovereignty, that is whether or not a modern day claim would be justifiable. What I included is relevant to the answer: No. – Minativ7 Mar 21 at 15:06
Themes external to history are external to H:SE. Those sections of the question should be moved to politics:SE or some other stack; H:SE is scoped to history and history only. – Mark C. Wallace Mar 21 at 17:39
@MarkC.Wallace The now is a result of everything in our history and becomes history. You are doing yourself and this board a disservice by dismissing one as if it were not inextricably linked to the other. – Minativ7 Mar 21 at 20:12

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