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Since young, I am informed that Taiwan is always a part of People's Republic 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 People's Republic 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 18 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.

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

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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

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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Thanks, I should have expanded my question: if the claim is right, does that mean that CCP can send tanks and airplanes into Taiwan to prevent independence? – Graviton May 26 '14 at 7:45
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

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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