SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Li Gang Zhe ”Taiwan, as an honor student in COVID-19 (Part-2)”


How is Taiwan recognized as a “nation” in the world?  I would like to review its history first.

Taiwan consists of the main island of Taiwan and the surrounding islands. The gross area is 36,000 km2 which is a little bit smaller than that of Kyushu area in Japan (44,000 km2). The population is 23.6millions (as of 2019). As Taiwan belongs to subtropical and tropical zone, temperature is high all the year round and is called “treasure island” which has plenty of tropical plants and fruits.



To begin with, there has been no such “Nation” like Taiwan historically. The official name of Taiwan is “Republic of China” (ROC). It was the first republic nation in the world which was established after Xinhai(辛亥) Revolution in 1912. In 1949 Taiwan Nationalist Party, which was defeated by the Communist Party, fled to Taiwan to keep their power in Taiwan.

It means there are two nations in China.



We can see records of Taiwan in “Record of the Three Kingdom (三国志) and “The Book of Sui (隋書)”.  In the age of Yuan Dynasty (元代―Mongol Empire 13 -14th century)、Penghu Islands (澎湖諸島) have been under the control of inspecting officer (巡検司)of Fujian Province (福建省). In 16th century, a Portugal navigation officer had discovered Taiwan and named “Formosa” (means “beautiful island” in Portugal). In 17th century, the Age of Exploitation, Taiwan has been a colony of Holland (1624 to 1662). Manchurians established the Qing dynasty in North Eastern area of the Mainland and took the reins of Government having defeated the Ming dynasty. The general Zheng Cheggong (鄭成功) of the Ming dynasty fled from Qing and went across to Taiwan in 1661. He fought with Holland and expelled them. He established and governed the Donging Kingdom (東寧王国).



Qing defeated the Donging Kingdom in 1683 and annexed them for 210 years. However, Qing was defeated by Japan at the Sino-Japanese war in 1895 and concluded the “Treaty of Shimonoseki”. By this treaty, Taiwan was transferred to Japanese territory and Japan established the Government-General of Taiwan and governed for fifty years. During the period of Qing dynasty, a lot of Han race (Chinese people) went across to Taiwan from Fujian Province and aborigine assimilated to Han race. Present “Taiwanese” can be said to the same race as Chinese.



In August 1945, at the end of the World War II, Japan was defeated. Chiang Kai-shek (the President) requisitioned Taiwan under the agreement of the Allied and incorporated Taiwan into R.O.C. as Taiwan Province (Retrocession). At the time of establishment of the United Nation, ROC was the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council because ROC was a victorious country. ROC has been keeping its position at the time when it changed its HQ in Taiwan. In 1971, People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Mainland was admitted by the U.N. and became the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council instead of ROC which withdrew from U.N.  International society admitted ROC to be a part of PRC and proceed to normalization of diplomatic relations with PRC breaking off the relations with ROC.



Fortuitously Japan has established its diplomatic relations with PRC September 29, 1972. Although Japan broke off diplomatic relations with ROC, Japan have established “Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association” to keep relations with ROC instead. In the course of the year October 2020, the number of countries which had diplomatic relations with ROC was only fifteen and they are few small countries in the Middle and South America and the Vatican City State in Europe.   



Chiang Chin-kuo, who succeeded Chiang Kai-shek died in 1975, lifted the martial law in 1987 and resolved quasi-state of war with PRC. After the death of Chiang Chin-kuo in 1988, Lee Teng-hui (Taiwanese) succeeded the Presidency. He proceeded with change in the strong swell of democratization and became the first President elected by the people in 1996. In 2000, Democratic Progressive Party (mainly by Taiwanese) made a regime change having defeated People’s Party. In 2008, People’s Party regained power again through election. But, in 2016, Ms. Tsai Ing-wen, Democratic Progress Party won the election and became the first female President of Taiwan. In the last February, she was re-elected and has kept her position to the present.



In the progress of democratization in Taiwan, national identities are changing gradually from “Chinese” to “Taiwanese”. According to a public opinion poll by National Chengchi University in 1992, 17.6% of the people replied “I am Taiwanese”, 25.5% replied “Chinese” and 46.4% replied “Taiwanese at the same time Chinese”. At the poll in 2020, the figures changed to 67%, 2.4% and 27.5% accordingly. People’s Party, mainly by the people from the mainland, lowered their influences eventually and Taiwanese are soaring their consciousness and powers.



Democratic Progress Party have strong aspirations of independence from China and there have been feud, “independence” or “unification”, with the Mainland. At the time of People’s Party, they considered “One China” is important. But, at the time of Democratic Progress Party, they do not admit or have been keeping ambiguousness. Against such attitude,  Chinese Government established “Anti-Secession Law“in 2005. It means when Taiwan would declare their “independence”, Chinese Government are prepared to use the military force.  Under such political and military threat, Taiwan is maintaining the status quo.



After Taiwan had reopened exchange with the Mainland in 1990s, their relations came closer rapidly. In December 2008, scheduled flights between Taiwan and the Mainland entered service. Taiwan sightseeing by Mainlanders and “Three Linkages” were lifted. (cf. three linkages (三通): postal(便), transportation(航) and trade(商)) ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement) was concluded at summit meeting in 2010 and FTA (Free Trade Agreement) was concluded. 40% of total export amount from Taiwan is towards the Mainland. Total numbers of Taiwan companies which advanced to the Mainland market is about 100thousands and 47.6% of Taiwanese investment amount to overseas is towards the Mainland during the period from January to November 2020. Population of Taiwanese in the Mainland is about one million. Total traffic people who go and come between Taiwan and Mainland a year is more than five million (2019). As to international marriage in Taiwan, 260 thousand people out of 400 thousand are with Mainlanders.



Taiwan economy rely on the Mainland too much. It means there is a risk that Taiwan is caught up in the Mainland economy and exploited politically. China utilizes such status in their “united front” maneuvering to pressurize Taiwan. For example, Minister of Culture and Tourism (China) announced on July 31, 2019 that individual visit to Taiwan from Chinese 47 cities shall be stopped after August temporarily. It is a pressure from the viewpoint of Taiwan.



On February 26, 2020, Chinese Government announced that import of Taiwan pineapple would be banned after March 1 because harmful organisms were detected. It made ado in Taiwan and the authorities reacted against it as political pressure. Ten percent of pineapple production in Taiwan is exported and 95% of this export is toward China. So, it is not influential to Taiwan farmers. Taiwan is promoting domestic sales of pineapple and trying to find other overseas markets other than the Mainland. When Taiwan get pressure from China, they repeated their dissatisfaction against Chinese Government and elevated “consciousness as Taiwanese”. It will be a challenge for Taiwan, how will they nether their dependence on the mainland in economy.



Recently there has been tension between Taiwan and China due to deterioration of relations between China and America. United States do not allow China to “swallow” Taiwan and are giving (selling) a lot of weapons to Taiwan every year on the basis of “Taiwan Relations Act” (in America). Now it is said that U. S. are selling not only defensive weapons but offensive weapons. (The amount in 2020 was $34.5billion dollars) The Trump administration strengthened the relations with Taiwan and the Biden administration followed.



Influx of massive Mainlanders and their bringing in of Chinese cultures (massive books and goods etc.) by Peoples Party have built their governing bases as legitimate Government. As a result, Chinese traditional culture such as Chinese buildings, Chinese foods and clothes, permeated deeply in Taiwan. People say, if you like to experience authentic Chinese traditional culture, you should go to Taiwan.



Many Taiwanese have intimacy to Japan and they are called as “Pro-Japan Tribe”.  According to a Taiwanese scholar, Taiwanese think basically that Japan rule age was better than that of by China because they had long experience being invaded or governed by foreign powers. The number of tourists from Taiwan to Japan increased to 4.89million in 2019. This figure is the third following the Mainland and South Korea. It means one Taiwanese out of five are enjoying visiting Japan. In Ishikawa Pref. where I am living, people have a feeling of “pro-Taiwan”.  There is a direct flight a day from Komatsu Airport to Taipei and it is said they will increase two flights a day.      



SGRA Kawaraban 662 in Japanese (Original)


* You can read the first part (Li Gang Zhe / Taiwan, as an honor student in COVID-19 (Part-1)) from the link below.

Li Gang Zhe / Taiwan, as an honor student in COVID-19 (Part-1)



Li Gang Zhe / Professor, Hokuriku University



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sabina Koirala