Friday, January 13, 2017

What is the difference between Taiwan and Republic of China?

Scratching on the surface, it seems that the Republic of China equals Taiwan, and the Republic of China currently represents Taiwan. Many people claim that Republic of China is the official name for Taiwan.

The confusion and mixing up of Taiwan and Republic of China continues until this day. Isn't this puzzling considering that Taiwan is calling itself Republic of China? Why isn't Taiwan calling itself with an official name that refers to itself, but a neighbouring country?


There is a bit of history involved in this. I must bring up the matter of Chinese Civil War, because it created the unique scene today. The Republic of China was founded by the Chinese Nationalist Party, and the Chinese Communist Party was formed some time after. War erupted between the Chinese Nationalists and Chinese Communist over the system of government to be implemented in China. The Nationalists wanted a constitutional republic but the Communists wanted to form a socialist republic. The Nationalists lost to the Communists and retreated to Taiwan, relocating their seat of government and bringing all national symbols (flag, official name, national anthem) with them. They rule over Taiwan and creates the impression that Taiwan and Republic of China are no different.

From our first impression, Taiwan equals to the Republic of China, and the Republic of China equals Taiwan. The flag with a sun on a blue sky, on a background of red represents Taiwan. There seems to be nothing wrong. Everything seem to be in their place, as we see from the outside.

But when I ask,
What is the Republic of China?
What is Taiwan?
Many think that both refer to the same thing.

But don't you think there's something wrong here? Does Republic of China refer to Taiwan, or China? Does Taiwan equate to being China?

At this point, most people can tell that Taiwan is not China. But there will be people defending that Republic of China is Taiwan. And insist that using the name "Republic of China" is nothing wrong, since it represents a country.

But when posed with the question,
Why Republic of China cannot join the United Nations? Why Taiwan cannot join the United Nations? 
Most people do not have a clear idea on the matter to answer this question. To answer this pressing question of international dignity, one needs background in international law, at the very least.

And most importantly,
Where does the Republic of China flag, or the so called Taiwanese flag, come from?
What hinders the return of Taiwan to the international community is the confusion between Taiwan and Republic of China. Learned experts are not confused, but the majority of laypeople are not able to differentiate the two names. Under the One China Principle, there can only be one government that represents China. The right to use the name of China, and the right to represent China is currently held by the People's Republic of China.

In order to find a way out for Taiwan, first the names must be precisely and unambiguously defined.

Taiwan Area as defined in the international peace treaties

Taiwan: An island located off the coast of East Asian continent. For a very precise delimitation, the area of Taiwan should be referred as the area ceded to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki and the same area detached from Japan in Treaty of San Francisco. The area of Taiwan includes (i) The island of Taiwan and other small islands associated with it, and (ii) The archipelago of Penghu, that is all islands lying between the 119th and 120th degrees of longitude east of Greenwich and the 23rd and 24th degrees of north latitude.

China: A unified country occupying a large area on the East Asian continent. It was ruled by dynasty over the course of history, and the territory of each dynasty is different. Her sovereign territory includes the Kinmen and Matsu Islands.

Now let us define "Republic of China" and "People's Republic of China". Are both the same?

Territory of the Republic of China upon its founding. Notice Taiwan is not its territory.
Republic of China: The republic in East Asia that was formed in 1911, after the overthrow of Qing Dynasty, ending thousands of years of imperial rule. This is the official name of the Chinese republic from 1911 to 1949. It's territory includes present-day Mongolia, and did not rule Taiwan for most of its time. It became a government-in-exile after the Chinese Nationalists lost the civil war with the Communists, and relocated to Taiwan.

Internationally recognised sovereign territory of People's Republic of China.

People's Republic of China: A socialist republic founded by the Chinese Communists after they defeated the Nationalists in a civil war. The official name of China after 1949.

Republic of China and People's Republic of China actually refers to the same country, that is China! The actual Republic of China is the republic from 1911 to 1949. These are two different eras of China, much like succession of dynasties. In terms of international law, Republic of China is followed by the People's Republic of China with a State succession event.


Taking history into account, Taiwan does not equal to Republic of China! Know how to differentiate between these names is the key to understanding issues like Taiwan independence. Finding a way out of Taiwan's international isolation also requires this knowledge.

A consequence of the Chinese Civil War is the mixing up of the identity of Taiwan and a previous Chinese government. Name rectification is way to go for Taiwan!

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