This article was first published in Taiwan’s Do Post.
Most Americans do not understand the word “splittist.” That does not stop Beijing or any of its international friends from trying to apply the strange label to those of us who think for ourselves rather than take the Communist Party’s version of reality at face value.
We do understand the term “secessionist.” That however refers to those who advocate withdrawal from a union. As the people of Taiwan have never been a part of any union with the People’s Republic of China, we have a hard time seeing this concept as applicable to Taiwan’s relationship with Beijing. So we are still left not quite understanding what Beijing is trying to sell. There is good reason for this, of course. It is nonsense.
As a young analyst at the Heritage Foundation in the 1990s, I was privileged to participate directly in some of the informal interactions between the government of Taiwan and China’s top Taiwan negotiator, the late Wang Daohan. I was treated to many scholarly definitions of China that aspired to include both sides of the Strait in a common future and warned about the risks to America’s interests if “splittist” forces in Taiwan were not defeated.
As an American, I never felt it would be appropriate to deprive any people the right to determine their own future, provided they were willing to accept the risks our founders pledged to the cause: their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor. Beyond that, I was confused by some of the arguments Beijing’s advocates deployed to try to persuade me. The absolute biggest lie was the claim that Taiwan independence advocates sought to “split” China.
Perhaps due to my relative youth, I chose to take their interest in reasoned discussion at face value. I asked a few inconvenient questions that I saw as consistent with the logic of the arguments they presented to me.
In 1949, Mao Zedong and the Communist Party announced the establishment of “New China” (Xinhua), correct? Answer: yes. And that New China was a break with the feudalism and imperialism of China’s past, correct? Answer: yes. And it was separate from and in opposition to the “republican” vision for China represented by Chiang Kai-shek, correct? Answer: yes. So it was the CCP that organized a revolution against the Republic of China, consolidated power on the Mainland, rejected China’s cultural and political past, and left Taiwan under the defeated Kuomintang’s control? Answer: silence. So was it not the CCP that “split” China? Answer: there is no point in engaging in dialogue with someone so ignorant of history.
In truth, there is no possibility of real conversation, negotiation, or debate with Beijing on this topic. The Communist Party is not interested in common interests and negotiated peace. It seeks to impose its wishful rhetoric, ignoring all reality beyond its ability to coerce. Still, that is no reason for free people to indulge the Communist Party in its malicious fantasy by translating CCP rhetoric into our own national policies.
Instead, self-respecting leaders in Taiwan, the United States, and around the world should base their policy towards China on real history, our own interests, and use our own terms (not Beijing’s). Inescapably that will lead to policies that recognize China as China and Taiwan as Taiwan. How inconvenient, although in fairness it does not preclude a future union or preserve perpetual separation. But if our governments are to use silly terms like “splittists,” then apply that term to the last major party to split China: the CCP!