Taiwan Republic 台灣国 and world history classrooms: 1996 v. 2022 Chinese communist missile crisis – President Tsai and evolving Taiwanese national identity. 中華民囯台灣七十三年。主權互不隸屬。反共保台。

Because Taiwan Republic only appears in the western press in relation to geostrategery, “Chinese communist tensions,” and computer microchips, most English language analyses of Taiwan have been filtered through American and Chinese imperialist lenses. One of the greatest peaceful democratic revolutions engineered by the democratically elected president of Taiwan Dr. Tsai (LSE, Ph.D.) is to move from Taiwan Republic’s founding father President Lee Teng-hui’s formulation “RoC [in] Taiwan 中華民囯在台灣” to “RoC [as] Taiwan 中華民囯台灣” – and to have this formulation accepted by the leading world powers of US, Japan, and NATO – and accepted as a solid governing majority in Taiwan.

The 1996 Chinese communist missile crisis occurred on the eve of Taiwan’s first democratic presidential election – President Lee led Taiwan from the era of China KMT foreign dictatorship to Taiwanese democracy. Dr. Lee had to balance between the new, fragile democratic era and his role as the inheritor of CCK’s China KMT dictatorial party-state while facing Chinese communist belligerence and muddle-headed US policy.

In contrast, the 2022 Chinese communist missile crisis – though the Chinese military is stronger – has occurred in a very different environment. Since 1996 Taiwan’s democracy has peacefully transferred power between political parties twice – DPP to China KMT; China KMT back to DPP. More significant: Dr. Tsai is the first democratically elected president wherein during her second term her level of support has remained above fifty percent.

The impressive global and domestic re-engineering President Tsai has accomplished is this. During her October 10, 2021 speech she demarcated the differences between the “status quo” by the China CCP and the China KMT – one China and Taiwan is subjugated by China; versus the Lee-Tsai formulation, where the status quo is defined as RoC Taiwan for the last 73 years, and the boundaries between PRC and RoC Taiwan are that neither entity has claims of sovereignty over the other. Even more important, Taiwan RoC, RoC Taiwan, or Taiwan Republic, the key notion offered by President Tsai is democratic sovereignty – only the 23 million citizens living in Taiwan have the right to democratically choose their own government and chart their own future.

This Tsai formulation, RoC Taiwan 73 years, is a modernized version of the Lee Special State to State. The big difference is, unlike Lee’s earlier attempt, the Tsai formulation was not rejected by the major world powers of the US, Japan, and NATO. President Tsai then followed through on this major October 10th policy speech with a speech at the CCK Museum where she politically separated the younger dictator Chiang from his father dictator Chiang Kai-shek – endorsing CCK’s principle of “Anti-communism, protecting Taiwan” as a part of the “RoC Taiwan 73 years democratic sovereignty.” Another important step is to solidify a stable domestic democratic majority. From the October 10, 2021 speech to the CCK Museum speech, President Tsai has balanced historical memory, democratic consolidation, and compromises in national identity, with great power geostrategery.

The most remarkable manifestation of this national identity re-engineering from President Tsai is her convincing pan-green supporters to embrace RoC Taiwan, the flag, and the national military. As a young college student in the American midwest, I remember reading “outside the dictatorship party” 黨外 anti-China KMT/pro-Taiwan independence magazines, and the Taiwan military is conflated as the China KMT military – the enforcers of the dictatorship. In the 1980s it was not uncommon for these writers to advocate against the US selling arms to Taiwan, because this was seen by them to be selling arms to the China KMT dictatorship. So to see, during the 2022 Chinese communist missile crisis, so many pan blue-red China KMT supporters attack the Taiwanese military, and the pan-green DPP supporters show the RoC flag and support the military – a seismic, foundational national revolution. Will have an impact on Taiwanese democracy, regional order, and the US Indo-Pacific geostrategery for decades to come. Missiles and jet fighters and submarines are paramount to Taiwan’s national security. A stable, peaceful, governing majority in Taiwanese national identity focusing on democracy is equally important to Taiwanese national security and stability in the Indo-Pacific. 16.8.2022

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