Article

Is there a question of Taiwan in international law?

In 1949 the civil war in China concluded as a matter of fact with the complete control of mainland by the armies of the Communist Party, which established the People’s Republic (PRC). The nationalist army made itself strong in the island of Taiwan –a territory largely inhabited by the Hakka and Fulkien Taiwanese which had been under Japanese rule until 1945–, where it established the Republic of China. The division of China became one of the pivots of Cold War politics. During the Cold War both governments claimed to be the legitimate China. The recognition of the PRC by a majority of the international community after 1971, when it also took over the ROC’s seat in the United Nations, and the establishment of democracy in Taiwan in 1988, gave a new dimension to the conflict, as a pro-independence movement transformed the political discourse in the island and began to redefine its international claims. The PRC, which remains a one-party state, has also made a paramount principle of the one-China concept, and it threatens to use force against Taiwan if it proclaims independence. After the victory of the independence party in the Taiwanese elections of March 2000, the new government in Taipei might accordingly terminate the Republic’s official commitment to one-China. Is there a question of Taiwan in international law? Does Taiwan have a right of independence? Does the PRC government on the contrary have a right to maintain the unity of China? Can Beijing adopt any policy, including the use of force, to assert such a right (assuming it has it)? May Taipei and Beijing have other stronger international obligations than those related to their respective interests in the dispute? Is there an obligation to self-government, or to democracy, under international law, which may bind both parties to the conflict in order to achieve a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict? What are the interests and the obligations of the international community in this conflict?

Relationships

Items