Beijing constantly threatens Taiwan’s independence, but many Chinese intellectuals hold the view that it is Taiwan that legally represents the Republic of China (ROC) and therefore has the authority to reclaim China if the mainland Chinese people decide that is what they want.

Following Taiwan’s federal election victory in January by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) – with newly elected president, William Lai Ching-Te – Taiwan’s future has become an even hotter topic because the CCP clearly favoured the KMT party, the DPP’s major rival.

In August 2023, Bloomberg TV released an interview in Chinese with Mr. Lai, then vice president of Taiwan. When asked whether he would pursue formal independence for Taiwan, Lai said that “Taiwan is already a sovereign, independent country called the Republic of China” and so “there is no need (therefore) to declare independence.”

Some Chinese intellectuals further point out that the ROC originally included Taiwan and the Mainland and that the ROC government is, therefore, the legitimate government of Greater China, while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a rebel regime.

After the end of World War II, unlike other countries that were busy rebuilding, China suffered more years of civil war.

Japan accepted the terms of surrender in August 1945. Yet in 1946, a fragile truce between the CCP and the Kuomintang (KMT) in China was shattered when a full-scale civil war broke out. In the end, USSR-backed Chinese communist forces defeated the KMT, forcing the KMT government and its army to retreat to Taiwan.

Despite having fought the CCP on the battlefield for many years, the KMT now strongly emphasizes Chinese nationalism and the unity of the Chinese nation – but on its terms, not the CCP’s.

The DPP, under Mr. Lai’s leadership, believes Taiwan is already a de facto sovereign nation and that it should strengthen its defences against China’s threats and deepen relations with the United States and other democracies.

For these reasons, the CCP, which views Taiwan as a renegade province and vows to unify Taiwan with China – by force if necessary – often exploits the KMT’s nostalgic sentiments to pursue more bilateral cooperation and eventual unification while condemning the DPP as die-hard “Taiwan independence” separatists.

Guo Jun, the Epoch Times’ Hong Kong edition editor-in-chief, stated on the Pinnacle View program that Chinese intellectuals generally agree with Mr. Lai’s statement that ROC has always been an independent country.

Ms. Guo further explained that of the two major political parties in Taiwan, the KMT recognizes that there is only one China, the Republic of China (ROC), and the mainland is also part of the ROC.

In her view, the DPP usually sticks to a platform of Taiwan independence and that it is better to call Taiwan the country of ‘Taiwan’ or the ‘Republic of Taiwan’ instead of the Republic of China.

But again, for practical reasons, the DPP can’t do that because it would offend the CCP, and the United States also won’t agree, so the DPP can only maintain the status quo.

“ROC has its own army, sovereignty, administration, and judiciary. It is fair to say that the ROC has always been an independent country and that the territory of the ROC includes the whole of China, but the CCP took over the mainland and established a country called the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which became independent of the ROC.”

“Therefore, Taiwan’s leaders have the right to say, ‘In the past, we did not recognize it, but now we accept the reality and recognize that the PRC can become independent.  Then it becomes an explicit message that it is not Taiwan but mainland China, not the DPP but the CCP, that wants to claim independence,” Ms. Guo said.

She further pointed out that it is important to note that the PRC, led by the CCP, has never governed Taiwan, yet the ROC governed the mainland.

“After the abdication of the last Qing Emperor, its successor was the ROC, which makes it more legitimate in terms of legal succession than the PRC,” Ms. Guo said.

Taiwanese celebrating the recent election win by the DPP

Shi Shan, an expert on China issues and senior editor at The Epoch Times said on Pinnacle View that many Chinese intellectuals recognize and appreciate the old-time KMT and its governance principles.

“In the past, the ROC government had all along considered the CCP a rebel group and the agent of a foreign power during the war period and denied the so-called People’s Republic of China after retreating to Taiwan.

“There is evidence to support its claim because many Chinese know that when the CCP held its first party congress in Nanhu, the person who presided over the meeting was not a Chinese but a Russian,” he said.

According to Mr. Shi, the political ideals of the KMT or the ROC—the “Three Principles of the People” and a legislative and governmental structure based on the separation of powers into five branches, are very appealing to intellectuals in today’s China, and it seems that they have a stronger and stronger recognition of the ROC.

“In fact, the ROC had a very good period of development in the 1920s and 1930s. I have read some books written by foreign missionaries to China, and they thought that the best time for the Chinese people was from the fall of the Qing Dynasty to the Sino-Japanese War. China developed very well during this period, especially in the coastal provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang areas,” Mr. Shi added.

Independent TV producer Li Jun also agreed that the ROC has a popular mainland China base.

“Chinese historian Xin Haonian published a book, ‘Which is the New China: Distinguishing between Right and Wrong in Modern Chinese History.’ In it, he argues that the Chinese communist regime is not a new China but an authoritarian restoration and that the real new China is the ROC. Many people have read his book and echo his views,” Mr. Li said.

Ms. Guo said she believes that the Chinese communist regime will not be able to sustain itself, not because of Taiwan, the KMT, or the DPP, but because the CCP has done too much evil to the Chinese people.

“Some people say that the CCP is too powerful to fall. In my view, there’s no need for such pessimism. Throughout history, the rulers of past dynasties were all very powerful, with governments and armies, but each dynasty waxed and waned,” she said.

As for the future of China and Taiwan, Ms. Guo said that the characteristic of a democratic system is that the people themselves decide the fate of their nation.

“When the autocratic communist regime collapses, I believe the people of Mainland China and Taiwan will come up with their own methods,” she predicted.

Reality suggests that Xi Jinping will not take kindly to this idea – but you never know, he might decide to hold a genuinely democratic election in which case the people of mainland China may well have their wish come true.

China would then become a great democracy and friend to the western world as it was before communism.

But will Xi Jinping allow truly free elections and let the people decide?

If you believe that, then perhaps pigs might also learn to fly!

This article was first published in The Epoch Times and was written by the Pinnacle View Team which is a joint venture by NTD and The Epoch Times. It has been amended.

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