Why is Taiwan a country
theme - Political Planet
If you are elected head of state, you usually talk to your ears on the phone. At the other end: heads of government and state from all over the world who congratulate and vow good cooperation. Not so in Taiwan: Whoever wins the presidential and parliamentary elections on Saturday can switch their company cell phone to flight mode.
Taiwan, officially called the Republic of China, has its own government, army and currency. However, only 15 countries worldwide recognize it as an independent state; in Europe only the Vatican. All other states have no official relations with Taiwan - out of fear of economic and diplomatic consequences from China. A phone call with a Taiwanese head of state? A faux pas with consequences that only a Trump does not shy away from.
Former dictatorship, today democracy
China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province. After Mao Zedong's communists had won the Chinese civil war in 1949 and proclaimed the People's Republic of China, the defeated republicans, the supporters of the Kuomintang, withdrew to the island of Taiwan. Their leader Chiang Kai-shek ruled the "Republic of China" under martial law until 1987, always in the hope of recapturing the mainland one day.
From the late 1980s, however, Taiwan gradually developed into a democracy. Social movements fought against censorship and corruption and for more rights. In 2019, Taiwan became the first Asian country to even introduce marriage for all - against much opposition. And economically it opened up and changed a lot: In terms of digitization, it is now considered a pioneer.
Independence? Yes but only a little bit
Only a small minority of the population would like to see reunification with mainland China today. However, Taiwan has never officially proclaimed its independence from China - for fear of military intervention, which China has repeatedly threatened, and economic slumps: currently 40 percent of exports go to China and Hong Kong. Still, mind you: Taiwan is currently expanding its economic relations with other countries as part of the “New South Bound Policy”.
Today Taiwan has a democratic system of government with parliamentary and presidential elements. Since 1996, the population has been able to directly elect the president for four years. The incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen and her party DPP do not stand for complete independence, but for more Independence. This is supposed to bring greater room for maneuver and security from the Chinese military.
In the current polls, Tsai is ahead, especially among the younger population. The largest opposition party, the KMT, and its presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu, on the other hand, want closer ties to the People's Republic. Where closer can mean a lot or very little here: After Tsai Ingwen was elected four years ago, China broke off all official contacts with Taiwan.
Cover picture: Kevin Lee / SZ Photo / laif
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