Friday, December 7, 2007
Back to China! In the past few days, I have been exposed to some fascinating readings, which highlight how the intricacy of the relationships between China and Taiwan show its little head even in subjects like the road taken by the Olympic Torch Relay on its way to Beijing next year (read below)! As an ignorant Westerner, I came here a few months ago thinking China and Taiwan were simply 2 countries – nothing more to it. I know, I know, if I had read more on even US relationships with China in the past 10 years, I would have known that the reality is much more complex. My “reeducation” (funny word to use here in China) started over a lunch with our Taiwanese partner here in Xiamen when he explained the complexity of the relationship with a striking statement: “China thinks Taiwan belongs to China and Taiwan thinks China belongs to Taiwan”. Quite a simplistic way of describing the situation, and a provocative statement about Taiwan’s thinking which I have not been able to confirm through my internet search. (You know me by now, I love to dig into intriguing history subjects like this one). The only statement I have found (on a Taiwanese site about its history) on the latter was: “In the 1970s, Taiwan had been kicked out of most international organizations because the Kuomintang [political party in China and Taiwan for the reunification to the mainland] authorities at that time still continued the claim to sovereignty over China.” On the more commonly discussed subject of China claiming sovereignty over China, you simply have to read articles like this Wikipedia article to start appreciating the complexity of the issue. The important “take home message”: Taiwan has not formally declared independence, because it could lead to military confrontation with the People's Republic of China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan. And China is not kidding! As late as the mid-90s, China was doing “practice military exercises” and firing missiles just North of Taiwan, as Taiwan was “thinking” about independence. But back to the interesting story on the Olympic Torch Relay Road. The Relay Road was announced recently. “The Olympic torch will be carried across all five continents, [and] along the ancient "Silk Road" and 135 cities” in China. Immediately Taiwan rejected the road… because it was a “domestic road” (from a Chinese town to Taiwan back to a Chinese town). Interesting, no? The Relay Road has now been changed to go from Vietnam to Taiwan and back to Hong-Kong (a lot longer road on the map!), to avoid the confusion! Another example: I was reading an article recently on Quanzhou, a 6.5 million people city 45 miles from Xiamen. In the listing of the counties Quanzhou administers, you can read “Jinmeng county (to be unified)”! Well, Jinmeng (or Chinmen – or Quemoy in English) is a little island close to Xiamen, but which belongs to Taiwan! That tells you about China’s “pretentions”, doesn’t it? I guess that if China-Taiwan relationships were heating up, we would be right in the middle of the action. I will leave you with a last story… In my tourist guide on China (from DK, British publisher) you can read on the credits page: “The external boundaries of China as shown in this book are neither correct nor authentic”. Are you left pensive?… PS: the map above (click to enlarge) shows you Taiwan and on the coast of China the little island of Chinmen, and just West of it, of the same size, the island of Xiamen. That shows you the strange location of Chinmen and how close to potential action Xiamen is!