Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
commonly available in bookstores. The arguments for and against
Taiwan's historical independence from China are manifold and convo-
luted. A popular argument posits in crudely racial or genetic terms the
non-Chinese identity of the majority of Taiwan's people today, main-
taining that historical patterns of intermarriage between Han Chinese
and the island's aboriginal populations have produced a population
ethnically distinct from that on the mainland. (This argument presup-
poses, of course, that the essential core of Chineseness is genetic or
phenotypic, an assumption fallacious on its face and unworthy of seri-
ous comment.)
Others argue that Taiwan was never ruled by Qing China, which is
of course a distortion of historical facts. More sophisticated historians
and history buff activists argue that the Qing never ruled over all of
Taiwan; only the western plains region of the island settled by Han
Chinese were ruled by the Qing government, they observe, whereas
the aboriginal regions in the mountains areas and the eastern coastal
areas were largely left to their own devices and rule. This argument
usually includes some description of Qing Taiwan's society as particu-
larly turbulent and prone to rebellion. But according to a highly
authoritative history of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Taiwan,
Qing Taiwan's society was neither exceptionally turbulent nor its
government exceptionally corrupt, and the Qing “ruled Taiwan with
the same repertoire of policies it applied to other regional societies”
(Shepherd 1993, 3).
Others maintain that Taiwan during the Qing dynasty was not part
of China but of the Manchu empire. This contention, however, is ques-
tionable because it does not ipso facto negate the very real geopolitical
and administrative union of Taiwan with Fujian province on the main-
land in the 1680s; the Qing dynasty was China's government at the
time, and the ethnicity of the ruling dynastic house that accomplished
this union of Taiwan with mainland China is irrelevant.
Still others concede that although China may have had sovereignty
over Taiwan, this sovereignty ended in 1895 when China ceded the
island to Japan in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Shimono-
seki. (This argument assumes, of course, that Taiwan was the Qing's to
give away in the first place.) Blue historians counter by arguing that
the Treaty of Shimonoseki was part of the nineteenth-century era of
unequal treaties and imperialist victimization of China and was, there-
fore, legally illegitimate. Any subsequent developments flowing from
the Treaty of Shimonoseki are fruits of the poison tree and are irrel-
evant, Blue historians maintain, at least as far as the ultimate fate of
Taiwan is concerned. Many Green historians, on the other hand, affirm
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