Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
the legality of the Treaty of Shimonoseki and then point out that Japan
in the San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed in 1951 and effective as of
April 1952, renounced all claims and title to Taiwan but did not specify
which country or regime would gain sovereignty over the island. Blue
historians counter that the Cairo Declaration, issued by the United
States, Great Britain, and the Republic of China in 1943, and thus
predating the San Francisco Peace Treaty by several years, contains a
provision that Taiwan would be retroceded to China after the defeat
of Japan. Green historians respond that the Cairo Declaration was just
that: a declaration and not a legally binding treaty.
And so the debate goes, on and on, around and around, with no
definitive resolution in sight. In some ways the debate is dishonest
or at least not genuine, since many of its principals already have con-
clusions and positions firmly in mind prior to considering historical
evidence and arguments. Many of the contours of this debate are
actually quite compelling and interesting, but ultimately the historical
debate over the international disposition of Taiwan is largely irrel-
evant. This is because the most ingeniously constructed and eloquently
presented historical arguments will never convince Beijing to quit its
territorial claims to Taiwan. Most people who take a clear-eyed view
of Taiwan's past and present do know this. So what are historian-
activists who agitate and argue for Taiwan independence really doing?
Their hearts may be in the right place, and they may be striving for the
moral high ground, but the fate of Taiwan is not really very much of a
moral issue. Taiwan's fate is first and foremost a political issue,
although in the worst-case scenarios it might also become a military
What will become of the new and flourishing democracy on
Taiwan? This is one of the major international questions for the first
decades of the twenty-first century. In Taiwan today there is a wide-
spread sense of helpless fatalism or impending, resigned acceptance
of whatever the island's ultimate fate turns out to be. Perhaps only a
minority will want to stand and fight in the face of an invasion from
the mainland. People who three decades ago were “recapture the
mainland” true believers and ardent Cold Warriors are now soberly
defeatist or capitulationist in their attitudes. There seems to be little
sense among Taiwan's youth today that their island democracy is
worth fighting and dying for. Therefore they may lose it.
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