Currently, Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and some other minor islands effectively make up the jurisdiction of the state known as the Republic of China. The ROC ruled mainland China, and claimed sovereignty over Outer Mongolia and Tannu Uriankhai (part of which is present day Tuva) before losing the Chinese Civil War and relocating its government to Taipei in December 1949.
Since the ROC lost its United Nations seat in 1971 (replaced by the PRC), most sovereign states have switched their diplomatic recognition to the PRC, recognizing or acknowledging the PRC to be the sole legitimate representative of all China. As of January 2008, the ROC maintains official diplomatic relations with sovereign states, although de facto relations are maintained with nearly all others. Agencies such as the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office and American Institute in Taiwan operate as de facto embassies without official diplomatic status.
The ROC government has in the past considered itself to be the sole legitimate government over China, as well as its former territories. This position started to be largely ignored in the early 1990s, changing to one that does not challenge the legitimacy of PRC rule over mainland China. However, the ROC's claims have never been renounced through a constitutional amendment; both the PRC and the ROC carry out cross-strait relations through specialized agencies (such as the Mainland Affairs Council of the ROC), rather than through foreign ministries. Different groups have different concepts of what the current formal political situation of Taiwan is. (See also: Chinese reunification, Taiwan independence, and Cross-Strait relations)
In addition, the situation can be confusing because of the different parties and the effort by many groups to deal with the controversy through a policy of deliberate ambiguity. The political solution that is accepted by many of the current groups is the following perspective of the status quo: that is, to unofficially treat Taiwan as a state and at a minimum, to officially declare no support for the government of this state making a formal declaration of independence. What a formal declaration of independence would consist of is not clear and can be confusing given the fact that the People's Republic of China has never controlled Taiwan since its founding and the fact that the Republic of China, whose government controls Taiwan, considers itself a de jure sovereign state. The status quo is accepted in large part because it does not define the legal status or future status of Taiwan, leaving each group to interpret the situation in a way that is politically acceptable to its members. At the same time, a policy of status quo has been criticized as being dangerous precisely because different sides have different interpretations of what the status quo is, leading to the possibility of war through brinkmanship or miscalculation.
Some claim that the Kingdom of Tungning, lasting from 1661 to 1683, was the first Han Chinese government to rule Taiwan. From 1683, the Qing Dynasty ruled Taiwan as a prefecture and in 1875 divided the island into two prefectures. In 1887 the island was made into a separate Chinese province to speed up development in this region. In the aftermath of the First Sino-Japanese War, Taiwan and the Pescadores were ceded by the Qing Dynasty to Japan in 1895. Japanese troops in Taiwan surrendered to the Republic of China at end of World War II, putting Taiwan under a Chinese government again after 50 years of Japanese rule. The ROC would then claim sovereignty on the basis of the Qing dynasty's administration, Cairo Declaration, Potsdam Declaration, and Japanese Instrument of Surrender, but this became contested by pro-independence groups in subsequent years due to different perceptions of the said documents' legality. Upon losing the Chinese civil war in 1949, the ROC government retreated to Taipei, and kept control over a few islands along the coast of mainland China and in the South China Sea. The People's Republic of China (PRC) was established in mainland China on October 1, 1949, claiming to be the successor to the ROC.
Quemoy, Matsu and Wuchiu on the coast of Fukien, and Taiping and Pratas in the South China Sea, are part of the ROC's present territory, but were not ceded to Japan. Some arguments supporting the independence of Taiwan do not apply to these islands.
China, during the Qing Dynasty, ceded the island of Taiwan, including the Pescadores (Penghu), to Japan "in perpetuity" at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War by signing the Treaty of Shimonoseki. In the Cairo Conference of 1943, the allied powers agreed to have Japan restore "all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese", specifically listing "Formosa" and the Pescadores, to the Republic of China upon Japan's surrender. According to both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China, this agreement was given legal force by the Instrument of Surrender of Japan in 1945. The PRC's UN Ambassador, Wang Yingfan (Chinese 王英凡), has stated multiple times in the UN general committee: "Taiwan is an inseparable part of China's territory since antiquity" and "both the 1943 Cairo Declaration and the 1945 Potsdam Declaration have reaffirmed in unequivocal terms China's sovereignty over Taiwan as a matter of international law." The PRC rejects arguments involving the lack of a specific treaty (San Francisco Peace Treaty) transferring Taiwan's sovereignty to China by noting that it was not a signatory to any such treaty, making the treaties irrelevant with regard to Chinese claims. The ROC argues that the Treaty of Taipei implicitly transferred sovereignty of Taiwan to it.
On the other hand, a number of supporters of Taiwan independence argue that Taiwan was only formally incorporated as a Chinese territory under the Qing Dynasty in 1683, and as a province in 1885. Subsequently, because of the Shimonoseki Treaty of 1895, Taiwan had been de jure part of Japan when the ROC was established in 1912 and thus was not part of the Chinese republic. Also, because the Cairo Declaration was an unsigned press communiqué, the independence advocates argue that the legal effectiveness of the Declaration is highly questionable. Furthermore, they point out that the Instrument of Surrender of Japan was no more than an armistice, a "modus vivendi" in nature, which served as a temporary or provisional agreement that would be replaced with a peace treaty. Therefore, only a military occupation of Taiwan began on Oct. 25, 1945, and both the Treaty of San Francisco and Treaty of Taipei hold legal supremacy over the surrender instrument. These treaties did not transfer the title of Taiwan from Japan to China. According to this argument, the sovereignty of Taiwan was returned to the people of Taiwan when Japan renounced sovereignty of Taiwan in the San Francisco Peace Treaty (SFPT) in 1951, based on the policy of self-determination which has been applied to "territories which detached from enemy states as a result of the Second World War" as defined by article 76b and 77b of the United Nations Charter and also by the protocol of the Yalta Conference.
Although the interpretation of the peace treaties was used to challenge the legitimacy of the ROC on Taiwan before the 1990s, the introduction of popular elections in Taiwan has compromised this position. Except for the most extreme Taiwan independence supporters, most Taiwanese support the popular sovereignty theory and no longer see much conflict between this theory of sovereignty and the ROC position. In this sense, the ROC government currently administering Taiwan is not the same ROC which accepted Japanese surrender because the ruling authorities were given popular mandate by different pools of constituencies: one is the mainland Chinese electorate, the other is the Taiwanese constituencies. In fact, former president Chen Shui-bian has been frequently emphasizing the popular sovereignty theory in his speeches.
However, as of 2007, the conflict between these two theories still plays a role in internal Taiwanese politics. The popular sovereignty theory, which the pan-green coalition emphasizes, suggests that Taiwan could make fundamental constitutional changes by means of a popular referendum. The ROC legal theory, which is supported by the pan-blue coalition, suggests that any fundamental constitutional changes would require that the amendment procedure of the ROC constitution be followed.
The position of the PRC is that the ROC ceased to be a legitimate government upon the founding of the former on October 1, 1949 and that the PRC is the successor of the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China, with the right to rule Taiwan under the succession of states theory. Whether the ROC, on the other hand, still has the legitimacy to retake mainland China is not widely accepted, but disputed.
The ROC argues that it maintains all the characteristics of a state and that it was not "replaced" or "succeeded" by the PRC because it has continued to exist long after the PRC's founding. According to the Montevideo Convention of 1933, the most cited source for the definition of statehood, a state must possess a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. The ROC claims to meet all these criteria as it possesses a sovereign government exercising effective jurisdiction over well-defined territories with over 23 million permanent residents and a full fledged foreign ministry.
The PRC argues that the ROC and PRC are two different factions in the Chinese Civil War, which never legally ended. Therefore both factions belong to the same sovereign country—China. Since Taiwan's sovereignty belongs to China, the secession of Taiwan should be agreed upon by 1.3 billion Chinese citizens instead of the 23 million ROC citizens who currently live in Taiwan. Furthermore, they interpret UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, which states "Recognizing that the representatives of the Government of the People's Republic of China are the only lawful representatives of China to the United Nations", to mean that the PRC is recognised as having the sovereignty of all of China, including Taiwan. The actual Resolution, however, does not specifically mention Taiwan and to whom its sovereignty belongs. Therefore, the PRC believes that it is within their legal rights to extend its jurisdiction to Taiwan, by military means if necessary.
In addition, the PRC argues that the ROC does not meet the fourth criterion of the Montevideo Convention, as it is recognized by only states and has been denied access to international organizations such as the UN. The ROC counters that the pressure the PRC exerts prevents the ROC from being widely recognized. This was accomplished because the PRC took many coercive steps to isolate the ROC diplomatically. Furthermore, the ROC points out that Article 3 of the same Montevideo Convention specifically says, "The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by other states." Nevertheless, the PRC points out the fact that the Montevideo Convention was only signed by 19 states at the Seventh International Conference of American States. Thus the authority of the United Nations as well as UN Resolutions should supersede the Montevideo Convention.
The position of the People's Republic of China is that "the Government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government of China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China". This view has been rejected by the Republic of China government which holds the view that both PRC and ROC are two separate and sovereign Chinese governments that split during the Chinese civil war. The PRC government was unwilling to negotiate with the Republic of China under any formulation other than under a One-China policy, although flexibility in terms of defining that "one China" such as found in the 1992 consensus is possible under PRC policy. This has made Taiwan-mainland China negotiations difficult, since the PRC refused to meet with high-level publicly-elected ROC officials.
The current position of the People's Republic of China is ambiguous on its terms of reunification. It is clear that the PRC still maintains that "Taiwan is an inalienable part of China", however the PRC no longer states that "the Government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government of China" in any official representation relating to Taiwan. It has not officially withdrawn from this claim either. The Republic of China government has also accepted the 1992 consensus, which results in semi-official talks between the two sides. The ROC also defines the PRC/ROC relationship as "special," "but not that between two nations. It remains to be be seen how the PRC defines the 'China' in the "Taiwan is an inalienable part of China" statement: whether China means the PRC or a new entity that includes the current PRC and ROC.
The PRC government considers perceived violations of its One-China policy, or inconsistencies such as supplying the ROC with arms, a violation of its rights to territorial integrity. International news organizations often report that "China considers Taiwan a renegade province that must be united with the mainland by force if necessary", even though the PRC does not explicitly say that Taiwan is a renegade province. However, official PRC media outlets and officials often refer to Taiwan as "China's Taiwan Province". (The PRC claims Quemoy, Wuchiu and Matsu as part of its Fujian Province, and the South China Sea Islands part of its Guangdong and Hainan provinces.)
Until 1991, when President Lee Teng-hui claimed that the government would no longer challenge the rule of the Communists in mainland China, the ROC government under Kuomintang (KMT) rule actively maintained that it was the sole legitimate government of China. The Courts in Taiwan have never accepted President Lee's statement, primarily due to the reason that the (now defunct) National Assembly never officially changed the national borders. Notably, the People's Republic of China claims that changing the national borders would be "a precursor to Taiwan independence". The task of changing the national borders now requires a constitutional amendment passed by the Legislative Yuan and ratified by an absolute majority of all eligible ROC voters, which the PRC has implied would constitute grounds for military attack.
On the other hand, though the constitution of the Republic of China promulgated in 1946 does not state exactly what territory it includes, the draft of the constitution of 1925 did individually list the provinces of the Republic of China and Taiwan was not among them, since Taiwan was de jure part of Japan as the result of the Treaty of Shimonoseki of 1895. The constitution also stipulated in Article I.4, that "the territory of the ROC is the original territory governed by it; unless authorized by the National Assembly, it cannot be altered." However, in 1946, Sun Fo, son of Sun Yat-Sen and the minister of the Executive Yuan of the ROC, reported to the National Assembly that "there are two types of territory changes: 1. renouncing territory and 2. annexing new territory. The first example would be the independence of Mongolia, and the second example would be the reclamation of Taiwan. Both would be examples of territory changes." Japan renounced all rights to Taiwan in the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951 and the Treaty of Taipei of 1952 without an explicit recipient. While the ROC continuously ruled Taiwan after the government was directed to Taiwan by the General Order No. 1 to receive Japanese surrender, there has never been a meeting of the ROC National Assembly in making a territory change according to the ROC constitution, though the Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China have mentioned Taiwan "Province". Thus, many pro-Independence advocates point out that the ROC constitution in fact denies its own legality governing Taiwan.
The now defunct National Assembly passed constitutional amendments that give the people of the "Free Area of the Republic of China", comprising the territories it controls, the sole right to exercise the sovereignty of the Republic through elections of the President and the entire Legislature as well as through elections to ratify amendments to the ROC constitution. Also, Chapter I, Article 2 of the ROC constitution states that "The sovereignty of the Republic of China shall reside in the whole body of citizens." For some, this suggests that the constitution implicitly admits that the sovereignty of the ROC is limited to the areas that it controls even if there is no constitutional amendment that explicitly spells out the ROC's borders.
In 1999, ROC President Lee Teng-hui proposed a two-state theory (兩國論) in which both the Republic of China (ROC) and the People's Republic of China (PRC) would acknowledge that they are two separate countries with a special diplomatic, cultural and historic relationship. This however drew an angry reaction from the PRC who believed that Lee was covertly supporting Taiwan independence.
President Chen Shui-bian (2000-2008) fully supported the idea that the "Republic of China is an independent, sovereign country" but held the view that the Republic of China is Taiwan and Taiwan does not belong to the People's Republic of China. This is suggested in his Four-stage Theory of the Republic of China. Due to the necessity of avoiding war with the PRC however, President Chen had refrained from formally declaring Taiwan's independence. Government publications have implied that Taiwan refers to the ROC, and "China" refers to the PRC. President Chen has repeatedly refused to endorse the One China Principle the PRC demands as a precursor to negotiations. There have been thus far unsuccessful attempts to restart semi-formal negotiations through formulations that refer to the 1992 consensus or the spirit of 1992. After becoming chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party in July 2002, Chen appeared to move toward a two states theory and in early August 2002, he stated that Taiwan may "go on its own Taiwanese road" and that "it is clear that the two sides of the straits are separate countries." These statements were strongly criticized by opposition parties in Taiwan.
The position of most supporters of Taiwan independence is that the PRC is the government of China, that Taiwan is not part of China, and the Republic of China (Taiwan) is the independent, autonomous government of Taiwan. The Democratic Progressive Party states that Taiwan has never been under the jurisdiction of the PRC, and that the PRC does not exercise any hold over the 23 million Taiwanese on the island. On the other hand, the position of most Chinese reunification supporters believe the Chinese Civil War is still not concluded as no peace treaty was even signed. Therefore, the current political separation across the Taiwan strait is only temporary and a unified China including both mainland China and Taiwan will be the result.
In the 2008 ROC presidential election, the people delivered KMT's Ma Ying-jeou with an election win with a sizeable majority. President Ma, throughout his election campaign, maintained that he would accept the 1992 consensus and promote better relations with the PRC. In respect of Taiwan political status, however, his policy was 1. he would not negotiate with the PRC on the subject of reunification during his term; 2. he would never declare Taiwan independence; and 3. he would not provoke the PRC into attacking Taiwan. He officially accepted the 1992 Consensus in his inauguration speech which resulted in direct semi-official talks with the PRC, and this later led to the commencement of weekend direct charter flights between mainland China and Taiwan. President Ma also defines the PRC/ROC relationship as "special," "but not that between two nations". He stated that mainland China is part of the territory of the Republic of China, and laws relating to international relations are not applicable to the relations between mainland China and Taiwan, as they are parts of a state.
Because of anti-communist sentiment at the start of the Cold War, the Republic of China was initially recognized as the sole legitimate government of China by the United Nations and most Western nations. On January 9, 1950, the Israeli government extended recognition to the People's Republic of China. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 505, passed on February 1, 1952 considered the Chinese communists to be rebels against the Republic of China. However, the 1970s saw a switch in diplomatic recognitions from the ROC to the PRC. On 25 October 1971, Resolution 2758 was passed by the UN General Assembly, which in effect expelled the Republic of China and placed the People's Republic of China on the Security Council seat as well in all other UN organizations. It declared "that the representatives of the Government of the People's Republic of China are the only lawful representatives of China to the United Nations." Multiple attempts by the Republic of China to rejoin the UN, no longer to represent all of China but just the people of the territories it governs, have not made it past committee, largely due to diplomatic maneuvering by the PRC, which claims Resolution 2758 has settled the matter. (See China and the United Nations.)
The PRC refuses to maintain diplomatic relations with any nation that recognizes the ROC, but does not object to nations conducting economic, cultural, and other such exchanges with Taiwan that do not imply diplomatic relation. Therefore, many nations that have diplomatic relations with Beijing maintain quasi-diplomatic offices in Taipei. For example, the United States maintains the American Institute in Taiwan. Similarly, the government in Taiwan maintains quasi-diplomatic offices in most nations under various names, most commonly as the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.
The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Republic of India, Pakistan and Japan have formally adopted the One China policy, under which the People's Republic of China is theoretically the sole legitimate government of China. However, the United States and Japan acknowledge rather than recognize the PRC position that Taiwan is part of China. In the case of Canada and the UK, bilateral written agreements state that the two respective parties take note of Beijing's position but do not use the word support. The UK government position that "the future of Taiwan be decided peacefully by the peoples of both sides of the Strait" has been stated several times. Despite the PRC claim that the United States opposes Taiwanese independence, the United States takes advantage of the subtle difference between "oppose" and "does not support". In fact, a substantial majority of the statements Washington has made says that it "does not support Taiwan independence" instead of saying that it "opposes" independence. Thus, the US currently does not take a position on the political outcome, except for one explicit condition that there be a peaceful resolution to the differences between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. All of this ambiguity has resulted in the United States constantly walking on a diplomatic tightrope with regard to the China/Taiwan issue.
The ROC maintains formal diplomatic relations with countries, mostly in Central America and Africa. Notably the Holy See also recognizes the ROC, a largely non-Christian/Catholic state, mainly to protest what it sees as the PRC's suppression of the Catholic faith in mainland China. However, Vatican diplomats were engaged in talks with PRC politicians at the time of Pope John Paul II's death, with a view towards improving relations between the two countries. When asked, one Vatican diplomat suggested that relations with Taiwan might prove "expendable" should PRC be willing to engage in positive diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Under Pope Benedict XVI the Vatican and PRC have shown greater interest in establishing ties, including the appointment of pro-Vatican bishops and the Pope canceling a planned visit from the Dalai Lama.
During the 1990s, there was a diplomatic tug of war in which the PRC and ROC attempted to outbid each other to obtain the diplomatic support of small nations. This struggle seems to have slowed as a result of the PRC's growing economic power and doubts in Taiwan as to whether this aid was actually in the Republic of China's interest. In March 2004, Dominica switched recognition to the PRC in exchange for a large aid package. However, in late 2004, Vanuatu briefly switched recognition from Beijing to Taipei, leading to the ousting of its Prime Minister and a return to its recognition of Beijing. On January 20, 2005, Grenada switched its recognition from Taipei to Beijing, in return for millions in aid (US$1,500 for every Grenadian). However, on May 14, 2005, Nauru announced the restoration of formal diplomatic relations with Taipei after a three-year hiatus, during which it briefly recognized the People's Republic of China.
On October 26, 2005, Senegal broke off relations with the Republic of China and established diplomatic contacts with Beijing. The following year, on August 5, 2006, Taipei ended relations with Chad when Chad established relations with Beijing. On April 26, 2007, however, Saint Lucia, which had previously severed ties with the Republic of China following a change of government in December 1996, announced the restoration of formal diplomatic relations with Taipei. On June 7, 2007, Costa Rica broke off diplomatic ties with the Republic of China in favour of the People's Republic of China. In January 2008 Malawi's foreign minister reported Malawi decided to cut diplomatic recognition of the Republic of China and recognize the People's Republic of China.
Currently, the countries who maintain formal diplomatic relations with the ROC include:
Under continuing pressure from the PRC to bar any representation of the ROC that may imply statehood, international organizations have adopted different policies toward the issue of ROC's participation. In cases where almost all UN members or sovereign states participate, such as the World Health Organization)the ROC has been completely shut out, while in others, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) the ROC participates under unusual names: "Chinese Taipei" in the case of APEC and the IOC, and the "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kimmen and Matsu" (often shortened as "Chinese Taipei") in the case of the WTO. The issue of ROC's name came under scrutiny during the 2006 World Baseball Classic. The organizers of the 16-team tournament intended to call Taiwan as such, but reverted to "Chinese Taipei" under pressure from PRC. The ROC protested the decision, claiming that the WBC is not an IOC event, but did not prevail. The ISO 3166 directory of names of countries and territories registers Taiwan (TW) separately from and in addition to the People's Republic of China (CN), but lists Taiwan as "Taiwan, Province of China" based on the name used by the UN under PRC pressure. In CN, Taiwan is also coded CN-71 under China, thus making Taiwan part of China in ISO 3166-1 and ISO 3166-2 categories.
Naming issues surrounding Taiwan/ROC continue to be a contentious issue in non-governmental organizations such as the Lions Club, which faced considerable controversy naming its Taiwanese branch.
In a controversial speech on February 4, 2006, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso called Taiwan a country with very high education levels because of previous Japanese colonial rule over the island. One month later, he told a Japanese parliamentary committee that "[Taiwan's] democracy is considerably matured and liberal economics is deeply ingrained, so it is a law-abiding country. In various ways, it is a country that shares a sense of values with Japan." At the same time, he admitted that "I know there will be a problem with calling [Taiwan] a country". Later, the Japanese Foreign Ministry tried to downplay or reinterpret his remarks.
In February 2007, the Royal Grenada Police Band played the National Anthem of the Republic of China in an inauguration of the reconstructed St George's Queen's Park Stadium funded by the PRC. Grenada had broken off diplomatic relationship with Taiwan just two years prior in favor of the PRC.
When the Kuomintang visited Mainland China in 2005, the government-controlled PRC media called this event a "visit," and called the KMT one of "Taiwan's political parties" even though the Kuomintang's full name remains the "Chinese Nationalist Party." Interestingly in Mainland China, there is a legal party called the Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang that is officially one of the nine "consultative parties," according to the PRC's Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
The PRC government has stated that it expresses a welcoming attitude towards Taiwanese businesspeople should they choose to return to the "motherland" for business purposes, but treats Taiwanese investment as "foreign investment". This is simply out of convenience, and the PRC government also treats investment from Hong Kong as "foreign investment". This can result in confusion as the PRC does not consider Hong Kong or Taiwan to be foreign nations.
Until 1979, both sides intended to resolve the conflict militarily. Intermittent clashes occurred throughout the 1950s and 1960s, with escalations comprising the First and Second Taiwan Strait crises. In 1979, with the U.S. change of diplomatic recognition to the PRC, the ROC lost its ally needed to "recover the mainland." Meanwhile, the PRC's desire to be accepted in the international community led it to promote peaceful unification under what would later be termed "one country, two systems," rather than to "liberate Taiwan" and institute socialism (in other words, to make Taiwan a Special Administrative Region).
Notwithstanding, the PRC government has issued triggers for an immediate war with Taiwan, most notably via its controversial Anti-Secession Law of 2005. These conditions are:
It has been interpreted that these criteria encompass the scenario of Taiwan developing nuclear weapons (see main article Taiwan and weapons of mass destruction).
The third condition has especially caused a stir in Taiwan as the term "indefinitely" is open to interpretation. It has also been viewed by some as meaning that preserving the ambiguous status quo is not acceptable to the PRC, although the PRC stated on many occasions that there is no explicit timetable for reunification.
Concern over a formal declaration of de jure Taiwan independence is a strong impetus for the military buildup between Taiwan and mainland China. The current US Bush administration has publicly declared that given the status quo, it would not aid Taiwan if it were to declare independence unilaterally.
According to President Chen Shui-bian who was President of the Republic of China between 2000 and 2008, China accelerated the deployment of missiles against Taiwan up to 120 a year (May 2007), bringing the total arsenal to 706 ballistic missiles capable of being fitted with nuclear warheads that are aimed at Taiwan. Some believe that their deployment is a political tool on the part of the PRC to increase political pressure on Taiwan to abandon unilateral moves toward formal independence, at least for the time being, although the PRC government never declares such deployment publicly.. Legislative elections were held in Taiwan on January 12, 2008. The results gave the Kuomintang and the Pan-Blue Coalition a supermajority (86 of the 113 seats) in the legislature, handing a heavy defeat to President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party, which won the remaining 27 seats only. The junior partner in the Pan-Green Coalition, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, won no seats. The election for the 12th-term President and Vice-President of the Republic of China was held in the Republic of China (Taiwan) on Saturday, March 22, 2008. Kuomintang nominee Ma Ying-jeou won, with 58% of the vote, ending eight years of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential power. Along with the 2008 legislative election, Ma's landslide victory brought the Kuomintang back to power in Taiwan.
Although the People's Liberation Army Air Force is considered large, most of its fleet consists of older generation J-7 fighters (localized MiG-21s and Mig-21BIs), raising doubts over the PLAAF's ability to control Taiwan's airspace in the event of a conflict. Since mid-1990s PRC has been purchasing, and later localizing, SU-27 based fighters. These Russian fighters, as well as their Chinese J11A variants, are currently over 170 in number, and have increased the effectiveness of PLAAF's Beyond Visual Range (BVR) capabilities. The introduction of 60 new-generation J10A fighters is anticipated to increase the PLAAF's firepower. PRC's acquisition of Russian Su30MKKs further enhanced the PLAAF's air-to-ground support ability. The ROC's air force, on the other hand, relies on Taiwan's second generation fighters, consisting of 150 US-built F-16 Fighting Falcons, approximately 60 French-built Mirage 2000-5s, and approximately 130 locally developed IDFs (Indigenous Defence Fighters). All of these ROC fighter jets are able to conduct BVR combat missions with BVR missiles, but the level of technology in mainland Chinese fighters is catching up.
In 2003, the ROC purchased four missile destroyers—the former USS Kidd class, and expressed a strong interest in the Arleigh Burke class. But with the growth of the PRC navy and air force, some doubt that the ROC could withstand a determined invasion attempt from mainland China in the future. These concerns have led to a view in certain quarters that Taiwanese independence, if it is to be implemented, should be attempted as early as possible, while the ROC still has the capacity to prevail in an all-out military conflict. Over the past three decades, estimates of how long the ROC can withstand a full-scale invasion from across the Strait without any outside help have decreased from three months to only six days. Given such estimates, the US Navy has continued practicing "surging" its carrier groups, giving it the experience necessary to respond quickly to an attack on Taiwan. The US also collects data on the PRC's military deployments, through the use of spy satellites, for example. It would take days, if not weeks, for the PRC to prepare for a full assault on Taiwan.
However, numerous reports issued by the PRC, ROC and US militaries make wildly mutually contradictory statements about the possible defense of Taiwan.
Naturally, war contingencies are not being planned in a vacuum. In 1979, the United States Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, a law generally interpreted as mandating U.S. defense of Taiwan in the event of an attack from the Chinese Mainland (the Act is applied to Taiwan and the Pescadores, but not to Quemoy and Matsu). The United States maintains the world's largest permanent fleet in the Pacific Region near Taiwan. The Seventh Fleet, operating primarily out of various bases in Japan, is a powerful naval contingent built upon the world's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. Although the stated purpose of the fleet is not Taiwanese defense, it can be safely assumed from past actions that that is one of the reasons why the fleet is stationed in those waters.
Starting in 2000, Japan renewed its defense obligations with the US and embarked on a rearmament program, partly in response to fears that Taiwan might be invaded. Some analysts believed that the PRC could launch pre-emptive strikes on military bases in Japan to deter US and Japanese forces from coming to the ROC's aid. Japanese strategic planners also see an independent Taiwan as vital, not only because the ROC controls valuable shipping routes, but also because its capture by PRC would make Japan more vulnerable. During World War II, the US invaded the Philippines, but another viable target to enable direct attacks on Japan would have been Taiwan (then known as Formosa). However, critics of the pre-emptive strike theory assert that the PRC would be loath to give Japan and the US such an excuse to intervene.
A software program simulating an attack by the PRC on Taiwan reflects a win for the ROC.
The possibility of war in the Taiwan Straits, even though quite low in the short-term, requires the PRC, ROC, and U.S. to remain wary and vigilant. The goal of the three parties at the moment seems to be, for the most part, to maintain the status quo.
On October 24, 2006, Dr. Roger C. S. Lin led a group of Taiwanese residents, including members of the Taiwan Nation Party, to file a Complaint for Declaratory Relief in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. According to their lawyer, Mr. Charles Camp, "[t]he Complaint asks the Court to declare whether the Taiwanese plaintiffs, including members of the Taiwan Nation Party, have certain rights under the United States Constitution". Their central argument is that, following Japanese renunciation of all rights and claims to Taiwan, Taiwan came under U.S. jurisdiction based on it being the principal occupying power as designated in the Treaty of Peace with Japan and remains so to this day.
The district court ruled March 18, 2008 that the case presents a political question; as such, the court dismissed the complaint. Plaintiffs/Appellants filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, on March 31, 2008, and the appeal process is proceeding. On Sept. 22, 2008 the Court issued the Briefing Schedule which calls for the Appellants to submit their Brief and Appendix on or before Nov. 3, 2008. Normal practice in the appeal process is for the initial Brief to be approx. 40 pages in length.
Although the situation is confusing, most observers believe that it is stable with enough understandings and gentlemen's agreements to keep things from breaking out into open warfare. The current controversy is over the term one China, as the PRC insists that the ROC must recognize this term to begin negotiations. Although the Democratic Progressive Party has moderated its support for Taiwan independence, there is still insufficient support within that party for former President Chen Shui-bian to agree to one China. By contrast, the Kuomintang (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) appear willing to agree to some variation of one China, and observers believed the position of the PRC was designed to sideline Chen until the 2004 presidential election where it was hoped that someone who was more supportive of Chinese reunification would come to power. Partly to counter this, Chen Shui-bian announced in July 2002 that if the PRC does not respond to Taiwan's goodwill, Taiwan may "go on its own ... road."
With Chen's re-election in 2004, Beijing's prospects for a speedier resolution were dampened, though they seemed strengthened again following the Pan-Blue majority in the 2004 legislative elections. However, public opinion in Taiwan reacted unfavorably towards the anti-secession law passed by the PRC in March 2005. Following two high profile visits by KMT and PFP party leaders to the PRC, the balance of public opinion appears to be ambiguous, with the Pan-Green Coalition gaining a majority in the 2005 National Assembly elections, but the Pan-Blue Coalition scoring a landslide victory in the 2005 municipal elections.
Legislative elections were held in Taiwan on January 12, 2008. The results gave the Kuomintang and the Pan-Blue Coalition a supermajority (86 of the 113 seats) in the legislature, handing a heavy defeat to President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party, which won the remaining 27 seats only. The junior partner in the Pan-Green Coalition, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, won no seats. The election for the 12th-term President and Vice-President of the Republic of China was held in the Republic of China (Taiwan) on Saturday, March 22, 2008. Kuomintang nominee Ma Ying-jeou won, with 58% of the vote, ending eight years of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Along with the 2008 legislative election, Ma's landslide victory brought the Kuomintang back to power in Taiwan. This new political situation has led to a decrease of tension between both sides of the Taiwan Strait and the increase of cross-strait relations, making a declaration of independence, or war, something unlikely.
Public opinion in Taiwan regarding relations with the PRC is notoriously difficult to gauge, as poll results tend to be extremely sensitive to how the questions are phrased and what options are given, and there is a tendency by all political parties to spin the results to support their point of view.
According to a November 2005 poll from the Mainland Affairs Commission, 37.7% of people living in the ROC favor maintaining the status quo until a decision can be made in the future, 18.4% favors maintaining the status quo indefinitely, 14% favors maintaining the status quo until eventual independence, 12% favors maintaining the status quo until eventual reunification, 10.3% favors independence as soon as possible, and 2.1% favors reunification as soon as possible. According to the same poll, 78.3% are opposed to the "One Country, Two Systems" model, which was used for Hong Kong and Macau, while 10.4% is in favor.
According to a June 2008 poll from a Taiwanese mainstream media TVBS, 58% of people living in Taiwan favor maintaining the status quo, 19% favors independence, and 8% favors unification. According to the same poll, if status quo is not an option and the ones who were surveyed must choose between "Independence" or "Unification", 65% are in favor of independence while 19% would opt for unification. The same poll also reveals that, in terms of self-identity, when the respondents are not told that a Taiwanese can also be a Chinese, 68% of the respondents identify themselves as "Taiwanese" while 18% would call themselves "Chinese". However, when the respondents are told that duo identity is an option, 45% of the respondents identify themselves as "Taiwanese only", 4% of the respondents call themselves "Chinese only" while 45% of the respondents call themselves "both Taiwanese as well as Chinese". Furthermore, when it comes to preference in which national identity to be used in international organizations, 54% of people in the survey indicated that they prefer "Taiwan" and only 25% of the people voted for "Chinese Taipei". It seems the people in Taiwan have stronger inclination to support independence and Taiwanese identity after 8 years of DPP adminsitration.
From the perspective of the ROC constitution, which the mainstream political parties such as the KMT and DPP currently respect and recognize, (even though the procedures for the incorporation of Taiwan into ROC territory as specified in Article 4 have never been completed), changing the ROC’s governing status or completely clarifying Taiwan’s political status would at best require amending the ROC constitution. In other words, if reunification supporters wanted to reunify Taiwan with mainland China in such a way that would effectively abolish the ROC or affect the ROC’s sovereignty, or if independence supporters wanted to abolish the ROC and establish a Republic of Taiwan, they would also need to amend or abolish the ROC constitution and redraft a new constitution. Passing an amendment requires an unusually broad political consensus, which includes approval from three-quarters of a quorum of members of the Legislative Yuan. This quorum requires at least three-quarters of all members of the Legislature. After passing the legislature, the amendments need ratification from at least fifty percent of all eligible voters of the ROC, irrespective of voter turnout.
Given these harsh constitutional requirements, neither the pan-greens nor pan-blues can unilaterally change Taiwan’s political and legal status with respect to the ROC’s constitution. However, extreme Taiwan independence supporters view the ROC’s constitution as illegal and therefore believe that amendments to the ROC constitution are an invalid way to change Taiwan’s political status.
From the 1990s onwards, media wire services sometimes describe Taiwan as having de-facto independence, whereas the Republic of China has always considered itself as a continuously functioning de-jure state.