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Chinese reunification (simplified Chinese: 中国统一; traditional Chinese: 中國統一; pinyin: Zhōngguó tǒngyī) refers to the bringing together of all of the territories controlled by the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) under a single political entity. After Hong Kong and Macau were reunited with mainland China under the rule of the People's Republic of China (PRC), the outstanding goal for advocates of Chinese reunification is the unification of mainland China (including Hong Kong and Macau) and Taiwan (including Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu Islands). Since 1945, Taiwan has been controlled by the ROC. Both the PRC and the ROC claimed to be the legal government of the whole of China and Taiwan. Supporters of Chinese reunification believe it would eliminate the competing factions in an unresolved civil war and re-unify China under a single national government.
The idea of Chinese reunification is controversial, as is the term "reunification" itself, with varying and sometimes conflicting definitions. Supporters of unification contend that PRC and ROC are the legacy left from the Chinese Civil War, and that both Taiwan (currently under the administration of the ROC) and mainland China (currently under the administration of the PRC) are parts of China. Many supporters of Taiwanese independence fear that unification would lead to closure of U.S. Navy bases in Taiwan. This is commonly referred to as "hurt the democratic progress in the ROC"; and some contend that Taiwan is not part of China.
Chinese reunification is supported in both official policy and in action by the government of the People's Republic of China. The official policy of the Republic of China, the government that has ruled Taiwan since Japan relinquished it in 1945, supports Chinese reunification in the sense that the united body would be governed by the ROC, and not the PRC. Chinese reunification at some point in the future is supported to varying degrees in Taiwan by the Kuomintang (KMT), the People First Party, and the New Party, known collectively as the Pan-blue coalition. It is opposed to varying degrees by the Democratic Progressive Party and the Taiwan Solidarity Union, known collectively as the Pan-green coalition.
Opponents of reunification generally favor continued independence for the Republic of China or another government controlling the same territories. Many object to the term "reunification" as it implies that Taiwan is part of China. Within the political scene of Taiwan, reunification versus independence plays an important role in defining the political spectrum, although much of the support for either bloc is unrelated to the reunification versus independence issue and most people in Taiwan are in the middle of the spectrum.
The concept of One China has been part of the Chinese political orthodoxy since ancient times. Often, if one claimed to be the Emperor of China with the Mandate of Heaven, then all other regimes within the country were either considered rebel or tributary. Accordingly, from the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 until the mid-1970s the concept of reunification was not the main subject of discourse between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China; each formally envisioned a military takeover of one by the other. The Kuomintang (KMT) believed that they would, probably with American help, one day retake mainland China while Mao Zedong's communist regime would collapse in a popular uprising and the Nationalist forces would be welcomed back. The Communist Party of China considered the Republic of China to have been made defunct by the newly established People's Republic of China and thus regarded the ROC a renegade entity to be eliminated for the sake of reunification. The concept of reunification replaced the concept of liberation by the PRC in 1979 as it embarked, after the death of Mao, on economic reforms and pursued a more pragmatic and less ideological foreign policy. In Taiwan, the possibility of retaking mainland China became increasingly remote in the late 1970s, particularly after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the PRC and United States in 1979 and the death of Chiang Kai-shek in 1975.
With the end of authoritarian rule in the 1980s and the shift in power within the KMT away from the Mainlanders who accompanied Chiang to Taiwan, the KMT began to move away from the ideology of Chinese reunification. In 1991, President Lee Teng-hui announced that his government no longer disputed the rule of the Communists in mainland China, leading to semi-official peace talks (under what would be termed as the "1992 consensus") between the two sides. The PRC broke off these talks in 1999 when President Lee described relations with the PRC as "special state-to-state".
Until the mid-1990s, supporters of Chinese reunification on Taiwan were also bitterly opposed to the Communist Party of China. Since the mid-1990s there has been a considerable warming of relations between the Communist Party and supporters of Chinese reunification as both oppose the pro-Taiwan independence bloc that was elected to executive power in Taiwan following President Lee's retirement. This has brought about the accusation that reunification supporters are attempting to sell out Taiwan. The response of reunification supporters is that closer ties with mainland China, especially economic ones, are in the interest of Taiwan.
After the presidential elections of 2000, which brought the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party's candidate Chen Shui-bian to power, the Kuomintang, faced with defections to the People First Party, expelled Lee Teng-hui and his supporters and reoriented the party back towards reunification. At the same time, the People's Republic of China shifted its efforts at reunification away from military threats (which it has not renounced but which it has de-emphasized) towards economic incentives designed to encourage Taiwanese businesses to invest in mainland China and aiming to create a pro-Beijing bloc within the Taiwanese electorate.
Within Taiwan, supporters of reunification tend to see "China" as a larger cultural entity divided by the Chinese Civil War into separate states or governments within the country. In addition, supporters of reunification also do not oppose localization of culture or a Taiwanese identity but rather see the Taiwanese identity as one piece of a broader Chinese identity rather than as a separate cultural identity. What supporters of Chinese reunification do oppose is desinicization inherent in the foreign Communist ideology built into the system as seen during the Cultural Revolution, along with the effort to emphasize a Taiwanese identity as separate from a Chinese one. As of the 2008 election of Ma Ying-Jeou, the KMT agrees to the principle of One China, one led by the Republic of China rather than the People's Republic of China as the official government since 1911.
The People's Republic of China officially asserts itself to be the sole legitimate government of China, and that Taiwan is a province of China. It has proposed reunification with Taiwan under the principle of "One Country, Two Systems", as has been done for both Hong Kong and Macau. According to the proposal outlined by CPC General secretary and President Jiang Zemin in 1995, Taiwan would lose sovereignty and the right to self-determination, but would be permitted to keep its armed forces and to send a representative to be the "number two leader" in the PRC central government. Thus, under this proposal, the Republic of China would be made fully defunct. However, changes in the political situation in Taiwan has led the PRC to take a more flexible stance.
The current Kuomintang government of Taiwan asserts the position that the Republic of China is the sole and legitimate government of all of China. Proposals among reunification supporters in Taiwan have varied in the recent past since the 1990s, with more extreme supporters in Taiwan such as Li Ao advocating "One Country, Two Systems" while more moderate supporters arguing to uphold the status quo until mainland China democratizes and industrializes to the same level as Taiwan. In the 2000 presidential election, independent candidate James Soong proposed a European Union-style relation with mainland China (this was echoed by Hsu Hsin-liang in 2004) along with a non-aggression pact. In the 2004 presidential election, Lien Chan proposed a confederation-style relationship (though he later moderated his stance amid a tight race). Beijing objected to the plan claiming that Taiwan, being part of China already, is not a state and therefore could not form a confederation with the PRC. Proposals for reunification were not actively floated in Taiwan and the issue remained moot under President Chen Shui-bian, who refused to accept talks under the pre-conditions insisted on by Beijing until 2008 with the presidential election of Ma Ying-Jeou, agreeing to the One China policy and stating the official government of the Chinese state is the Republic of China.
Under the administration of Hu Jintao, reunification under "one country, two systems" lost emphasis amid the reality that the DPP presidency in Taiwan would be held by pro-independence President Chen until 2008. Instead, the emphasis shifted to meetings with politicians that opposed independence. A series of high-profile visits in 2005 to mainland China by the leaders of the three pan-blue coalition parties was seen as an implicit recognition of the status quo by the PRC government. Notably, Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan's trip was marked by unedited coverage of his speeches and tours (and some added positive commentary) by the government-controlled media and meetings with high level officials including Hu Jintao. Similar treatment (though marked with less historical significance and media attention) was given during subsequent visits by PFP Chairman James Soong and New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming. The Communists and the Pan-Blue Coalition parties emphasized their common ground in renewed negotiations under the alleged 1992 consensus, opening the three links, and opposing Taiwan independence.
The PRC passed an Anti-Secession Law shortly before Lien's trip. While the Pan-Green Coalition held mass rallies to protest the codification of using military force to conquer Taiwan, the Pan-Blue Coalition was largely silent. The language of the Anti-Secession Law was clearly directed at the independence supporters in Taiwan (termed "'Taiwan independence' secessionist forces" in the law) and designed to be somewhat amicable for Pan-Blue Coalition. It did not explicitly declare Taiwan to be part of the People's Republic of China but instead used the term "China" on its own, allowing flexibility in its definition. It made repeated emphasis of "promoting peaceful national reunification" but left out the concept of "one country, two systems" and called for negotiations in "steps and phases and with flexible and varied modalities" in recognition of the concept of eventual rather than immediate reunification. Both under President Chen and current President Ma Ying-jeou, the main political changes in the cross-straits relationship involve closer economic ties and increased business and personal travel. The current president Ma Ying-Jeou advocates as well for the revitalization of Chinese culture, as in the re-introduction of Traditional Chinese in texts to mainland China used in Taiwan and historically in China before the communist revolution in 1949. It is willing to be flexible in allowing Simplified Chinese to be used for informal writing. The re-introduction was to re-establish and revive ancient Chinese cultural and historical heritage that was largely eradicated from the mainland due to the strict ideological fixation by the government of the People's Republic of China on Communism, but was kept intact under the administration of the ROC.
Reactions from the two sides
People's Republic of China (PRC)
The consensus among most PRC citizens seems to be one of support for reunification by all means necessary, as much for reasons of national pride as for economic or geopolitical reasons. Therefore, the method by which reunification is achieved - be it peaceful or not - becomes less relevant to the average PRC citizen.
As for the government of the PRC, on the one hand, most analysts predict Beijing would be willing to go to great lengths to defeat any declaration of Taiwan independence, even if it meant military action. It seems they would be willing to accept some high level of international isolation, perhaps even economic damage, as a consequence, because the issue has long been ingrained into their concept of Chinese nationalism, and into the expectations of their populace. On the other hand, Beijing also understands keenly that a 'peaceful unification' is in its best interests; that the resulting fallout from any aggressive move to regain Taiwan will be great. Beijing must consider the possibility that an attack against Taiwan might result in military intervention by the United States. As a result, Beijing in the last few years has made many efforts to promote cross-strait economic and cultural exchange, which are welcomed in Taiwan, as evidenced by the election of a new government strongly supportive of increased economic ties with mainland China. Beijing hopes that increased economic and cultural interconnection and interdependency will eventually bring about a natural desire for political integration on the part of the citizens of Taiwan.
Republic of China (ROC)
Chinese reunification is often viewed as being the ideology of the Mainlanders who are living in Taiwan. The proportion of Mainlanders who support reunification when compared to the native Taiwanese is much higher. The parties which do advocate a stance more sympathetic towards reunification often command considerable support for reasons that have nothing to do with cross-strait relations. Furthermore, even strong supporters of reunification often have deep reservations about its timing and nature.
Throughout much of the last decade, polls consistently suggest that 70% to 80% of all Taiwanese support maintaining the status quo; although the definition of the status quo is an area of intense debate. Immediate reunification is currently a distant notion in Taiwan supported by only about 2% of Taiwanese residents and endorsed by none of the major political parties. The People First Party officially advocates that Taiwan should maintain the status quo. The Kuomintang has been consistently defending the sovereignty of the Republic of China. They often claim that there is one China, that is the Republic of China. Although those two parties and the New Party, together forming the pan-blue coalition, have often been viewed as supporters of Chinese reunification, in most cases they are so in a traditional sense only. Their main difference with the pan-green coalition is that they believe Taiwan should identify itself culturally with China, and opposes what it views as a switching of national identities. This makes them more sympathetic to the concept of reunification in the future. "One Country, Two Systems" has support only among 6–7% of Taiwanese. The main argument for this is the belief that Taiwan, a small island, ultimately cannot compete with mainland China, and hence will benefit the most by reunifying as early as possible.
Polls in Taiwan have been criticized as being biased and inaccurate, as well as being influenced by threats from the PRC. After the October 10, 2004 speech by President Chen, polls showed as little as 5% support for reunification, with 60% support for maintaining the status quo and 65% opposition to the founding of a Republic of Taiwan in 2008 (the projected date for completion of the 2006 constitutional reforms proposed by President Chen in his speech). An independent opinion poll conducted by United Daily News shortly after in November 2004 indicated that the support for the status quo was 36%, 21% are in favor of immediate independence, only 6% supported the idea of rapid reunification with China. At the same time, there is strong Taiwanese support for maintaining good relations with mainland China.
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