Chinese Unification

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For the encoding unification of the Chinese language, see Han unification. For the conquests leading to the unification of China under the Qin Dynasty, see Qin's wars of unification. For the Chinese reunification of 1928, see Chinese reunification (1928). For other uses, see Chinese unification (disambiguation).
Territory controlled by the People's Republic of China (PRC) (purple) and the Republic of China (ROC) (orange). The size of minor islands has been exaggerated in this map for ease of visibility.

Unification of China, Chinese unification (simplified Chinese: 中国统一; traditional Chinese: 中國統一; pinyin: Zhōngguó tǒngyī; literally: "China unification"), or Cross-Strait (Re)unification (simplified Chinese: 海峡两岸统一; traditional Chinese: 海峽兩岸統一; pinyin: Hǎixiá liǎng'àn tǒngyī; literally: "Two shores of strait unification"), refers to the potential political unification of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC), into a single sovereign state.

The Republic of China was founded in 1912 to govern Mainland China, which the PRC now governs, after defeating the Imperial Qing government. In 1945, Japanese forces in Taiwan surrendered to Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of ROC, on behalf of the World War II allies, and Taiwan became part of China. During the last years of the Chinese Civil War (1946-1949), the ROC lost mainland China to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and relocated its government to Taiwan. The CCP established the People's Republic of China on the lost Mainland territory in 1949.

The PRC government claimed that Taiwan is a "renegade province" of the PRC and that recovering Taiwan is a high priority. It established the One-China policy to clarify its intent. The PRC threatened to invade Taiwan should it consider peaceful incorporation not possible.

Most Taiwanese people oppose joining the PRC for various reasons, including fears of the loss of Taiwan's democracy and human rights. Opponents either favour maintaining the status quo of Republic of China administrating Taiwan or the pursuit of Taiwanese independence.[1] The ROC Constitution states that its territory includes the mainland, but the official policy of the ROC government is dependent on which coalition is currently in power. The position of the Pan-blue coalition, which comprises the Kuomintang (KMT), the People First Party and the New Party is to eventually incorporate the mainland into the ROC, while the position of Pan-Green Coalition, composed of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union, is to pursue Taiwan independence.[citation needed]


The concept of One China has been part of Chinese political orthodoxy since ancient times.[citation needed] Often, if someone 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 PRC and the ROC; each formally envisioned a military takeover of 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 Kuomintang forces would be welcomed.[citation needed]


The Communist Party considered the Republic of China to have been obsoleted by the People's Republic of China and thus regarded the ROC as a renegade entity. The concept of reunification replaced the concept of liberation by the PRC in 1979 as it embarked, after Mao's death, on economic reforms and pursued a more pragmatic foreign policy. In Taiwan, the possibility of retaking mainland China became increasingly remote in the 1970s, particularly after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the PRC and United States in 1979 and Chiang Kai-shek's demise in 1975.


With the end of authoritarian rule in the 1980s and the shift in power within the KMT away from the Mainlanders who had accompanied Chiang to Taiwan, the KMT began to move away from the ideology of cross-strait unification. 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 (leading to 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, unification supporters on Taiwan were bitterly opposed to the Communist Party. Since the mid-1990s a considerable warming of relations between the Communist Party and Taiwanese unification supporters, as both oppose the pro-Taiwan independence bloc. This brought about the accusation that unification supporters were attempting to sell out Taiwan. They responded saying that closer ties with mainland China, especially economic ties, are in Taiwan's interest.

Rise of economic concerns[edit]

After the ROC Presidential elections of 2000, which brought the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party's candidate President 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 towards reunification. At the same time, the People's Republic of China shifted its efforts at reunification away from military threats (which it de-emphasized but did not renounce) 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, unification supporters 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 see Taiwanese identity as one piece of a broader Chinese identity rather than as a separate cultural identity. However, supporters do oppose desinicization inherent in Communist ideology such as that 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 President Ma Ying-Jeou, the KMT agreed to the One China principle, but defined it as led by the Republic of China rather than the People's Republic of China.

One China, Two Systems[edit]

Anti-Taiwan independence protesters in Washington, D.C. during Lee Teng-hui's visit.

According to the 1995 proposal outlined by CPC General secretary and President Jiang Zemin, Taiwan would lose sovereignty and the right to self-determination, but would keep its armed forces and send a representative to be the "number two leader" in the PRC central government, in accord with the One China, Two Systems approach adopted for Hong Kong and Macau.[citation needed] Thus, under this proposal, the Republic of China would become fully defunct.[citation needed].

Some Taiwanese also advocated "One Country, Two Systems" while more moderate supporters argued to uphold the status quo until mainland China democratized and industrialized 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. Beijing objected to the plan, claiming that Taiwan was already part of the China already, was not a state and therefore could not form a confederation with it.


Unification proposals were not actively floated in Taiwan and the issue remained moot under President Chen Shui-bian, who refused to accept talks under Beijing's pre-conditions. Under the PRC administration of Hu Jintao, incorporating Taiwan 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 who 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 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 acceptable to the 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 definitional flexibility. It made repeated emphasis of "promoting peaceful national unification" 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 incorporation of Taiwan.

Both under President Chen and President Ma Ying-jeou, the main political changes in cross-straits relationship involved closer economic ties and increased business and personal travel. President Ma Ying-Jeou advocated 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. It expressed willingness to allow Simplified Chinese to be used for informal writing.

PRC propaganda sign in Xiamen reading "Achieve peaceful reunification under one country, two systems"
ROC propaganda sign in Kinmen reading "The Three Principles of the People unites China"

Citizen views[edit]


Most mainland Chinese support immediate unification by whatever means necessary.[citation needed]


Cross-strait unification is often viewed as being the ideology of Mainlanders (外省人, "extraprovincial people"), immigrants who fled the Chinese mainland and their descendants. Native Taiwanese are more likely to support independence. Unification is not always the deciding issue in Taiwanese political campaigns and parties.

In the new millennium, polls consistently found 70% to 80% of all Taiwanese opposed to unification. Immediate unification is supported by only about 2% and endorsed by none of the major political parties. The People First Party officially advocates that Taiwan should maintain the status quo of Two Chinas. The Kuomintang consistently defended ROC sovereignty. They often claim that there is one China, but refer to ROC and not PRC. Although those two parties and the New Party, together forming the pan-blue coalition, are viewed as supporters, in most cases they do 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 oppose any loss of national identity.

"one country, two systems" has support only among 6–7% of Taiwanese. Opponents cite its implementation in Hong Kong, where despite promise of high level of autonomy, the PRC government has gradually increased its control of Hong Kong through influx of people from the mainland, manipulation of elections and control of the media and economy.

Polls in Taiwan have been criticized for bias and inaccuracy,[citation needed] and as influenced by PRC threats.[citation needed] 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 of Two Chinas and 65% opposition to the founding of a new Republic of Taiwan. An independent opinion poll conducted by United Daily News shortly after in November 2004 indicated that the support for the status quo was 36%, that 21% were in favor of immediate independence and only 6% supported the idea of rapid unification.[2]

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