East and West Germany, East and West China
June 20, 2005
Executive Summary: German reunification or “Deutsche Wiedervereinigung” took place on October 3, 1990, when the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany, was merged into the Federal Republic of Germany, better known as West Germany. The reunification of East and West Germany was a shining moment in history. Millions the world over, even non-Germans who had no emotional investment in Germany’s political reintegration, sensed the rightness of the event and rejoiced. Human beings artificially segregated by the defunct Cold War had been reunited. The reunification of East China, better known as the Republic of China, and West China, better known as the People’s Republic of China, involving one-fifth of the world’s population, will be an even more memorable event in history. Why then do many people perceive Chinese reunification as something less than desirable? Part of the answer lies in the perception that there is no “West China,” there is only “China,” and there is no “East China,” there is only “Taiwan.”
CN vs. TW
Above all it is essential to refer to things by their correct names. If things are not referred to by their correct names, then our language will not reflect reality. If our language does not reflect reality, then our actions will not reflect reality, and will be exercises in futility.
— Confucius, The Analects, Chapter 13, Verse 3
A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts… the process is reversible… If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration… the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.
— George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, 1946
On the internet “China” is abbreviated CN, and “Taiwan” is abbreviated TW. These are the famous, or perhaps infamous ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codes, created by the International Standards Organization. They are the best known part of ISO, and were subsequently used as country codes for Internet domain names.
Unfortunately, this manner of referring to the two Chinese political regimes vying for the title of legitimate ruler of all China is dangerously misleading. It implies that the PRC or People’s Republic of China comprises only the continental portion of China, and that the ROC or Republic of China comprises only the offshore Chinese island of Taiwan. Even worse, it implies that something named “Taiwan,” which does not even contain the word “China,” has nothing to do with China. Worst of all, it implies that Chinese people living on Taiwan are “Taiwanese, not Chinese,” and that only those Chinese people living on the Chinese mainland are “Chinese.” As Orwell noted, the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.
North vs. South, East vs. West
Far less misleading are the terms applied to North and South Korea, the former North and South Vietnam, and the former East and West Germany. These unofficial names adopted by the general public imply correctly that both sides are parts of the same nation, even though they might be living under rival political regimes, and both populations are the same people.
ISO’s use of “TW” and “CN” in internet abbreviations is not the result of any “vast, right-wing conspiracy,” but merely the result of semantic imprecision by an organization insufficiently sensitive to subtle political distinctions concerning a foreign nation.
The ubiquitous use of “Taiwan vs. China” instead of “Taiwan vs. mainland China” in the US major media on the other hand, is anything but innocent. It is too often the calculated result of Taiwan independence spin control.
Whether the terms being tossed around are TW and CN, or Taiwan and China, it is all harmless enough as long as abetting Taiwan independence is not the ulterior motive. Unfortunately abetting Taiwan independence often is the ulterior motive, at which time the “CN vs. TW” formulation becomes a source of infinite mischief.
Let me be perfectly clear. The counterpart to “Taiwan” is not “China,” but “mainland China” or “the Chinese mainland.” To refer to “Taiwan vs. China” is akin to referring to “Tasmania vs. Australia.” Since Tasmania is part of Australia, how can one possibly speak of “Tasmania vs. Australia?” Similarly, since Taiwan is part of China, how can one possibly speak of “Taiwan vs. China?” Consider how an online travel guide with no political axe to grind puts it:
“Island Airlines Tasmania flies to Flinders Island. King Island Airlines and TasAir fly to King Island. Both islands are directly accessible from the Australian mainland, as well as from Tasmania.”
Notice the wording? The travel guide correctly says “from the Australian mainland, as well as from Tasmania.” It doesn’t say “from Australia, as well as from Tasmania.”
Was that so difficult?
Why not East China vs. West China?
Following Japan’s defeat by Allied forces in WWII, predominantly the US and China, Korea was partitioned along the 38th Parallel Demilitarized Zone or DMZ. The Democratic Republic of Korea (DRK) to the north became known as North Korea, while the Republic of Korea (ROK) to the south became known as South Korea.
Following France’s defeat by the Vietminh at Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam was partitioned along the 17th Parallel Demilitarized Zone or DMZ. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRVN) to the north became known as North Vietnam, while the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) to the south became known as South Vietnam.
Following Germany’s defeat by Allied forces in WWII, predominantly the Soviet Union, Germany was partitioned along a 1381 km long “Zonengrenze” (Zone Border), “Innerdeutsche Grenze” (Inner-German Border), or “Deutsch-Deutsche Grenze” (German-German Border). The German Democratic Republic (GDR) to the east became known as East Germany, while the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) to the west became known as West Germany.
Following Japan’s defeat in 1945, Taiwan was retroceded to China. Following the KMT’s defeat by the CCP in the Chinese Civil War, China was partitioned more or less down the middle of the 130 km wide Taiwan Strait. I say “more or less” because the reality is a little more complicated than that. The Republic of China (ROC) to the east became known as “Nationalist China” or “Free China,” while the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the west became known as “Communist China” or “Red China.”
These Cold War era terms for East and West China were ironically far more descriptive and far less misleading than the post Cold War terms: “Taiwan” and “China.”
Why didn’t the Republic of China to the east become known as East China, and the People’s Republic of China to the west become known as West China? For several reasons.
Disparity in Size
North and South Vietnam were roughly the same size, in both land area and in population. North and South Korea are roughly the same size, in both land area and in population. East and West Germany were roughly the same size, in both land area and in population.
East and West China, by contrast, are nowhere near the same size, in either land area or population.
The largest single land mass under the effective jurisdiction of East China is the relatively tiny Chinese island of Taiwan. The largest single land mass under the effective jurisdiction of West China is the vast expanse of the Chinese mainland.
West China is almost 300 times the size of East China in land area. West China is almost 60 times the size of East China in population.
This extreme disparity in both land area and population between East China and West China has contributed to the false and dangerous perception that mainland China is “China,” whereas Taiwan is merely “Taiwan.”
Separation by a Body of Water
North and South Vietnam were geographically contiguous. They were separated only by an invisible line on the map, the 17th Parallel. North and South Korea are geographically contiguous. They are separated only by an invisible line on the map, the 38th Parallel. East and West Germany were geographically contiguous. They were separated only by an invisible line on the map, the “Zonengrenze” or “Zone Border.” Barbed wire fences and concrete walls were later erected along the 38th Parallel DMZ and the Zonengrenze, making them visible to the eye, but fundamentally these lines had no natural physical correlates.
East and West China, by contrast, are separated by a natural geographical barrier, the 130 km wide Taiwan Strait. The Taiwan Strait was known by Ming dynasty emigrants from southern Fujian as the “Hei Shui Gou” or “Black Water Ditch.” In the popular imagination it constituted an intimidating natural barrier.
Taiwan independence advocates exploit Taiwan’s geographical separation from the mainland to the hilt. They insinuate that because Taiwan is geographically separated from the mainland, therefore it is politically separate from the mainland. The fact that the largest land mass under the effective jurisdiction of East China is an island, and has a name, “Taiwan,” has allowed Taiwan independence Quislings to latch onto this geographical term and misrepresent it as the name of a political entity. Taiwan independence Quislings don’t make this case explicitly. They know it won’t stand up to logical scrutiny. Nevertheless they rely heavily on the physical separation to reinforce the subjective impression of political separation.
Physical separation by a body of water hardly constitutes a justification for political independence, certainly not in and of itself.
If merely being separated from the motherland by water constituted a justification for political independence, then the United States would have to forfeit its claims to Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Midway Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Wake Island.
Hawaii is separated from the continental US by roughly 5,000 km of ocean. Is that any reason for demanding Hawaiian independence? Hardly. Hawaiian independence has far stronger justifications rooted in history.
Guam is so far to the west of the continental United States it is closer to mainland China. Should Guam be transferred to China on the basis of geographical proximity? On the basis that more ocean separates Guam from the continental United States than separates Guam from mainland China?
If merely being separated by water constituted a justification for political independence, then Japan would have to be partitioned into at least four nations, Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyu-shu; and as many as 3,000 nations.
If merely being separated by water constituted a justification for political independence, then the Philippines would have to be politically partitioned into at least three separate nations, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, and as many as 7,000 nations.
If merely being separated by water constituted a justification for political independence, then Indonesia would have to be politically partitioned into at least five separate nations, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, New Guinea, and Sulawesi, and as many as 18,000 nations!
If merely being separated by water constituted a justification for political independence, then Australia would have to forfeit its claim to Tasmania.
Obviously physical separation by water is no justification for political independence. East China, i.e., Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu are every bit as much a part of China as if they were geographically contiguous with the Chinese mainland.
United Nations Security Council Membership
On October 25, 1971, the United Nations General Assembly passed its fateful Resolution 2758, withdrawing recognition of the Republic of China as the legitimate government of China, and recognizing the People’s Republic of China as the legitimate government of China.
Whether one agrees with the wisdom of this decision on the part of the member nations of the UN General Assembly, the fact is Resolution 2758 absolutely, positively did not create a sovereign and independent “nation of Taiwan.” Resolution 2758 did not create “One China and One Taiwan.” Resolution 2758 did not create “Two Chinas.”
Resolution 2758 asserted that the Republic of China was legally defunct and that everything that once belonged to the Republic of China in Taipei, was now the legal inheritance of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing. Resolution 2758, in other words, recognized that Taiwan was now part of the the People’s Republic of China rather than the Republic of China.
What the world had now was not “One China and One Taiwan.” What the world had now was not “Two Chinas.” What the world had now was One China, just like before. Taiwan was part of that One China, just like before. The only difference was that, at least in the eyes of the member nations of the UN, that One China was under new management, the CCP in Beijing, and had a new company name, the PRC.
Alas, replacing the ROC with the PRC had an unanticipated and highly undesirable side-effect. Stripping the ROC of its mantle as the legitimate government of China unintentionally helped reify “Taiwan” as a proper noun, as the name of a political entity.
West China, having replaced East China as the legitimate government of China in the UN, now became “China.” East China, having been replaced by West China as the legitimate government of China in the UN, now became “Taiwan.” In the eyes of the UN, West China was now China’s central government. In the eyes of the UN, East China was now a discredited pretender. Or, if not a pretender, merely a local political authority.
Taiwan independence spin controllers however promptly spun East China’s catastrophic replacement as the legitimate government of China by West China as an affirmation of the rightness of Taiwan independence. They spun “Taiwan” not as a province of either West China or East China, but as an independent political entity. They’ve been doing it ever since.
Sovereignty vs. Jurisdiction
a nation or state’s supreme power within its borders
Etymology: Latin jurisdictio, from juris, genitive of jus law + dictio act of saying, from dicere to say
the territorial range of authority or control
This brings us to a crucial point. Anyone who wishes to hold forth on Taiwan’s legal status must understand and respect certain crucial legal distinctions. One of these is the distinction between “sovereignty” and “jurisdiction.”
Sovereignty, in this context, refers to the territory that a nation or state insists are within its borders. Jurisdiction, in this context, refers to the territory over which a nation or state exercises control. Put simplistically, sovereignty means ownership, jurisdiction means control.
Taiwan independence Quislings have a predilection for mocking Chinese reunificationists who insist on this all too real legal distinction. Their motive for doing so is hardly a secret. They wish to conflate sovereignty with jurisdiction in order to reduce the Republic of China to “Taiwan.” They wish to assert, against all constitutional law and international law conventions, that “sovereignty = jurisdiction.” In fact of course, as constitutional law and international law experts know perfectly well, sovereignty does not equal jurisdiction.
The Taiwan independence Quislings’ colonial masters for example — Japan’s right wing political elite — would never concede for one second that “sovereignty = jurisdiction.” If they did, Japan would immediately have to forfeit what Japan calls the “Northern Territories,” and what Russia calls the “Southern Kuril Islands.”
These islands are currently in the hands of Russia. Russia has jurisdiction over them. If “sovereignty = jurisdiction,” as Taiwan independence Quislings allege, then Russia also has sovereignty over them. In other words, the islands belong to Russia. I seriously doubt that Japanese right wingers would agree that “sovereignty = jurisdiction.” Whether Russia or Japan has sovereignty over these islands is one issue. Whether Russia or Japan has jurisdiction over these islands is another issue altogether. Whether the islands belong to Russia or Japan is something that Moscow and Tokyo will have to settle between themselves.
Another example is Tiaoyutai, or Diaoyutai in Hanyu Pinying. This island is currently in the clutches of Japan, which refers to it as “Senkaku.” Tiaoyutai is part of Touchen Township. Touchen Township is part of Yilan County. Yilan County is party of the Province of Taiwan. The Province of Taiwan is part of China. The official website of the Republic of China Post Office lists the postal code for the island as “290, 釣魚台列嶼, Diaoyutai Archipelago.” Whether the China that Tiaoyutai belongs to is going to be known as the ROC, the PRC, or just plain “China,” remains in question. What is not in question is Tiaoyutai’s sovereignty. Tiaoyutai belongs to China.
For ironclad evidence that Tiaoyutai belongs to China, see:
Tiaoyutai is Chinese Territory!
ROC Sovereignty includes the Chinese Mainland, PRC Sovereignty includes Taiwan
Too many laymen don’t realize that what they refer to as “China” isn’t the entirety of China, but merely what the Constitution of the Republic of China refers to as “the mainland area of the Republic of China.”
Too many laymen don’t realize that what they refer to as “Taiwan” isn’t Taiwan at all, but what the Constitution of the Republic of China refers to as “the free area of the Republic of China.”
The “free area of the Republic of China” has shrunk to a tiny fraction of what it once was. No one denies this sad fact. Nevertheless, contrary to popular opinion, the Republic of China’s effective jurisdiction is not confined to the Chinese island of Taiwan.
In fact, the island of Taiwan is merely part of the jurisdiction of Nationalist China, Free China, or East China. The jurisdiction of East China includes not only Taiwan, but the Penghu Archipelago, Kinmen, Matsu, and numerous islets in the South China Sea.
The Republic of China’s jurisdiction includes the Penghu Archipelago. The Penghu Archipelago is not part of the province of Taiwan. Penghu is an entirely separate administrative region.
The Republic of China’s jurisdiction includes the islands of Kinmen and Matsu. Kinmen and Matsu are not part of the province of Taiwan. Kinmen and Matsu are offshore islets belonging to the province of Fujian. The rest of Fujian is under the jurisdiction of Beijing.
The Republic of China’s jurisdiction includes the Nansha Islands, referred to by some as “The Spratlys.” The Nansha Islands are not part of the province of Taiwan. The Nanasha Islands are part of the Province of Hainan Island.
Therefore even though the Republic of China’s jurisdiction has been drastically diminished, it can hardly be equated with the island of Taiwan. The Republic of China’s jurisdiction includes land masses from at least three Chinese provinces. Taiwan is merely one of them. The others are Fujian and Hainan Island.
The Republic of China, for the umpteenth time, is not “Taiwan.” The People’s Republic of China, for the umpteenth time, is not “China.”
Just as the former West Germany’s sovereignty included territory under the jurisdiction of East Germany, so the Republic of China’s sovereignty includes territory under the jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China. Conversely, just as the former East Germany’s sovereignty included territory under the jurisdiction of West Germany, so the People’s Republic of China’s sovereignty includes territory under the jurisdiction of the Republic of China.
The world is not about to suddenly begin referring to the ROC as East China and the PRC as West China. But given the confusion sowed by the widespread use of the terminology, “China” vs. “Taiwan,” one of the most constructive developments that could take place in cross-straits discourse, short of reunification, would be a return to the far more descriptive, far less misleading pre-1971 terminology, “Communist China” vs. “Nationalist China.”
Chen Shui-bian, Are You Listening?
The Nobel Peace Prize 2000 Presentation Speech by Gunnar Berge, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Oslo, December 10, 2000.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for the year 2000 to Kim Dae-jung. He receives the prize for his lifelong work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular… Kim Dae-jung has had the will to break with fifty years of ingrained hostility, and to reach out a cooperative hand across what has probably been the world’s most heavily guarded frontier. His has been the kind of personal and political courage which, regrettably, is all too often missing in other conflict-ridden regions… [Chen Shui-bian, are you listening?] Gunnar Roaldkvam, a writer from Stavanger, puts this so simply and so aptly in his poem “The last drop”:
Once upon a time there were two drops of water;
one was the first, the other the last.
The first drop was the bravest.
I could quite fancy being the last drop,
the one that makes everything run over,
so that we get our freedom back.
But who wants to be the first drop?
Kim Dae-jung has been the prime mover behind the ongoing process of detente and reconciliation… his role can best be compared with Willy Brandt’s, whose Ostpolitik was of such fundamental importance in the normalisation between the two German states, and won him the Peace Prize… The dialogue between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jung II at the Pyongyang summit last June led to more than loose declarations and airy rhetoric. [Chen Shui-bian, are you listening?] The pictures of family members meeting after five decades of separation made a deep impression all over the world… In most of the world, the cold war ice age is over. The world may see the sunshine policy thawing the last remnants of the cold war on the Korean peninsula. It may take time. But the process has begun, and no one has contributed more than today’s Laureate, Kim Dae-jung. In the poet’s words, “The first drop was the bravest.”
No Guts, No Glory
When Chen Shui-bian was inaugurated in 2000, he told reporters that in his office he kept a photograph of Kim Dae-jung meeting with Kim Jong-il. The purpose of the photograph was to remind himself of his solemn duty to make peace across the Taiwan Straits.
Chen Shui-bian covets the Nobel Peace Prize. Chen knows what he must do to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. He knows he must do for East and West China what Willy Brandt did for East and West Germany, and what Kim Dae-jung did for North and South Korea. He must reject stubborn warmongering and embrace peaceful reunification.
Chen Shui-bian must be willing to be the first drop.
Unfortunately for Chen Shui-bian, that’s the last thing he wants to do.