The National Interest
Date: August 11, 2018
By J. Michael Cole
“Whether he likes it or not, Taiwan is in the frontline of an ongoing battle—and it is heating up—to determine the kind of world we and our children will live in for years to come.”
In his latest article for the National Interest , Lyle J. Goldstein, a research professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the United States Naval War College, builds upon a theme he explored in his 2015 book Meeting China Halfway and counters his critic, Gordon Chang, with a series of arguments that simply do not stand the test of scrutiny.
The gist of Goldstein’s argument is that the United States should not risk the lives of tens of thousands of its servicemen and women in the defense of Taiwan should the democratic island-nation of twenty-three million people come under military assault from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). One of the reasons why the United States should avoid doing so, he avers, is that conflict in the Taiwan Strait is little more than a “family quarrel,” unfinished business from the Chinese Civil War that led to the defeat of the Kuomintang (KMT), which at the time ruled over the Republic of China (ROC), at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which after evicting the KMT in 1949 established the PRC.
To buttress his argument that the PRC’s claim on Taiwan today is merely a continuation of the battle for primacy between the CCP and the KMT, Goldstein uses two pieces of “evidence” that, while convenient to the CCP and Beijing’s apologists, are simply irrelevant. First, he argues that the Cairo Declaration, made in 1943 when World War II was still ongoing—states that “all territories conquered by Japan should be returned to China—including explicitly the island of Taiwan (then called Formosa).” Besides misrepresenting what the declaration actually says—“all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and The Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China”—Goldstein presents this as if this were the instrument of surrender and legal document that would determine Taiwan’s future. In reality, it is the Treaty of San Francisco of September 8, 1951, which inexplicably goes unmentioned in his article, that served to officially end Japan’s position as an imperial power. As John Foster Dulles, U.S. Secretary of State and co-author of San Francisco Peace Treaty, later admitted, Japan “merely renounced sovereignty over Taiwan” as per the Treaty, which furthermore did not state to which country Taiwan was to be ceded to. Knowing this, and added to the fact that neither the ROC nor the PRC were among the forty-eight nations that signed the Treaty, the notion that this is just a “family quarrel” is preposterous. It is an international matter, unfinished business from how the international community settled, or in this case failed to settle, the question of defeated Japan’s relinquishing control over Taiwan, which it had ruled for half a century. It would also be nice if Goldstein asked the Taiwanese themselves whether they agree with his contention. If he did (and so far his track record on allowing for Taiwanese agency is somewhat lacking) he might not like the answers he gets. His claim that this is merely a “family struggle” flies in the face of self-determination, of the great achievements that Taiwanese of all hues have made together over decades, and of the right to not be annexed and ruled by an authoritarian power. It is, frankly, quite insulting toward a people whom I have come to respect deeply in my thirteen years in Taiwan.