Taiwan does NOT belong to China. See who says so.
China and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) keep telling the world that Taiwan has always belonged to China. The Chinese government never gets tired of reiterating that Taiwan, like Tibet, is an ‘inalienable/inseparable part of the motherland’. Even though most people would agree that self-determination is the highest principle and that ‘historical links’ cannot justify China’s claim over someone else’s country, it is still important to look into historical documents from the ancient and the contemporary China to see if the evidence supports or contradicts China’s claim. I will start with some historical records, following the chronological order. The translation of the title of those historical documents is tentative as I cannot be certain whether official translation has been established for them.
It was stated in the Story of Wangliuqiu (Taiwan) in the History of the Yuan Dynasty
All the overseas barbarians are subjugated. Only Wangliuqiu (Taiwan) never submitted themselves to our authority.
「海外諸蕃，罔不臣屬，惟王留求 (台灣) 邇閩境，未曾歸附」 ─《元史》〈王留求傳〉
NB. The Yuan Dynasty in the Chinese history was actually the period under the rule of the Mongolian Empire. The Chinese never admitted that their sovereignty was taken over by another country. They convinced themselves that the outer Mongolians were simply an ethnic minority group in the Chinese family. The same argument was applied to the Manchu (Qing) Dynasty. The trouble was that although the Han Chinese were eager to chase those ‘barbarian’ (蠻夷) rulers out of their territory, they feel entitled to claim any territory conquered by or even just remotely related to those barbarians.
In 1368, in his inaugural imperial edict, Hungwu Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, pointed out the overseas neighbouring countries which did not belong to China;
Korea is in the Northeast; Japan is in the east-northeast; the State of Great Ryukyu and the State of Little Ryukyu (Taiwan) are in the South – southeast.’
「東北，朝鮮國。正東偏北，日本國。正南偏東，大琉球國、小琉球國」 – 朱元璋
He also said
I am worried that my offspring may take China’s strengths for granted and invade other countries for no good reasons. These countries include … the State of Great Ryukyu (now Okinawa, Japan), the State of Little Ryukyu (Taiwan)… … Those overseas barbarian countries are not troubling China. We should not take military actions against them. There is an old saying: “a large territory does not guarantee long-term stability but poverty is always the cause for social unrest and upheaval.”
「吾恐後世子孫，倚中國富強，貪一時戰功，無故興兵。將不征諸夷國名開列於後：…小琉球國」. 「海外夷國，…不為中國患者，不可輒用兵。古人言：『地廣非久安之計，民窮乃易變之原』」 ─ 朱元璋
A military general of the Ming Dynasty, Sheng Yourong, was sent to Taiwan to fight the Japanese pirates in 1603. Taiwan was called the Eastern Barbarian at the time. Someone asked Sheng
Those Japanese pirates went to the Eastern Barbarian, which does not belong to us. Why should we send our troops there?
One of Sheng’s subordinate, Chen Di, replied for Sheng in one of his article
It’s true that those thieves’ base is not part of our territory but if we see it being overseas as an excuse for not attacking them, we will never destroy those Japanese pirates.
In the Words of Advice about the Taiwan Strait, written by Sheng Yourong.
Zheng Jing, the eldest son of Koxinga, declared his kingdom in Taiwan independent, naming it the Kingdom of Dongning and called himself the King of Dongning. In 1663, he wrote in his letter to one of the Dukes in the Manchu Dynasty
Dongning (Taiwan) is far away and not even remotely related to the Chinese territory.
In A Summary Record of Events Related to the Taiwan Strait’, written in Ming Dynasty by Xia Lin.
鄭經退入台灣，建立獨立自主的東寧王國。稱「東寧國主」。 鄭經於 1663年，復靖南王耿繼茂招降書道【東寧（台灣）偏隅，遠在海外，與中國版圖渺不相涉】。鄭成功之子。（閩海紀要, 夏琳著）
In 1667, Zheng Jing told a Manchu government official
Dongning is far out in the sea and has never been part of China. We have our own aristocracy and our culture and civilisation compare well with the Chinese .
In the Chronicle of the Zhengs in Taiwan
Huang Zongxi, a prominent scholar in Ming and Manchu Dynasties, wrote in the Biography of Koxinga
Taiwan has never been part of our territory…
黃宗羲於 [鄭成功傳] 曰【台自破荒，不載版圖。】
Huang Zongxi also wrote
Taiwan is a deserted island in the sea… it was later occupied by the red haired barbarians (i.e. the Dutch) who built several towns called Taiwan, Keelung, Tamshui
Sheng Guangwen, a scholar in the Ming and Manchu Dynasties and the deputy head of the department in charge of formal ceremonies and worships, wrote in the preface of the Dongyin society poetry
Taiwan is outside of Fujian in the sea… It has never had any connections to China.
Recorded in the Revised History of Taiwan, written by Zhou Yuanwen
In 1680, When persuading Zheng Jing to surrender to the Manchu Dynasty, Lai Ta, a Manchu military general, told Zheng
Taiwan has never been part of China…
Recorded in the Selected Notes of the History of the Manchu Dynasty
In 1683, Shi Lang, the military general who invaded Taiwan for the Manchu Dynasty, wrote in the Chronicles of Quelling the Overseas Rebellion
Taiwan is a foreign and backward place, occupied by various aboriginals and barbarians, and has never been part of China.’
In 1683, Kangxi Emperor of the Manchu Dynasty said
… Taiwan is overseas and does not matter a great deal…’ ‘… It is the size of a pinball. We will not benefit from taking it and there is no loss if we leave it alone ’.
In the Selected Records of the Kangxi Emperor
In 1684, Jin Hong, a government official of the Manchu Dynasty, said
Taiwan has always been a deserted land and never been part of China…
Recorded in the History of Fujian: Taiwan
In 1695, Yang Tingyao, a government official of the Manchu Dynasty, wrote a preface for the History of Taiwan where he stated
Taiwan is standing alone out in the sea and was unheard of between the Han Dynasty (206 BC) and the Yuan Dynasty (the Mongolian Empire). Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, it was occupied by the dwarf Japanese and the Dutch.’
In 1695, Jian Zhiyang, a government official of the Manchu Dynasty, wrote a preface for the History of Taiwan where he stated
Taiwan is an isolated island, surrounded by the sea… For thousands of years, it has always been occupied by barbarians… China sees it as barren and deserted.
In the History of Taiwan
In 1713, Wu Zhenchen stated
Taiwan used to be deserted… and was never part of China.
In the Notes of the Taiwanese Geography.
In 1723, Yongzheng Emperor stated
Taiwan was never part of China. It was only annexed [to China] because of my father’s intelligent planning and great power.
In 1728, Lan Dingyuan, a government official, stated
No one knew about Taiwan until the middle part of the Ming Dynasty when the Eunuch Admiral, Zheng He, took refuge [in Taiwan] due to a storm……[After Kangxi Emperor conquer the island,] there was no local authority and our control [of Taiwan] only covered an area of 60-70 km2. It has now been extended to a much larger area and the sugar and the rice grown in Taiwan benefit the whole China.’
In the Report on the Management and Administration of Taiwan
Sheng Qiyuan, a government official of the Manchu Dynasty (under Yongzheng Emperor), stated
Taiwan was never part of our territory…… until we eliminated the rebels’.
In Archives of the Taiwanese Aboriginals
Liu Liangbi stated in 1742
Taiwan was deserted and never part of China’s territory…… China never knew about Taiwan until the Ming Dynasty.’
In the Revised History of Taiwan
In 1746, Fan Xien, a government official, stated
Taiwan never belonged to China… [Taiwan] was a remote island out in the sea and there was never a local authority set up for it.
In the Revised History of Taiwan
In 1807, Xue Zhiliang, a government official, stated
Taiwan stands alone in the sea…… It never belonged to us and the language is completely different from ours.’
In A Compiled History of Taiwan
In the Annals of Fujian – Taiwan (1868), it was reported that
Taiwan was deserted and never related to China since the ancient time. It was called the Eastern Barbarian. It was occupied by the red haired Dutch barbarians for some years in the Ming Dynasty and later belonged to Japan.
Wu Ziguang (1875) stated
Taiwan was the State of Pisheyeh in the ancient time. The name “Taiwan” only started to emerge after the middle of the Ming Dynasty.
In the Chronicle of Taiwan
Sheng Baozhen, a famous senior government official of the Manchu dynasty, stated in 1875
Taiwan was only a deserted island out in the sea. Since it was taken by Kangxi Emperor, three local authorities was set up: Taiwan, Fengshan, Zhulo (now Chia-yi). No local authority was established anywhere north of Chia-yi.’
The above texts are simply a very small selection of the historical records, confirming that Taiwan did not belong to China before 1683. They also indicate that the Manchu Dynasty did not have control of the whole island. They probably only gained full control in 1885 when Taiwan was finally made a province. However, Taiwan was permanently ceded to Japan 10 years later. Even the Chinese leaders in the 20th century did not regard Taiwan as part of China. For example, in 1936, Mao Zedong stated that if the Koreans wish to free themselves from the Japanese, we will strongly support them in their fight for independence and the same applies to Taiwan (In Red Star Over China, written by Edgar Snow).
In 1938, Chang Kaishek stated
the president believes that we must help Korea and Taiwan regain their independence and freedom in order to strengthen the national defence of the Republic of China.
蔣介石: 「總理以為，我們必須使高麗、台灣恢復獨立自由，才能鞏固中華民國的國防」。證據：1938 年4月蔣介石「抗日戰爭與本黨前途」。
(i.e. He did not claim Taiwan as part of the Republic of China but seemed to see Taiwan as a foreign country like Korea.)
In 1941, Zhou Enlai (then Premier of China) stated
We are sympathetic about the independence movements in other nations. We should not only help Korea and Taiwan but also India and other South East Asian countries with their liberation movements.
(i.e. Zhou saw Taiwan as a foreign country like Korea, India and other South Asian countries.)
The above records are proof that China’s claim of ‘longstanding historical links’ with Taiwan is flimsy. However, with or without historical links, self-determination should be the highest principle. I am aware of China’s growing strengths and it is increasingly difficult for Taiwan to survive under their unreasonable political demands. However, this does not mean that Taiwanese or those who care about Taiwan cannot reveal facts, express what they think and work towards what they want.
(Thanks to Tim Maddog for correcting some of the translations and wording.)