China and Taiwan Become One Briefly – It Happened Today, February 1 2017

On this date in history, Feb. 1 Taiwan was conquered by China. Which is worth noting because the current regime in Beijing dreams of a replay.

It’s also therefore worth noting that it happened as recently, historically speaking, as 1662. And that it required a nine-month siege and was followed by a far from smooth process of filling the island with mainlanders and driving the original inhabitants into the hills or assimilating them.

Some Chinese might nevertheless take pride in the successful 1662 invasion since it took Taiwan back from the Dutch East India Company which could hardly claim to be indigenous and which was unpopular in part at least for suppressing local traditions like head-hunting. But it does not establish as an incontrovertible tenet of international law or morality that China and Taiwan must always be one country.

Now it is also true that since the Chinese conquest, the island was essentially taken over by mainlanders, the aboriginals now being about 2% of the population. But the key point is that the claim that Taiwan has always been part of China is untrue.

It was not part of China before 1662, nor after 1895 when Japan took it. Which I’m not excusing, especially given the aggressive intolerance of Imperial Japan. But I am pointing out that only for 333 years from the 17th to the 19th centuries, and a further four between the defeat of Japan in the Second World War and the ousting of the Chinese Nationalists from the mainland in 1949, was Taiwan part of China.

If you take the semi-Wilsonian view that nations must be ethnically pure to avoid war, and that all members of a given ethnicity ought to be members of a single nation, then it makes sense that Taiwan and China should be reunited. Ideally, I would say, under the democratic free enterprise government of the former rather than the Communist tyrants in Beijing. And they might legitimately be unified it if is the will of the inhabitants of both established in successful referendums. But otherwise the desire of one big country to swallow another smaller one is aggression even if the people of the bigger country are generally for it. And if you do not subscribe to the ethnic purity theory of nationhood, there is no real logic to the argument that Taiwan and China must be one country so it’s OK to do it by force.

That Communists falsify history to justify military adventurism does not qualify as such logic should go without saying. These days apparently it has to be said anyway.