“ROC Government in Exile” Is Illogical
“ROC Government in Exile” Is Illogical
By Amb. Stephen S. F. Chen & Chih-Yung Ho
Source: NOWnews Network
June 1, 2010
After Tsai Ing-wen made her infamous misstatement, calling the Republic of China (ROC) a “government in exile,” many within the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) tried to offer mollifying interpretations of her remarks. They explained that Tsai was only describing the period of history when the ROC government relocated to Taiwan over half a century ago and that at that time the ROC government could be described as a “government in exile,” but now not anymore. In fact, such an interpretation is no more than oratorical sophistry.
According to international law, a government in exile, by definition, is one established on foreign soil. For instance, the Polish government in exile was formed in London, in the aftermath of Nazi Germany’s invasion and subsequent occupation of Poland during World War Ⅱ, and operated until the end of the war in Europe.
However, there is an obvious difference between the Polish case and the relocation of the ROC government to Taiwan in 1949. In his article published in 2003, The United States and Taiwan, Richard C. Bush, former Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), clearly stated that the Nationalist-led ROC government was recognized as the sole legitimate government of China after 1928. In spite of the Chinese Civil War and the relocation of the ROC government to Taiwan, he said, the US still stood firm, not changing its position that the ROC government was recognized as the sole legitimate Chinese government until 1979 when the US severed diplomatic ties with Taipei and switched recognition to Beijing.
From Bush’s point of view, the relocation of the ROC government to Taiwan was merely an act of a legitimate government moving within its own territory. No one could call that “going into exile.” The US government never called the ROC a “government in exile.” In fact, the embassies in Taipei and Washington had maintained normal operations until the two countries broke off diplomatic relations. In 1954, the two countries even signed the ROC-US Mutual Defense Treaty.
Suppose someone argues that an American individual’s views on the matter are too one-sided to be used as a reference. We would then like to ask, “Which government in exile in the world can be cited as an example which retained a permanent seat on the UN Security Council?” During the twenty-two-year period after the relocation of the ROC government to Taiwan, the ROC government not only retained its permanent seat on the UN Security Council but also maintained diplomatic ties with most countries in the world. Therefore, it would be difficult to justify the interpretation given by Tsai’s defenders that she was “describing a period in history,” calling it an objective fact.
As to whether or not the ROC was relegated to a “government in exile” after it withdrew from the UN in 1971, we do not think that even DPP supporters would agree with such logic.
In 1776, the Thirteen Colonies in North America declared their independence from England and formed the United States. The Federal Constitution was adopted in 1887 and later the first US President was elected and inaugurated in 1889. But now we do not see any US citizens claim that they reject the legitimacy of the federal government because they did not participate in those historical events. In 1946, the ROC National Assembly met in Nanjing, then the ROC capital, to adopt the first Constitution of China, including delegates elected in Taiwan. Furthermore, the DPP actively participated in the last two revisions to the ROC Constitution. In this sense, the ROC Constitution and government, of course, has full political legitimacy to govern Taiwan.
In conclusion, if Taiwan had been restored to the ROC since 1945, the ROC government relocating from the Mainland to Taiwan in 1949 could not have been a “government in exile.” If Taiwan had never belonged to the ROC and now were still foreign territory or Taiwan’s status were undecided, as some DPP people claim, what logic do we follow when we say that the ROC government in Taiwan is now not, repeat not, a government in exile? The DPP insists on referring to the ROC government as a “government in exile” following its relocation on Taiwan but now says that it no longer is because several direct Presidential elections have been held in Taiwan. It would be something of a trick for them to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Their political rhetoric will be untenable.
Amb. Stephen S. F. Chen was ROC representative to the US and is currently Convener of the National Security Division, National Policy Foundation. Chih-Yung Ho is Assistant Research Fellow of the National Security Division, National Policy Foundation.