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That depends on how we define ‘China’. If by China we mean the People’s Republic of China (PRC) then Taiwan is not, and never has been, a part of China. If we mean the Republic of China (ROC) then it is accurate to say that the Republic Of China has solely existed on Taiwan since 1949 where it now exercises sovereignty. Our History of Taiwan page provides some more information about Taiwan’s colonial past and present, and why answering this question is not straightforward. The answer often depends on who’s responding to the question.
Yes. Statehood is formally defined under the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, which was signed at Montevideo, Uruguay, on December 26, 1933.
Taiwan meets all the conditions and characteristics of a self-determining nation-state under the Montevideo Convention. These are:
- a permanent population
- a defined territory
- government; and
- capacity to enter into relations with the other states.
The Montevideo Convention also makes clear that “the political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states.”
Taiwan has many other characteristics that are seen in a nation state including:
- Its own currency
- Its own military
- Its own codified legal system
- Its own language(s)
- Its own national Post Office
- Its own Coast Guard
- Its own national education, exams, and certification systems
- Its own national health system
- Its own airspace and EEZ waters
- Its own national parks
- Its own national power company
- Its own Parliament and President
- Its own tax system
- Its own customs and immigration systems
- Its own regulatory framework governing domestic and international law
- Its own police force
Taiwan can therefore accurately be described as a country.
Yes. The ROC enjoys full international diplomatic relations with a number of other countries and States. As such it is exercising sovereignty, and it exercises it independently, both in practice and law.
In Taiwan, the terms ‘ROC’ and ‘Taiwan’ are now often used interchangeably. Polling on the issue of independence indicates that the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese regard their country as already independent, whether they interpret it as ROC or Taiwan.
In fact, Taiwan’s democracy demonstrates a high level of certainty of processes and uncertainty of outcomes, and representativeness of results, indicators of a robust and healthy democratic practice.
According to the Democracy Index 2020, published by the Economic Intelligence Unit, Taiwan is top-ranking democracy in Asia and the 11th best overall (ahead of the UK which ranked 16th!)
This is all the more remarkable given that the first fully fledged democratic elections in Taiwan only took place in 1996 and the first transition of power between parties at the national executive level first occurred in 2000.
To date, there have been seven national elections and three peaceful transitions of power in Taiwan. A whole generation of Taiwanese people have grown up in Taiwan knowing it as nothing but a flourishing democratic nation.
No, Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations despite meeting all the requirements for membership.
Taiwan (as the ROC) has not been a member of the U.N. since 1971 when its membership was replaced under Resolution 2758.
Not only are the people of Taiwan not represented at any UN institution, but Taiwanese citizens are not permitted to work for UN bodies and Taiwanese passport holders are prohibited from even visiting UN buildings.
No. The United Kingdom broke off formal diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on the 6th of January 1950.
Since then, all relations are conducted unofficially through the British Office Taipei and the Taipei Representative Office in the UK.
The UK does hold annual trade talks with Taiwan but British ministerial engagement with Taiwan’s democratically elected Government is severely restricted by FCDO convention due to the UK’s official recognition of the so-called ‘One China Policy’.
As of July 2021, there are 14 countries and States which formally recognise Taiwan (ROC). They are:
- Holy See (The Vatican)
- Marshall Islands
- St Lucia
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
It is often overlooked, but Taiwan is in fact the world’s 22nd largest trading economy and according to the International Monetary Fund, it has the 21st largest global GDP.
In 2020, the total bilateral trade between the UK and Taiwan amounted to £4.3 billion. The UK is Taiwan’s third largest trading partner in Europe, while Taiwan is the UK’s seventh largest trading partner in Asia.
There are currently more than 300 UK companies operating in Taiwan and UK investment in Taiwan reached £450 million in 2020.
Opportunities for increased trade exist in sectors including green energy, high tech industries, financial services, and many other sectors.
There are annual trade talks held between representatives of the UK and Taiwanese Government. The Taiwanese Government is keen to deepen trading ties with post-Brexit Britain, but to date the UK Government has been reluctant to engage more closely.
The “1992 Consensus” is a term first coined in 2000 by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) to describe a claimed agreement between Taiwan and China during a meeting in Hong Kong in November 1992. Su claimed that both sides agreed to adhere to the so-called “One China” principle but with each side having their own respective interpretation of what ‘China’ meant.
Su has since admitted that he made up the term and experts now agree that while discussions were held between representatives of the PRC and the KMT military dictatorship that then controlled Taiwan, no such agreement was reached.
Since 1992 the PRC has never publicly stated agreement with the idea that either side can have their own interpretation of “One China”, yet since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, they have made recognition of the “1992 Consensus” a pre-requisite for dialogue between Taiwan and China.
This stance is a fundamental shift in Cross-Straits relations and has resulted in a severing of communications between Beijing and Taipei. The Taiwanese Government has repeatedly stated that it is open to talks but cannot recognise a so-called Consensus that was made up by an opposition politician.
The ‘One China Policy’ is a working arrangement by all nations and states that they either recognise Taiwan (ROC) or China (PRC) but not both at the same time.
The PRC insists on an acceptance of the “One China” policy as a condition of maintaining diplomatic ties. Most countries do adhere to this requirement although some, such as the US, take the official line of recognising (a legal formal diplomatic term) China’s interpretation of “One China” whilst only acknowledging (informal, not legally binding, the diplomatic equivalent of ‘yes, noted’) the Chinese claim to Taiwan.
It is because of the “One China” policy that the United Kingdom currently does not formally recognise the democratically elected Government of Taiwan and therefore all diplomatic relations between the two countries take place on an unofficial basis.