Should Taiwan and China Join Forces in Defending Territorial Claims?

by Julian Ku

As China continues to offend or at least alarm its neighbors in East and Southeast Asia with its expansive territorial and maritime claims, it is worth noting there is one important Asian player who wholeheartedly supports each and everyone one of China’s sovereignty claims:  Taiwan. (Taiwan’s government even supports China’s sovereignty claim over Taiwan, just disputing which government is “China”.)

In fact, the government on Taiwan, as the Republic of China, is actually the government that originated the now highly-controversial Nine Dash Line when it was still in power on the mainland (actually, Taiwan’s line has Eleven Dashes, so it is even more expansive).  And Taiwan has the exact same sovereignty claim over the Diaoyu Islands/Senkakus that China has.  Taiwan actually houses a lot of the academic firepower and expertise on the international legality of these various maritime claims.

So this editorial from a pro-China Taiwan newspaper, calling for a joint China-Taiwan policy in favor of the South China and East China Sea claims, kind of makes sense.  If you overlook the fact that the two sides are still technically at war and all that.

In my view, Taiwan should jettison at least the most expansive of China’s claims, especially the Nine-Dash-Line.  It is odd, even ridiculous, for the government in Taiwan to support this claim of sketchy legality when (unlike China), there is no prospect of Taiwan ever asserting actual control over the South China Sea. And because the U.S. is now officially opposed to the Nine-Dash-Line, Taiwan needs to re-evaluate its position. If Taiwan sticks to its positions, and even starts cooperating with China on exerting their claims, then it is another sign that Taiwan is slowly drifting into China’s orbit and away from the U.S.  It may be a sign that, as leading realist scholar John Mearsheimer wrote this week, Taiwan’s eventual domination by China is only a matter of time.

3 Responses

  1. The prior government of Taiwan basically declared independence and statehood.  I assume that it is still the case that the majority of Taiwanese identify themselves as Taiwanese and not Chinese, that there is a self-identification process of self-determination still operative on Taiwan.  Perhaps the PRC and Taiwan will make separate claims to certain areas.

  2. Last semester a professor of international law from Soo-Chow University in Taiwan came to our campus to deliver a speech about the UN special agencies. Before going to the main context, he made a preliminary clarification of the notion “China” that would appear in his later reference. As Julian wrote, there is no dispute about “one China” for both governments in Beijing and Taipei, but which government is the legitimate representative of it. Jordan mentioned the feelings of the majority of Taiwanese. It is certainly very important; but it is not at issue here. When it comes to state practice concerning international law, the official position or acts matter.  
    Back to the question, in my view, it is more beneficial for “China” as a whole state, if the mainland and Taiwan would jointly make the claims. However, in practice, the Beijing government would rather leave ambiguity to the international disputes than complicate this sensitive relation. 

  3. The ROC’s claims are actually kind of crazy. As in, they claim all of Mongolia…

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. There are no trackbacks or pingbacks associated with this post at this time.