March 21, 2008 7:10 AM

BBC News Rewriting History

I don't mean that BBC News is rewriting history in a good way. As some may or may not know, Taiwan is holding their presidential elections tomorrow, March 22. This, along with the coming Beijing Olympics, has caused more news to be written about Taiwan than normal. Thus, the proliferation of incorrect and suggestive sentences, strongly biased towards the People's Republic of China, has increased.

Sentences and Formatting that Greatly Irritate Me:

(1) "China says that Taiwan is part of its territory, although the two have been separately governed since 1949."
Tibet focus for Taiwan election

(2) "Taiwan broke away from the mainland in 1949, when the Communists took over."
China trade links are key in Taiwan poll

(3) Interactive History BBC News Interactive History

(1) This sentence completely ignores the fact that beginning in 1895, Japan had formal control of Taiwan with the Treaty of Shimonoseki. And it was only in 1887 did the Manchu Empire (the Qing Dynasty who ruled China) declare Taiwan part of China. Actually, when the Taiwanese heard that they were to be part of Japan, they declared a Taiwan Republic. A couple days later, when Japan came in, the republic was taken over. Check out these maps:
Taiwan is not part of the map here in the Qing Dynasty, nor on this Ming Dynasty map (the dynasty right before Qing). Taking into consideration history, one must remember that possession is eleven points of the law. Immigration between the mainland and Taiwan was also quite fluid as they are located close to each other. (Currently the closest territory of Taiwan is less then a mile away from China, but the main island is at least 80 miles away.) Control of Taiwan varied throughout history with different empires ruling over portions of it at different times.

The Republic of China broke away from the mainland in 1949, not Taiwan. The entire Taiwan wasn't a part of any China until the losing Republic of China government invaded Taiwan (Taiwanese people version) or when "With the end of World War II in 1945, the Allies agreed that the Republic of China Army under the Kuomintang would "temporarily occupy Taiwan, on behalf of the Allied forces." The Cairo Treaty before that does say, "all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China." (Formosa is the older name for Taiwan given by the Portuguese). A later Treaty of San Francisco clarifies the position by saying that Japan gives up Taiwan but does not indicate a receiver, unlike the Cairo Treaty. It goes on to say, "...the future status of Taiwan will be decided in accord with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations." Some have taken this to indicate that, following the Charter of the U.N. , To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples...," Taiwan should be able to self-determine what its future will be.

Several different opinions can be formed from this.
(a) Taiwan belongs to the Republic of China
(b) Taiwan is its own country.

Yet the opinion of Taiwan belongs to the People's Republic of China is one that is difficult to form from this without a vivid imagination.

The People's Republic of China did not exist until around 1949. Before that, the controller of the vast mainland territory was the Republic of China. That government moved over to Taiwan as it got kicked off the mainland. China Dynasty Timeline This Republic of China (on Taiwan) was given recognition by the United Nations as representing China. It stood as one of the 5 main members of the U.N. Chiang Kai Shek never fulfilled his delusion of regaining the mainland. Later, in 1971, the U.N. decided to switch the China seat from the Republic of China to the People's Republic of China. The Republic of China was offered a normal seat, but reading this as a slap to the face, Chiang Kai Shek rejected the seat. So thus, the R.O.C. lost its one real chance at a U.N. seat due to pride issues.

(3) I don't dispute the Interactive History on its fact basis. I dispute its beginning Taiwan's history in 1945. Taiwan's history began a long time before 1945. It's recognition in the western world began then, but beginning it in 1945 seems to solidify the P.R.O.C.'s claim to Taiwan.

The Taiwan profile seems to have its facts straight and takes a neutral tone (which is important but difficult in journalism). Yet the articles written by BBC seem to take the China leaning side. They need to work a bit more on neutrality.

K. Lee | Permalink | Comment on this article | Comments (1)

Comments (1)

Didn’t Taiwan become a Chinese domain when it was conquered by the Kangxi emperor? And before that, Zheng Chenggong took the island from the Dutch who had imported Chinese people in the preceding decades. The crucial points, then, are the Shimonoseki Treaty and the end of World War II. The former doesn’t work too well for the Taiwanese independence matter, because Zhang Zhidong, who in the Qing court opposed ceding Taiwan to Japan, was a key supporter of the Republic of Formosa formed solely to rebuff the Japanese occupation. Moreover, the Republic of Formosa recognized Chinese suzerainty and likely would have reattached itself to Qing China if the mood at court changed with regard to Taiwan. You do rightly point out, though, that there’s no legal basis for Taiwan belonging to the communist regime that controls the mainland. I do agree that the BBC reporting seems biased, but for a different reason. (Full disclosure: I’m the type who will occasionally call Nanjing the capital of China, so please bear with me.) There was no decision in 1949 to ‘break away’ from the mainland, but rather the ROC government lost control of everything but Taiwan. To say that they broke away, therefore, is to say that anti-CCP people were separatists, which is simply not true.

Posted by Lue-Yee Tsang | 2009-09-06

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