22.10.2021 Author: Vladimir Terehov

On the Celebration of the 110th Anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution


The reason for another address to the Taiwan problem, perhaps the most dangerous today in terms of maintaining (at least relative) stability in the global political system, was the celebration of the 110th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution in Beijing and Taipei. Successful completion of the Revolution interrupted more than 2,000 years of monarchical rule in China and served as the starting point of the country’s modern history.

It is already worth noting how the common people with Mainland Taiwan designates this momentous day, The National Day of the Republic of China (also referred to as Double Ten Day or Double Tenth Day) That is, the milestone event in Chinese history occurred, according to the Taiwanese leadership, on the “tenth day of the tenth month” in 1911, according to the Gregorian calendar. The specified calendar also operates in the People’s Republic of China, but the specific chronology using sexagenary cycle is kept here. Beijing’s use of the hieroglyphic notation from the Chinese calendar dictionary Xinhai, the date of the same event symbolizes the continuity of the PRC’s positioning concerning the country’s ancient history.

In Taiwan, the Double Ten Day is also officially written in hieroglyphic, but it is still a translation of the date of the European chronology. And with the growing attempts to establish Taiwan as an independent state sharply intensified with the rise of the Democratic Progressive Party to power in 2016, these differences in the designation of the same date become a factor in the most relevant politics.

In the most general terms, the message of quite a few Taiwanese elites to the international political space can be summarized as follows: “We are an integral element of Western European democratic civilization, i.e., proponents of a linear-continuous-progressive course of the historical process, and have nothing to do with the Chinese-cyclical description of it characteristic of our archaic Mainland opponents.”

“Own” designation of a common holiday with Beijing fits into the process of searching for a (“own”) historical identity, which, if it recognizes (though not always) its “common Chinese” roots, is in antiquity distant by centuries. In the opinion of the “separatist” part of the Taiwanese, it has been almost entirely lost by now.

However, let us note one of the notable motives behind the attempts of the self-identification, “separate from China” of a significant part of Taiwan’s population. It is due to the negative memory of the long (post-war period) of de facto dictatorial rule on the island (with certain excesses, such as the massacre of February 1947) of the “aliens from Mainland” led by Chiang Kai-shek.

It should be noted that he was the successor of Sun Yat-sen, including the post of the Kuomintang Party he founded, was one of the leaders of the Xinhai Revolution. Sun Yat-sen’s name retains a sacred character in both Mainland and Taiwan. While the name of Chiang Kai-shek is now being “desacralized” in the territory of the second one, accompanied by acts of (spontaneous?) vandalism against his monuments. It is condemned by Beijing, which strongly supports the current Kuomintang as the primary opponent of the ruling DPP. However, the zigzags of history are weird.

The aforementioned (quasi-)academic quirks could be disregarded if they were not in full conformity with the political trends of recent years around the Taiwan issue as a whole. It increasingly involves Beijing’s main geopolitical opponent, i.e., Washington.

Once again, let us note the conventionality of answering who is the “bearer-expression” of US foreign policy today. One thing seems inevitable: there is an increasing role of the “hawkish” wing in the American establishment, which, in particular, implements the creeping process of rejecting all the agreements with China from 30 or 40 years ago. There is a trend towards restoring the format of (“normal”) inter-state relations with Taiwan that took place before the early 1970s.

There are more and more signs of this process. As to the latter, let us refer to the recent report that during one year on the territory of Taiwan (for the first time since 1979), about 20 “instructors” of the US Special Operations Forces have been training Taiwanese servicemen. Generally speaking, this could already be construed as an act of armed invasion on the sovereign Chinese territory, Even within the framework of the aforementioned US agreements with the People’s Republic of China.

Among the variety of signs mentioned above, a report about Harvard University’s intention to relocate its summer Mandarin program from Beijing Language and Culture University (under which it has been administered since 2004) to National Taiwan University also attracted attention.

Once again, we would like to point out the key issue for Beijing to respect the “One China policy” by its external partners, which has not been abandoned by every US administration over the last few decades. However, without some assistance (as it undoubtedly happened, at least in the case of American military “instructors”), the above mentioned “creeping” process could hardly take place.

The aforementioned and other external and internal factors combined to characterize the current state of the Taiwan problem were clearly manifested in the celebrations involving the Presidents of China and Taiwan.

Speaking at a formal meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 9, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said that the Taiwan problem would be resolved in the process of “national rejuvenation” that he spoke of three months earlier during the Communist Party of China (CPC), centennial celebrations. The process was threatened by “separatist traitors” who would face the court of history.

The thesis of the Communist Party of China (CPC), as the heir to the will of Sun Yat-sen (under whose portrait the solemn meeting took place) seems noteworthy. The name of one of the fathers of the Xinhai Revolution has always been treated with respect in the CPC. Still, perhaps for the first time, he has been called a “great national hero, patriot and pioneer of the Chinese democratic revolution.”

According to Xi Jinping, one of Sun Yat-sen’s fundamental precepts, driven by “national rejuvanation” has not yet been fulfilled. The responsibility for resolving this problem, peacefully or otherwise, rests entirely with the Taiwanese leadership.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s speech the next day (again, on the occasion of the Double Ten Day) was a reaction to the Mainland leader’s speech. In fact, it reiterated the long-standing basic positions of the DPP on relations with the PRC, such as a willingness to “dialogue on an equal footing”; the fundamental importance of the opinions of Taiwanese themselves on the whole range of issues contained in the said problem; the determination to resist “pressure”; the intention to develop a variety of relations with other countries and organizations.

The author did not find any mention of Sun Yat-sen’s name in the account of Tsai Ing-wen’s speech, which took a central place in the statement or (regards to the occasion of Double Ten Day) by the new chairman of the main oppositional Kuomintang Party. With the return to power in Taiwan of this party, they pin their hopes in Beijing on the possibility of avoiding a “non-peaceful” way of solving the Taiwan problem.

Meanwhile, the internal political situation on the island is deteriorating. In particular, this was evidenced by the demarche in Parliament by Deputies from the Kuomintang, who demanded explanations from the Prime Minister regarding information leaks about the Taiwanese government’s plans to build nuclear submarines.

The nature of this request demonstrates once again the seriousness of Taiwan’s defense activities, especially noticeable based on the orders to construct new warships. But most importantly, perhaps, is the islanders’ unwillingness to accept a “non-peaceful” way of dealing with the Taiwan problem. Sociological surveys also confirm this on various topics related to this general problem.

In connection with the latter, it seems appropriate to remind a well-known postulate that more or less complete cure of some political “soreness” is defined not so much by victories in the military fights as in the souls of people living there.

It is entirely related to the Taiwan issue and, of course, Beijing is aware of it better than anywhere else.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.