Monday, January 15, 2024

Treatment of the Taiwanese in Chinese Communist Documents and Statements: 1928-1943

The Chinese Communist Party and the Status of Taiwan, 1928-1943. Frank S. T. Hsiao and Lawrence R. Sullivan. Pacific Affairs, Vol. 52, No. 3 (Autumn, 1979), pp. 446-467. Pacific Affairs, University of British Columbia.



Treatment of the Taiwanese in Chinese Communist Documents and Statements: 1928-1943

At the CCP's Sixth National Congress, held in Moscow in 1928, the Chinese Communists took the first step toward accepting Taiwan's future political autonomy by acknowledging that the Taiwanese were ethnically separate from the Han. This is evident in their explicit reference to the Taiwanese as a distinct "nationality," and, on occasion, as a separate "race" (zhongzu) or "stock" (zongzu). (Further discussion of terminological differences is presented below). The first CCP statement referring to Taiwanese focused on the "Taiwanese in Fukien." According to the Sixth Congress' "Resolution on the Nationality Problem," the Sixth National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party considers that the problems of minority nationalities within Chinese territory (Mongols and Mohammedans in the North, Koreans in Manchuria, Taiwanese in Fukien, the aborigines of Miao and Li nationalities in the South, and in Sinkiang [Uighur] and Tibetan nationalities) have important significance [emphasis added]. In other words, the "Taiwanese in Fukien" were considered to be a "minority nationality" and not simply members of one provincial group residing in another province. More importantly, the Taiwanese were grouped with other minority nationalities—Mongols, Mohammedans, Miao, Uighurs, etc.—which had maintained their ethnic identity throughout the dynastic era and had been able to assert some political autonomy vis-à-vis the imperial court. This position of the Sixth Congress was reiterated in the same year by the Fifth National Congress of the Chinese Communist Youth League, which in its regulations noted that the "minority nationalities" in China included "Mongols, Koreans, Taiwanese, Annamese, etc.," and urged that local organs form national minority committees. Two years later in Kiangsi, the "Draft Constitution of the China Soviet Republic," adopted by the First All-China Soviet Congress (November 7, 1931), extended constitutional rights to these same minority nationalities. According to Item 4 of this document, all races, that is the "Han, Manchu, Mongol, Mohammedan, Tibetan, Miao, Li and also the Taiwanese, Koreans, and Annamese who reside in China, are equal under the laws of Soviet China [emphasis added]." 7 Taiwanese were seen not as Han but as a different "nationality" and even "race," who like the Koreans and the Annamese, but unlike the other minorities, came from a homeland separate from China.8 This view is strengthened by the fact that the CCP never referred to the Taiwanese as "brethren" (dixiong), or "the offspring of the Yellow Emperor," or "compatriots" (tongbao), who would de facto belong to the Han after they return to China. Indeed, a 1928 Central Committee Notice, while calling for the recovery from Japan of sovereignty over Shantung and Manchuria, failed to mention a similar goal for Taiwan in its seventeen "general goals of the present mass movement." Since the ideological perspectives of the early Chinese Communist elite were heavily influenced by an anti-Japanese (as well as an anti-Western) nationalism born out of the May Fourth Movement, this exclusion of Taiwan from recoverable sovereign territory of China is revealing.

Mao Tse-tung's earliest comments on the Taiwanese came in his January 1934 "Report of the China Soviet Republic Central Executive Committee and the People's Committee to the Second All-China Soviet Congress." Commenting on various provisions in the 1931 Constitution, he said:

"Item 15 of the Draft Constitution of Soviet China has the following statement: To every nationality in China who is persecuted because of revolutionary acts and to the revolutionary warriors of the whole world, the Chinese Soviet Government grants the right of their being protected in Soviet areas, and assists them in renewing their struggle until a total victory of the revolutionary movement for their nationality and nation has been achieved.

In the Soviet areas, many revolutionary comrades from Korea, Taiwan, and Annam are residing. In the First All-China Soviet Congress, representatives of Korea had attended. In the present Congress, there are a few representatives from Korea, Taiwan, and Annam. This proves that this Declaration of the Soviet is a correct one." 10

Mao not only reaffirmed the Chinese Communist position that Taiwanese residing outside Taiwan and in China were a "minority nationality," but also implied CCP recognition and support of an independent Taiwan national liberation movement, which would be united in a joint effort with the Chinese movement, but with a different purpose, i.e., the establishment of an independent state similar to other Japanese colonies, such as Korea.

A year later, Mao and P'eng Teh-huai manifestly dissociated Taiwan's political movement from China by incorporating it into the anti-imperialist revolution led by the Japanese Communist Party.

According to the "Resolution on the Current Political Situation and the Party's Responsibility," passed at a meeting of the CCP Central Political Bureau on 25 December 1935, and signed by P'eng and Mao:

"Under the powerful leadership of the Japanese Communist Party, the Japanese workers and peasants and the oppressed nationalities (Korea, Taiwan) are preparing great efforts in struggling to defeat Japanese Imperialism and to establish a Soviet Japan. This is to unite the Chinese revolution and Japanese revolution on the basis of the common targets of 'defeating Japanese imperialism.' The Japanese revolutionary people are a powerful helper of the Chinese revolutionary people." 11

Here Taiwanese were not considered an integral part of the "Chinese revolutionary people," but were treated as a people whose natural political role was to fight alongside the "Japanese workers and peasants" in establishing a Soviet Japan. Whether Mao and P'eng expected the Taiwanese (and Koreans) formally to join a newly-created Soviet Japan is unclear from this resolution. But nowhere in this or other documents examined by the authors did CCP leaders suggest that the Taiwanese should fight to return to their "motherland" and join Soviet China—a point they would not make until after 1943.

The independent character afforded the Taiwanese national liberation struggle by the CCP is most clearly stated in materials available from the period 1937 to 1941. At this time, when Mao Tse-tung stressed the "internationalist" character of the Chinese revolution, official decisions of Party organs and personal statements by CCP leaders point to Communist agreement that in the anti-Japanese struggle Taiwan possessed an independent political status. For instance, Mao's October 1938 Political Report "On the New Stage—the New Stage of Development in the Anti-Japanese National War and the Anti-Japanese National United Front," given to the CCP's Sixth Plenary Session of the Sixth National Congress, extended independence to the movements of various "oppressed nationalities of Korea, Taiwan, etc." by advocating that they join the Chinese nation in common action against Japanese imperialism. 13



7 Item 14, however, asserts ". . . the right of self determination of the national minorities in China, their right to complete separation from China, and to the formation of an independent state for each national minority. All Mongolians, Tibetans, Miao, Yao, Koreans and others living on the territory of China shall enjoy the full right to self determination, i.e., they may either join the Union of Chinese Soviets or secede from it and form their own state as they may prefer. The Soviet regime of China will do its utmost to assist the national minorities in liberating themselves from the yoke of imperialists, the KMT militarists, t'u-ssu [native officials], the princes, lamas and others, and in achieving complete freedom and autonomy. The Soviet regime must encourage the development of the national cultures and the national languages of these peoples." Unlike Item 4, Taiwanese were not mentioned here, nor were the Manchus and Annamese. This may have been simply an oversight by the drafters of this constitution. On the other hand, since very few Taiwanese resided on China's mainland (mostly in Fukien, which was not a major part of Soviet China), and unlike the Koreans, which numbered 700,000 in 1934 (see Japan-Manchoukuo Year Book 1937, p. 48), perhaps the CCP logically excluded Taiwanese from a provision, borrowed from the U.S.S.R., which granted rights of secession, or alter- natively, created autonomous areas. Such a provision would not have been applicable to those groups which were not considered a minority within the existing political boundaries of China.

8 Throughout CCP documents from this period the Taiwanese are consistently grouped with the Koreans and Annamese. There are several possible reasons for this pattern. One is that the Taiwanese shared with the Koreans and Annamese a common bond to Chinese culture and a past inclusion in the Chinese empire at different points in history. A second is that all three areas were colonies of foreign powers which, as we shall argue below, led the CCP to grant them greater political autonomy than the minority nationalities within China, which although non- Chinese were also non-colonized peoples. A third is that Taiwan's experience with Japan made the Taiwanese less "Chinese" and more like the Koreans and Vietnamese, who combined Chinese cultural influence with their own unique identity. See, John K. Fairbank, ed., The Chinese World Order (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968).


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