Thursday, August 27, 2015


An island in the South China Sea that was always part of China, it became part of Japan instead in 1895 as a consequence of losing a war. The Japanese however relinquished it in the Second World War, but to whom was never finally determined. Mao had taken power in mainland China, and Taiwan was full of nationalists who didn't support Mao, many of them Taiwanese natives, plus another two million who had fled the Communist revolution to Taiwan, because it was the obvious safe place. 

In 1947 Taiwan declared itself an independent country, and wrote a constitution that Mao would never have approved, though in fact it was the very same one that had been adopted in mainland China – Mao just didn’t think it necessary to implement it when the needs of the Cultural Revolution predominated. Through the 1950s, while that constitution was becoming ever more meaningless under the despotism of Maoist rule on the mainland, it became ever more meaningful in Taiwan, with more and then still more democratic initiatives, albeit within the context of authoritarian government. 

By 2000 the old Kuomintang were ready to yield power to the Democratic Progressive Party, though the island is still claimed by China, and everyone who lives there assumes that one day boats and planes will appear over the horizon, and China will stake its claim by force. It is simply a question of when. For the time being the threat is not imminent, if only because Taiwan is the world’s biggest purchaser of military equipment, and America its main supplier and supporter. An improvement in relations between China and the US, such as President Obama began exploring in November 2014, could prove disastrous for Taiwan; formal talks between the Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou and the Chinese leader Xi Jinping took place in November 2015; so we shall simply have to wait and see

Marks For: 1,671 (the height in feet of Taipei 101, the island's tallest building)

Marks Against: 101 (the number of the torture chamber in George Orwell's 1984 (why would anyone name a building after a torture chamber?)

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