Despite the proliferation of the term, there really is no “Taiwan question”, writes J. Michael Cole for Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Inside Policy.
This framing is often used in the context of what to do about China’s long standing claims of sovereignty over the island and its escalating acts of aggression towards the democratic country.
But framing it as such is reductionist, a construct that presupposes conclusions and frames the complex dispute in ways that benefit China, Cole writes. It implies that there is still a legitimate question left to be resolved over whether or not Taiwan is a sovereign state or merely the product of internal strife that is ultimately a matter of Chinese internal affairs. Echoing this formulation grants legitimacy to Chinese foreign ministry propaganda that the Taiwanese people themselves reject.
“[The ‘question’] is nothing less than an external threat, the imposition of a value system, ideology, and way of life by an exogenous force. The Taiwanese have answered that question, and they have done so loudly. They do not want it.”
A more honest assessment, Cole concludes, recognizes the extent of the threat that China poses to the freedoms of the Taiwanese people:
“China’s claim over Taiwan, and the actions it has threatened to take to make that goal a reality, isn’t the answer to a question, but is rather a form of colonialism. It is nothing less than the threatened annexation of a territory that the People’s Republic of China has not controlled for a single day of its existence. Some can support Beijing’s aims all they want, but they should have the intellectual honesty to admit that what they are advocating is annexation.”