The Chinese nationalist party Kuomintang that was defeated when Mao Zedong’s communists triumphantly took control of China in 1949, retreated to Taiwan, a small island off the coast of mainland China, roughly halfway between Hong Kong and Shanghai. Almost 60 years later, the Taiwanese government still maintains it is the rightful government for all of China, and the official name of the state is not Taiwan, but Republic of China (RoC).
Over the years, this has become an increasingly hollow fiction, with most UN members having switched recognition to the mainland government, the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This leaves Taiwan – not even a member of the United Nations - in a sort of existential limbo. Concurrently, the animus for declaring independence is growing in Taiwan – a move strongly discouraged by the communist government in Beijing, who are also keen to maintain the fiction of territorial unity between the island and the mainland… with of course their government the rightful one, also on Taiwan.
The length and breadth of that fiction can’t be illustrated any better than by this map, detailing the territorial claims of the RoC on the mainland. These revanchist claims are truly spectacular: not only do they include all the area presently under the control of the communist regime, but also many outlying areas controlled by China’s neighbours. The uproar over these claims would be much greater if Taiwan were in a position to actually (re)take these areas:
- The whole of Mongolia, now an independent republic;
- The Russian autonomous republic of Tannu-Tuva, called tannu Uriankhai by the RoC;
- A large part of Tajikistan, namely most of its autonomous province of Gorno-Badakhshan;
- A tiny sliver of Afghanistan’s Pamir corridor;
- Small areas of northern Pakistan and areas claimed by India;
- The eastern part of the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan;
- Parts of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh;
- Parts of northern Myanmar (Birma);
- And a small piece of Russian-administered territory on China’s northeastern border.
In all, the RoC claims territory from no less than ten countries, including of course all the territory of its nemesis, the PRC. The sovereignty fiction is completed by labelling the area under Taipei’s control (Taiwan, but also some smaller islands – some quite close to the mainland) the ‘free area of the Republic of China’, Taipei its ‘Provisional capital’ and Nanking (on the mainland) its ‘Official capital’.
Special mention should be made of the Diaoyu islands (Senkaku islands in Japanese), which are claimed both by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and by the Republic of China (RoC) but are in fact administered by Japan, proving the old dictum that when two dogs fight over a bone, it’s often the third dog that runs off with it.
This map, to be found here on wikipedia, was sent in by John Halton, who comments: “From what I understand, the RoC can’t actually drop these claims, however unrealistic they may now be. To do so would be interpreted by the PRC as tantamount to a declaration of independence, which the PRC would regard as an act of war.”