Taiwan’s settler colonialism: Funie Hsu, Brian Hioe, Wen Liu, ‘Collective Statement on Taiwan Independence: Building Global Solidarity and Rejecting US Military Empire’, American Quarterly, 69, 3, 2017, pp. 465-468

27Sep17

Taiwan exists in the between. In historical terms, Taiwan has existed, and continues to exist, in and between various iterations of colonial occupation: from seventeenth-century Dutch rule and the resulting Han settler colonialism to twentieth-century Japanese occupation and the current colonial occupation of the lingering Kuomintang (KMT) Nationalist government. Politically, Taiwan resides in between the competing imperialist discourses of the People’s Republic of China, which has long articulated a goal of “retaking” or “reunifying” the island it claims as a renegade province, and the United States, a nation that has demonstrated an ambivalent stance toward Taiwan and expressions of its independence. As such, it has been appropriated as a space on which to bargain the terms of US–China foreign policy—and negotiate away the island’s right to self-determination—since the 1970s.

Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) culminated in the Shanghai Communiqué, which expressed what would become the United States’ guiding foreign policy principle of One China, with Taiwan subsumed as part of China. Taiwan was thus used as a negotiating tool to solidify a new partnership between the United States and the PRC. The United States expressed its acknowledgment for the idea “that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China,” and declared, “The United States Government does not challenge that position.” By 1979 the United States had pulled military personnel out of Taiwan and severed governmental recognition of the Republic of China. In the space that is in and between occupation, and in between US–China foreign policy, Taiwan has been constituted by colonial and imperial imaginations of its utility and futurity.

The following collective statement represents an intention to articulate and organize a new possibility for Taiwan and its independence. It was crafted as a response to the controversial December 2, 2016, phone call between Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-Wen, and Donald Trump, which presented a new dynamic of [End Page 465] in-betweenness, one that catapulted the question of Taiwan independence from the margins to center stage. Much of the reaction to the call revolved around two general sentiments of panic and potential. US foreign policy experts were anxious to preserve the One China status quo, while many in Taiwan and the Taiwanese diaspora of the United States were cautiously hopeful that it signaled the possibility for renewed American support, especially in regard to independence. Taiwan independence, it is often understood, cannot be practically achieved without the backing of American militarized security. In this statement, a growing contingent of Taiwanese and Taiwanese American scholars, activists, artists, and people in solidarity argue for a reimagination of the possibilities of the in-between to move beyond tactics of dollar diplomacy and hopeful anticipation of American approval, toward more sustainable projects of global solidarity with decolonial justice movements around the world. We offer this perspective as an alternative to the hegemonic logic under which Taiwan independence must be practically aligned with American Empire and bolstered by American militarized peace. Instead, this collective statement attempts to highlight the entrapment such thinking produces and the violent present moment that so-called US security has generated, especially under Trump’s increasingly fascist America. Within this context, we intend for this statement to further transpacific conversations, collaborations, and new configurations for imagining Taiwan and the possibility of independence during these times.



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