August 3, 2022 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 401

Who Should Represent China? The Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) People's Republic Of China (PRC) Or The Republic Of China (ROC) In Taiwan?

August 3, 2022 | By Anna Mahjar-Barducci*
China | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 401


The "Taiwan issue" is a derivative of the Chinese Civil War fought between the Kuomintang (KMT)-led government of the Republic of China (ROC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Theoretically speaking, since no peace agreement was signed, the two sides of the Taiwan Straits are still in a state of war.

Yet, in 1949, the CCP gained control of mainland China and established the People's Republic of China (PRC), forcing the ROC's KMT leadership to retreat to Taiwan. Hence, the CCP feels it is the ultimate victor in the civil war, and, consequently, it is convinced that it should represent the development of China's advanced productive forces, China's culture, and the fundamental interests of the Chinese people. As an old Chinese saying goes: "Legitimacy belongs to the victor. Losers are always in the wrong." According to the CCP, winners have the right to interpret history, the present and the future, but the course of history tends to break this paradigm.


The ROC's "Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement" Vs. The CCP's "Cultural Revolution Movement"

Founded on January 1, 1912, the ROC is considered the first democratic republic in Asia, recognized by the international community. Only the ROC government, led by the Kuomintang, has represented and ruled both mainland China and Taiwan.

The Kuomintang, represented by its founder Sun Yat-sen and Chinese nationalist politician Chiang Kai-shek, had always defended traditional Chinese culture, and gathered the elites from all over the country, mainly from Guangdong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Hunan, Anhui, Jiangxi and other regions with a long history and the deepest traditional Chinese culture. After the Kuomintang's defeat by the Communists in 1949, most of these elites moved to Taiwan along with the ROC government.

In Taiwan, the ROC government started the "Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement" in 1966, with the aim of rejuvenating Chinese culture. This movement was meant to maintain traditional Chinese culture, carry forward the revolutionary spirit, and compete with the Cultural Revolution movement led by the CCP, in order to show that the ROC was the only representative of orthodox Chinese culture.[1]

In fact, in November 1966, more than 1,500 people, including Sun Yat-sen's son, Sun Ke, signed a letter to the Executive Yuan (executive branch of the government of the ROC), proposing the launch of the "Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement," and demanding that November 12, Sun Yat-sen's birthday, be designated "Chinese Cultural Renaissance Day." On July 28, 1967, the Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement Implementation Committee, now known as the Chinese Culture Association, held a general meeting in Taiwan, with the ROC President Chiang Kai-shek, as its president. The movement began to be active in Taiwan and abroad. The "Chinese Cultural Renaissance" enhanced Taiwan's cultural reputation and status. To this day, Taiwan is regarded as the place with the richest preservation of fine traditional Chinese culture.

Before Seizing Power, The CCP Supported Taiwan's Autonomy

It is worth noting that, before seizing power in mainland China, the CCP did support Taiwan's autonomy. The media outlet The Diplomat reported: "By the late 1920s, the young CCP was of course primarily engaged in its struggle for survival against Chiang's Nationalists. But they did develop a very distinct position vis-à-vis Taiwan, which was totally the opposite of the party's present position... The CCP also acknowledged the 'national liberation movement' on Japan-occupied Taiwan as the struggle of a 'weak and small nationality' that was separate from the Chinese revolution and potentially sovereign. This was expressed most clearly by Chairman Mao Zedong in his 1937 interview with American journalist Edgar Snow, who quoted Mao as saying: '...we will extend them (the Koreans) our enthusiastic help in their struggle for independence. The same thing applies for Taiwan.' This position was reiterated in subsequent years by CCP luminaries like Zhou Enlai."[2]

This position can be linked to the fact that the CCP followed the theory of self-determination in order to win the support of the Soviet Union and the Communist International (Comintern), in the early days of its establishment. The support to Taiwan's autonomy was also aimed at weakening the power of the Japanese colonialists in Taiwan, which became a dependency of Japan in 1895 and remained so until World War II ended in 1945.

It is worth noting that in July 1928, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China issued its Circular No. 54 about the "General Objectives of the Current Mass Movement," in which it reclaimed from Japan sovereignty over Shandong and Manchuria, but did not mention the recovery of sovereignty over Taiwan.

Furthermore, the CCP suggested that the anti-imperialist and anti-colonial movements in Korea and Taiwan be placed under the command of the Japanese Communist Party, as mentioned in the 1935 resolution adopted by  the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. The resolution was signed by Mao Zedong and prominent Chinese Communist military leader Peng Dehuai. The Taiwanese media outlet explained that the great significance of this resolution is that the revolution of the Taiwanese nation and the Korean nation against the Japanese colonialists was placed under the command of the Japanese Communist Party and not under that of the CCP. This clearly suggests that Taiwan was not considered an inherent territory of China, and that Taiwan's revolution should have not been swayed by China's interference.[3]

Renowned Professors Frank Hsiao and Lawrence Sullivan also pointed out that until 1943, the CCP always regarded the people of Taiwan as a "nation" that was different from the "Han" Chinese people. According to the two academics, in the literature of this period, the Taiwanese and the Korean peoples were regarded as a nation-state that should strive for complete independence.

Yet, after the Battle of Midway in 1942, in which the U.S. won a major victory over the Imperial Japanese Navy, the Kuomintang leadership stated that Taiwan should "return' to the ROC. In November 22-26, 1943, National Government Chairman Chiang Kai-shek, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in Cairo with the goal of discussing the post WWII international order. In the meeting press communiqué, known as the Cairo Declaration, the three leaders agreed that all the territories that Japan gained through war  from the Chinese, including Taiwan and the Penghu (Pescadores), would be restored to the ROC.

Consequently, in order to challenge the leadership of the ROC, the CCP shifted its position on Taiwan. Furthermore, on August 15, 1945, the ROC took possession of Taiwan, following Japan's surrender in WWII, and the Taiwan Provincial Government was established. Hence for four years (1945-1949), before the Kuomintang leadership fled to Taiwan, as the Communist Party took over mainland China, mainland China and Taiwan were united under the ROC's rule.

As the ROC moved to Taiwan in 1949, becoming the anti-communist base, the Communist Party's tone against Taiwan become even harsher.  On March 15, 1949, the Xinhua News Agency published an editorial titled "The Chinese People Must Liberate Taiwan." This was not only the first time that the CCP proposed that it "liberate Taiwan," but also that it "liberate Taiwan by force." Since its establishment, the ROC has always declared itself "the sole legal government representing the whole of China," adhered to the positions that Taiwan is "China's inalienable territory," and "the Taiwan question belongs to China's internal affairs," and opposed Taiwanese independence and interference in the Taiwan question by other countries.[4]

Deng Xiaoping's Promotion Of Traditional Chinese Culture

When Deng Xiaoping came back to power in July 1977, the CCP also began promoting traditional Chinese culture, in order to challenge the ROC's "Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement." Under his leadership, the CCP began to implement the basic state policy of "reform and opening up." It is worth noting that, born in 1904 in a small landholding family in Sichuan Province, Deng Xiaoping was influenced by Confucius and Mencius' Confucianism, which dominated Chinese society for nearly 2,000 years. Therefore, Deng was not as hostile as Mao to traditional Chinese Confucian culture.

Since the Chinese Kuomintang and the CCP were cooperating at that time, Deng first joined the Chinese Kuomintang in April 1924 and then the CCP in July 1924. Deng also knew Chiang Ching-kuo, who was the son of Chiang Kai-shek and who also served as ROC president from 1978 until his death in 1988, as the Deng and Ching-kuo had met when they were students. Ironically, the two politicians became respectively country leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait at about the same time in 1978. Chiang Ching-kuo then died in January 1988, and Deng Xiaoping felt rather sad about this loss. Deng said later: "The reunification of China is a world event. Had Chiang Ching-kuo been alive, the reunification of China would not have been so difficult and complicated as it is now. The KMT and the Communist Party have cooperated twice in the past, and I do not believe there will not be a third cooperation between the KMT and the Communist Party... Alas, Ching-kuo died too soon!"[5]

Later, when Xi Jinping became President in 2013, he started focusing on grafting traditional Chinese culture with Marxism, saying that it has great commonality with Marxism (this became more noticeable especially in recent years).

The Amendment Of Taiwan's Constitution

On May 1, 1991, Chiang Ching-kuo's chosen successor, Lee Teng-hui, who served as ROC president from 1988 to 2000, announced to repeal the "The Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion," thus putting an end to the 43 years of martial law in Taiwan under the ROC Constitution. This was accompanied by the first amendment to the ROC Constitution in 1991 (the constitution was last amended in 2005), which opened the door to Taiwan's democratization.

The enactment of the amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of China is of great significance in the history of the ROC and Taiwan. Since the ROC Constitution is, at least nominally, the Constitution of "all" of China (mainland China and Taiwan), the amendments avoided any specific reference to the Taiwan area, but used instead the geographically neutral term "Free area of the Republic of China," to refer to the territories under its actual control. The amendments state that only the citizens that have a place of residence in the free area enjoy full civil and political rights. In addition, the articles also significantly revised or froze the rules of direct presidential election, national assembly election, central government organization, and the provincial system. The amendments to the constitution enabled the constitutional system to run smoothly and enabled the ROC to realize a free and democratic state system in Taiwan.[6]

(Source: Wikipedia)

The Conflicting Positions Over The "1992 Consensus"

It is also worth mentioning that the CCP leaders often relate to the 1992 Consensus, a term referring to a 1992 meeting between the PRC and ROC representatives. On July 26, 2022, China's top political advisor  Wang Yang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, addressed a meeting marking the 30th anniversary of the 1992 Consensus, stressing that China and Taiwan reached a consensus that "both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China and will work together toward national reunification."

However, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council stated in its website: "In 1992, Beijing used the pretext of negotiations on cross-Strait document notarization to demand Taiwan to accept the position that 'the two sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China,' meaning the 'one China principle.' However, the PRC has become the sole legitimate government representing 'China' in the United Nations (UN) after the Republic of China (ROC) was forced to withdraw from the UN in 1971. Therefore, accepting this 'China' means accepting the PRC's elimination of the ROC under international law and recognizing the PRC as the central government representing Taiwan externally."

It then further explained: "The initially proposed plan was to accept the 'one China principle,' but... each side held a different understanding of the meaning of 'China.' Hence when signing the agreement for this plan, the Taiwan side recorded the date as 'October 30th, 81st year of the ROC Minguo Calendar year,' highlighting that the 'China' recognized by Taiwan is the ROC. If Beijing accepted this, it would mean accepting that the 'China' stated by the Taiwan side meant the 'Republic of China,' thus accomplishing the negotiation goal of 'one China with respective interpretations. Beijing could not accept this, thus refused to sign the agreement, and immediately left the negotiation site in Hong Kong. The talks therefore collapsed."

Hence, based on the historical process,  Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council concluded that there is no such thing as the "1992 Consensus," as the ROC and PRC do not recognize one another's representation of China.[7]


It is possible to note that the legacy of Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek, Chiang Ching-kuo and the ROC could have helped Taiwan to gain representativeness and legitimacy as a keeper of Chinese history and the representative of the Chinese people. However, Xi Jinping is trying to take over Sun Yat-sen's legacy. On October 9, 2021, at a meeting to mark the 110th anniversary of the Revolution of 1911, which toppled the last Chinese imperial dynasty and was led by Sun Yat-sen, Xi said: "Chinese communists were the most steadfast supporters, loyal collaborators, and faithful successors to the revolutionary cause initiated by Dr. Sun Yat-sen."[8] Conversely, President Tsai Ing-wen of the ROC did not mention Sun Yat-sen nor the Revolution of 1911 in her National Day speech.[9]

Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government is actually trying to separate itself from the ROC, founded by the Kuomintang, based on the dream of Taiwan independence and the establishment of a Taiwan Republic.[10] It can be argued that in this way the DPP tries to achieve Taiwan's sovereignty  without linking itself to its Chinese past, but at the same time it is regretfully handing over the interpretation and legacy of Chinese history to the CCP.

Admittedly, history cannot be assumed. Nevertheless, as long as a democratic Taiwan survives, under the protection of the United States and the international community, there is hope for mainland China, which share the same history and culture, to enjoy life free from dictatorship, even if not together.

*Anna Mahjar Barducci is a MEMRI Senior Research Fellow.


[1], May 18, 2005.

[2], May 3, 2022.


[4], May 8, 2006.

[5], January 20, 2021.


[8], October 9, 2021.

[9], October 10, 2021.

[10] It is worth noting that the new Taiwanese passport removed the name in English of "Republic of China," and enlarged the name "Taiwan.", September 2, 2020.

Share this Report:

 Fight Extremism - Support MEMRI