Did the Chinese Communist Party always consider Taiwan as part of the Chinese nation?

We are determined to liberate Taiwan!

In the course of this year, we have published two documents in which we dealt in greater detail with the national question of Taiwan. In short, we elaborated that the Taiwanese people have a separate national identity and can not be considered simply as part of the Chinese nation. We did show that because of several historical conditions, the Taiwanese people always had a specific identity.[1] 

Since we published these documents, we have come across a highly interesting academic study – published nearly half a century ago – which casts a light on the Chinese Communists’ position on Taiwan in the past.[2] As it is well-known, the Stalinist-capitalist regime in Beijing – with the CCP at its centre – claims that Taiwan is and always has been “an inseparable part of the Chinese nation“ (the so-called “One-China-Principle”).

As the study demonstrates based on numerous documents, such a position was adopted by the CCP only after 1943. Before that year, the party – including Mao Tse-tung himself – consistently recognised the Taiwanese as a distinct "nation" or "nationality", separate from the Han Chinese. At its Sixth Congress in 1928, the CCP listed the Taiwanese people as part of a number of oppressed nationalities in its "Resolution on the Nationality Problem":

The Sixth National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party considers that the problems of minority nationalities within Chinese territory (Mongols and Mohammedans in the North, Koreans in Manchuria, Taiwanese in Fukien, the aborigines of Miao and Li nationalities in the South, and in Sinkiang [Uighur] and Tibetan nationalities) have important significance.

Likewise, the "Draft Constitution of the China Soviet Republic," adopted by the First All-China Soviet Congress (7 November 1931) listed the Taiwanese people as separate from the Han “race”. Such a recognition of a separate national identity of the Taiwanese was repeated in various other documents of the CCP until the year 1943.

The CCP’s recognition of the Taiwanese as a separate and oppressed people – like a number of other smaller nationalities – indicated that the party supported their right of national self-determination. In an interview with the famous US journalist Edgar Snow, Mao Tse-tung explicitly stated his support for independence of Taiwan (resp. Formosa as it was often called).

Question “Is it the immediate task of the Chinese people to regain all the territories lost to Japanese imperialism, or only to drive Japan from North China, and all Chinese territory above the Great Wall.”

Answer “It is the immediate task of China to regain all our lost territories, not merely to defend our sovereignty below the Great Wall This means that Manchuria must be regained We do not, however, include Korea, formerly a Chinese colony, but when we have re-established the independence of the lost territories of China, and if the Koreans wish to break away from the chains of Japanese imperialism, we will extend them our enthusiastic help in their struggle for independence The same thing applies for Formosa [Taiwan, Ed.]. As for Inner Mongolia, which is populated by both Chinese and Mongolians, we will struggle to drive Japan from there and help Inner Mongolia to establish an autonomous State.”[3] 

The Taiwan Communist Party (TCP), which was founded on 15 April 1928 in Shanghai, and which collaborated closely both with the Japanese Communists (at that time, Taiwan was occupied by Japanese imperialism) as well as with the CCP, advocated the same line. Referring to the fact that a Republic of Taiwan had already been established in June 1895, they called for an independent state. They raised, among others, the following slogans: "Overthrow Japanese Imperialism," "Establish a Republic of Taiwan," and "Long Live the Independence of the Taiwan Nationality."

Even the Chinese bourgeois nationalists of the Kuomintang (KMT) accepted, to a certain degree, that the Taiwanese people had a specific identity. Tai Chi-t'ao, a key leader of the KMT until his death in 1949, stated: 

We understand that the Chinese brethren in Taiwan are oppressed and abused by the Japanese, just like the Koreans. Therefore we advocate the independence of the Taiwanese nationality. The Taiwan national independence movement should be united with those who are in the same situation as Taiwan, that is, the oppressed nationalities in Korea and we in the East, to resist the imperialists who are oppressing us.

All this changed in 1943, when the Allied Powers adopted the Cairo Declaration. Since the Allied Powers were at war with Japan, they decided to state their support for the political reintegration of Taiwan into the Chinese polity. Unsurprisingly, Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT strongly appreciated this. Mao’s CCP did not want to look less patriotic than their bourgeois-nationalist rivals and reversed their policy towards Taiwan. Since then, the CCP has disavowed Taiwanese ethnic "separateness" and categorically rejected the independence of the island.

Let us note in passing, that such a turn also resulted in the CCP dropping their support for self-determination of other oppressed nationalities in mainland China. In fact, the CCP adapted to Great Han Chauvinism in a very similar way to Stalin’s CPSU capitulation to Great Russian chauvinism.

In summary, we can conclude that the claim of the Stalinist-capitalist regime that Taiwan is and always has been “an inseparable part of the Chinese nation“ is not true. The CCP itself recognised the Taiwanese people as a specific nationality – separate from the Han Chinese – until 1943. And it also recognised until that year the Taiwanese’ right of national self-determination.

Michael Pröbsting is a socialist activist and writer. For some of his publications on Chinese imperialism and Great Power rivalry see: https://www.michael-proebsting.net/publications/bibliography/. He is the editor of the website http://www.thecommunists.net/


[1] RCIT: Taiwan: Great Power Rivalry and National Question. On the conflict between U.S. and Chinese imperialism, its consequences for the crisis of the capitalist world order, on Taiwan’s national question and the program of revolutionary defeatism, 20 August 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/taiwan-great-power-rivalry-and-national-question/; see also chapter IV. “The Taiwan question in its historical and geostrategic context” in Michael Pröbsting: China: An Imperialist Power … Or Not Yet? A Theoretical Question with Very Practical Consequences! RCIT Pamphlet, 22 January 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-imperialist-power-or-not-yet 

[2] Frank S. T. Hsiao and Lawrence R. Sullivan: The Chinese Communist Party and the Status of Taiwan, 1928-1943, in: Pacific Affairs, Vol. 52, No. 3 (Autumn, 1979), pp. 446-467. All quotes are from this study if not indicated otherwise.

[3] Edgar Snow: Red Star Over China, Random House, The Modern Library, New York, Edition of 1938, reprinted in 1944, p. 96