Ever since the communist revolution in China, Taiwan aka the Republic Of China (ROC) has maintained that they are the rightful government of mainland China. The People's Republic of China (PRC), controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), however, has actual possession of mainland China. Making the question irrelevant as to which government is the rightful government. This is especially challenging for the ROC, since their greatest ally, the USA, officially recognizes the PRC as the official government of China.

It seems unlikely that the Government in Taiwan will ever be able to reassert control over the mainland again, even if for some reason the CCP and PRC lose their grip on power.

Nonetheless, the ROC maintains their claim, but in recent years the PRC has increased their pressure on ROC by employing as much soft power as possible and threatening the use of hard power if the ROC declares independence. The PRC have shifted numerous diplomatic allies away from ROC, further isolating them within the international community.

The ROC is now in a position where they will continue to lose international support, becoming even further isolated and economically weakened. Alternatively, if the ROC declare themselves an independent nation, apart from China, they may enjoy greater international support and acceptance into the UN, but this move creates a whole host of other issues. Chief among them, being the PRC's explicit threat of invasion if ROC declares independence.

Not to mention, if they do declare independence and the PRC does not invade, who knows if it would even change anything for the ROC with respect to their relations with other nations.

Exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, claims that the CCP's hold on power is highly tenuous and will be lost entirely if they fail to limit the negative effects of an economic recession / depression within China.


Assuming the ROC declares independence and the PRC is unable to invade, would that mean the ROC is relinquishing their claim over mainland China?

Hypothetically, lets suppose:

  1. the ROC currently has a legitimate claim to the mainland, and

  2. the CCP loses power due to an economic downturn and a subsequent civilian uprising.

Could the ROC later legally assert their claim if they decide today to declare themselves an independent nation?

  • I'm not sure the 'question is irrelevant' at all. Moot maybe, but most assuredly relevant to world events.
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 16 '19 at 18:43
  • @CGCampbell in the context of the question irrelevant is not incorrect, but ya, overall moot is a more accurate term.
    – holaymolay
    Oct 18 '19 at 5:55

Let me first address the incorrect picture of the cross-strait relations that underlies your question.

You assume that there are actual, realistic claims to mainland China. Let me put this straight: there is basically no sane Taiwanese, politician or non-politician, who believes in such claims at their face value. The last person who might have believed that that Taiwan and mainland China would at some point unite as the Republic of China was president Chiang Ching-kuo, who died in 1988. The only time I've seen a modern Taiwanese claiming the mainland was in a satirical TV show.

If there is a claim, it is only because most Taiwanese are OK with the status quo, and removing the claim from the constitution would make Taiwan look more like an actual country different from China, and Beijing doesn't want that. As paradoxical as it may seem, Beijing wants Taiwan to claim mainland China, because it makes the cross-strait relations look more like an internal Chinese affair. On the other hand, there is basically no one in Taiwan who wants to make the Taipei government rule over whole China, and there are less than 5% who would like to unify with PRC any time soon. The latter want unification under the leadership of Beijing, so the ROC claims are irrelevant for them.

The remaining ~95% of the people in Taiwan want to continue the de facto separation between Taiwan and China, and are simply disagreeing about the means:

  • Most Taiwanese seem OK with keeping the status quo infinitely. In other words, they don't really care if their country is formally recognised, as long as they can travel abroad with their ROC passports and as long as Taiwan can have its embassies (called "Taipei Economic and Cultural Office" so as not to anger China) abroad. And those Taiwanese are also OK with keeping the phony claims, which let Beijing "save face" by saying: "see, Taiwan is China, even the Taipei government admits that".

  • Some Taiwanese would be OK with uniting with China under some unrealistic assumptions (e.g. China getting democratic). This is not going to happen anytime soon, so there is not much to discuss here. In any case, they don't understand unification as "taking the mainland under the control of the Taipei government", so the claims are not relevant for them.

  • Some Taiwanese believe Taiwan should declare independence. And here is the answer to your question: Yes, that would mean relinquishing the phony claims, but as I have stressed, nobody cares about them anyway. The problem with declaring independence is that it will anger Beijing, and may lead to a Chinese invasion. And even if there is no invasion, China will not let the Republic of Taiwan enter the UN, so the international position of Taiwan won't really improve.

  • Yesterday's editorial in Taipei Times on some of the above-mentioned issues: Not the time to abolish the ROC
    – michau
    Oct 31 '19 at 23:29
  • It's worth noting that Taiwan also has reason to be concerned that a formal declaration of independence would cost them support from America. American policy officially is to treat any move by either side to unilaterally change the "status quo" as a "grave" matter. When President Chen was talking about that kind of thing too much he lost a lot of support from President Bush.
    – Readin
    Apr 2 '21 at 4:53

The question of Taiwan's status is somewhat more complex than you have summarised here, to the extent that Wikipedia has a whole series of articles on it; a good place to start is probably Political status of Taiwan.

There are at least three mutually exclusive claims:

  • That Taiwan should be ruled by the current government in Beijing, the People's Republic of China.
  • That the government in Taipei is the rightful government of Mainland China, and is a government in exile, with the mainland occupied by rebels.
  • That both governments are legitimate rulers of different territory, and the government in Taipei should either seek recognition as an independent Republic of Taiwan, or formally relinquish its claim to the mainland.

In order for international relations to change, the government would need to assert one of these three positions, and persuade other countries to also accept that position. The government in Beijing asserts the first position, and there are also disputes over what territories the province - and thus the notional independent state - should include.

A country such as the USA formally acknowledging that the territory is a separate state would immediately strain their relations with the People's Republic of China; they might well decide to avoid that by siding against the new "independent" state.

Regarding your last question - if they dropped the claim now, could they reassert it later - the answer is certainly yes. Whether any other country acknowledged that claim would depend on the details of the situation at the time. The sovereignty and extent of countries is not like the ownership of a house; there is no universal set of rules and authorities as to who can "rightfully" claim what - if there were, the question would be moot.


"Assert their claim" how? In what court? Under whose jurisdiction? How would such a judgment be enforced?

Claims have no meaning in geopolitical disputes over territory. States acquire or lose lands through armed conflict and treaties.

  • 1
    was it not apparent by my preface that I understood this?
    – holaymolay
    Oct 20 '19 at 0:01
  • It is apparent from your question that you misunderstand this.
    – klojj
    Oct 20 '19 at 0:17
  • You're wrong, "Making the question irrelevant as to which government is the rightful government.... It seems unlikely that the Government in Taiwan will ever be able to reassert control over the mainland again..."
    – holaymolay
    Oct 20 '19 at 0:24
  • "Could the ROC later legally assert their claim if they decide today to declare themselves an independent nation?"
    – klojj
    Oct 20 '19 at 0:42
  • Right. Assuming, the CCP loses power and the ROC is in a position to assert their claim -- something I mentioned in my question -- militarily, I'm wondering if any international powers would intervene and prevent such a takeover.
    – holaymolay
    Oct 20 '19 at 1:09

I don't think their goal was ever to claim independence. Rather it is that they are the Republic Of China, and the PRC doesn't like that word.

So declaring Independence as the Republic of China is the same as saying they are the real China.

  • This answer could be improved by citing sources.
    – gerrit
    Oct 17 '19 at 10:43
  • According to the historical record (Wikipedia), The Republic of China (ROC) was a sovereign country that existed between 1912 and 1949 based in Mainland China, which is now controlled by the People's Republic of China. In other words they were the government of mainland China, once upon a time. Which means they do have a claim. Do they not?
    – holaymolay
    Oct 20 '19 at 0:10

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