Four-Stage Theory of the Republic of China

The Four-Stage Theory of the Republic of China or the Theory of the Four Stages of the Republic of China (Chinese: 中華民國四階段論; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Mínguó Sì Jiēduàn Lùn) is a controversial viewpoint proposed by Chen Shui-bian, the previous (10th and 11th terms) President of the Republic of China. It is a controversial viewpoint regarding the political status of the Republic of China, whose government retreated to Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War in 1949. The main idea of the theory is that the time line for the development of the Republic of China can be classified into four stages, which are:

  1. The Republic of China on the mainland. (Chinese: 中華民國在大陸) (1912–1949)
  2. The Republic of China arrival to Taiwan. (Chinese: 中華民國來臺灣) (before Lee Teng-hui's presidency) (1949–1988)
  3. The Republic of China on Taiwan. (Chinese: 中華民國在臺灣) (during Lee Teng-hui's presidency) (1988–2000)
  4. The Republic of China is Taiwan. (Chinese: 中華民國是臺灣) (during Chen Shui-bian's presidency) (2000–2008)

By this theory, Chen pointed out that the Republic of China was then at the 4th stage. That is, Taiwan is an already independent state separated from mainland China, and is called the "Republic of China". This theory is welcomed by the mainstream of the Pan-Green coalition (led by the Democratic Progressive Party) in Taiwan, which supports eventual de jure Taiwan independence; but is not welcomed by most members of the Pan-Blue coalition (Kuomintang), which supports eventual reunifying Taiwan with mainland China as part of a single Chinese nation. Some members of the more strongly pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union also opposes this view since they deem the ROC to be an illegitimate foreign regime that should be replaced by the proposed 'Republic of Taiwan'. The Pan-Blue Coalition agrees with the first three stages, but disagrees with the fourth stage, and prefers to maintain the distinction between the "Republic of China" (the polity) and "Taiwan" (part of the territory the polity governs). The government of the People's Republic of China has also voiced opposition against fourth stage on the grounds that such an interpretation is a step closer to de jure Taiwan independence. (Officially, the PRC only recognizes the existence of the ROC until 1949.)

During the Kuomintang (KMT) administration under Lee Teng-hui, the government frequently referred to the polity as the "Republic of China on Taiwan." This term was first publicly and officially used in his speech at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States in 1995. It was used to identify the Republic of China with its remaining major component – the island of Taiwan, as opposed to its decades-long claim to all China since losing the civil war in 1949. Prior to this speech, government officials used "Republic of China" when the name of the state was used. Lee's usage is considered as a departure from the convention, as this usage can be interpreted in the sense that the Republic of China's sovereignty does not extend to mainland China.

During the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration under Chen Shui-bian, he directed that all government publications and websites to use the form "Republic of China (Taiwan)." These two variations have been used under their respective administrations for the ROC petition to join the United Nations. Unlike the Cold War era when the ROC competed with the PRC as the legitimate representative of China (including Taiwan), during Chen Shui-bian's presidency, the ROC did not seek to be the representative of China (i.e. it does not seek the PRC's seat on the Security Council or its ouster) and stresses in its petitions that it was only seeking to represent the people of the land under its effective control.

In 1 April 2008, when the then President-elect Ma Ying-jeou met with President Chen Shui-bian for government handover matters, Chen expanded his four-stage theory and expressed the view that under Ma Ying-jeou's presidency the Republic of China will progress into the stage of:-

5. Taiwan really is the Republic of China (Chinese: 臺灣就是中華民國) (2008-Today)

Ma Ying-jeou earlier during this meeting expressed the view that the Republic of China is an independent sovereign state, and currently its main territories are island groups of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu. Taiwan's official name is the Republic of China, and "Taiwan" is the name that common people use to refer to the Republic of China. During Ma Ying-jeou's presidency, all government publications and websites retain the form of "Republic of China (Taiwan)" in English, which it inherited from Chen Shui-bian's presidency, but the "(Taiwan)" remark to the Republic of China has been removed in the Chinese version. English speakers commonly refer to the Republic of China as "Taiwan" because the name "Republic of China" is not well known to English speakers, but as the name is known to the Chinese speaking population, the current administration believes "Taiwan" remark in Chinese version is no longer necessary.

See also


External links

  • TIME: Strait Talk: The full interview (with Chen Shui-bian)
  • China Daily: Spokesman hits Chen on provocative speech
  • President Chen's Address to the National Day Rally (2004)
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