How strong is China’s claim to Taiwan? And what about Mongolia?

Taiwan has been settled for at least 25,000 years. Ancestors of Taiwanese indigenous peoples settled the island around 6,000 years ago. In the 17th century, large-scale Han Chinese immigration to western Taiwan began under a Dutch colony and continued under the Kingdom of Tungning. The island was annexed in 1683 by the Qing dynasty of China, but ceded to the Empire of Japan in 1895.

The Republic of China (ROC), which had overthrown the Qing in 1911, took control of Taiwan on behalf of the Allies of World War II following the surrender of Japan in 1945. The resumption of the Chinese Civil War resulted in the ROC’s loss of mainland China to forces of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and consequent retreat to Taiwan in 1949. Its effective jurisdiction has since been limited to Taiwan and smaller islands.

So China controlled Taiwan for two centuries before surrendering control over a century ago. Communist China has never controlled Taiwan.

What about Mongolia?

In the 16th century, Tibetan Buddhism spread to Mongolia, being further led by the Manchu-founded Qing dynasty, which absorbed the country in the 17th century. However, after the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911, Mongolia declared independence and achieved actual independence from the Republic of China (ROC) in 1921. At a stroke, China lost some 1.5M square kilometres of land or about 14% of its total territory.

Shortly afterwards, the country became a satellite state of the Soviet Union, which had aided its independence from China. In 1924, the Mongolian People’s Republic was founded as a socialist state. After the anti-communist revolutions of 1989, Mongolia conducted its own peaceful democratic revolution in early 1990.

So, after three centuries of controlling Mongolia, China has not been in control of the territory for the last century and it has shown no interest in regaining the territory.

Why does China want to take over Taiwan and not Mongolia?

It cannot be a matter of geographical size. Taiwan is a tiny fraction of the area of Mongolia which is the 18th largest country in the world. It could be a question of population: Mongolia only has 3.4M citizens compared to Taiwan’s 23M. It could be a matter of wealth. Mongolia has nothing to offer China, but Taiwan is a thriving economy of world-wide importance (two-thirds of all the most advanced chips are manufactured in the country).

Above all, it is a matter of ethnicity and politics. There are no Han Chinese in Mongolia but 95% of Taiwanese are Han. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees control of Taiwan as unfinished business from the civil war. The Chinese Civil War was fought between the Kuomintang-led government of the Republic of China (ROC) and forces of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), on and off between 1927 and 1949 when the Communists completed control of mainland China and the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan. For the CCP, the war is not over and the country remains to be fully united.


  • Ting

    Hi Roger, what an interesting angle. Being a Chinese and grown up in mainland China, I can still quote the textbook, ‘台湾是祖国不可分割的一部分’ (‘Taiwan is part of China, non separable from the mainland’). Here is what I found hard in the debate: it’s not the fact or evidence or history that you presented, but the perception and belief. Unfortunately CCP has turned the vast majority of its people to his royal followers on this point. This is the biggest challenge to the western democracy – dealing with the Chinese people, lots of whom are brainwashed but innocent.

  • Chris Clarke

    You omitted the invasion and rule by the Nationalist Chinese in Taiwan, as they fled the mainland at the end of WW2. They took with them the looted artifacts that make the museums of Taiwan the best place to see Chinese historical arts ad crafts.
    They took over the Island with extreme brutality and ruled by dictatorship.
    The PRC never signed a peace treaty with the Nationalists. Part of its claim stems from that. Much of the rest is emotional.
    The US has no claim on Taiwan. It might consider returning the territories and bases it rules around the world before it postures over Taiwan. Those in Okinawa, the Philippines and Cuba would be a start.


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