James W. Pfister
The United States tried to protect the subject of South Vietnam. South Vietnam fell into the hands of our enemy, North Vietnam, on April 30, 1975. Vietnam is now a unified state under international law.
President Joe Biden has said at least four times that the United States will defend Taiwan against China’s attempts to reunify it by force. Of course, there are big differences between the two cases. Taiwan is a more cohesive and economically developed entity than South Vietnam. And the threat of nuclear war is much higher with Taiwan. However, both stories share important similarities: both were united by a historically dominant entity, both were divided by a more powerful external aggressor, and both experienced the intervention of the United States to disrupt the unification process. Also, both were a way for the United States to get out of its peripheral influence on China. Both events can be considered a civil war in which the domino theory should not apply. We made a mistake with Vietnam. Will we make the same mistake with Taiwan again?
In the 16th century, Vietnam was divided into three: Mac, Trinh and Nguyen. The country was unified on June 1, 1802 under Nguyen An, who took the title of Gia Long. The Vietnamese began to break away from French colonialism in the 1860s and were firmly under French control by the 1880s.
In Taiwan, the island was controlled by China in 1683, which drove out the Dutch and the Spanish. It became a province of China. However, as a result of the Sino-Japanese War and the Treaty of Shimonoseki on April 17, 1895, China lost Taiwan to the Japanese.
Thus, in both cases, the dominant entity gained sovereignty and ownership over the weaker entity until it was lost by a stronger external power in the late 19th century. The aim of both powerful entities was to regain that independence and the ownership they had previously had.
In Vietnam, France was defeated by Vietnamese nationalists at Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954. The United States paid 80% of France’s war expenses. The agreement of the Geneva Conference of July 21, 1954 provided for the honorable withdrawal of France and the election in July 1956 that would be the basis for reunification with the dominant Vietnam.
In Taiwan, the Japanese were expelled as a result of World War II. A Chinese government officer accepted the surrender of the Japanese in Taiwan on October 25, 1945. The Chinese Nationalists were defeated in the Chinese Civil War; On October 1, 1949, Mao Tse-tung announced the People’s Republic of China (hereinafter referred to as the People’s Republic of China) in Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party, referring to the 1943 Cairo Declaration, announced that Taiwan should be returned to China, Frank S. Xiao and Lawrence R. Sullivan, “The Chinese Communist Party and the Status of Taiwan”, 1979. Taiwan was considered the PRC. A province in the constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
The United States intervened in both Vietnam and Taiwan. In Vietnam, the United States refused to accept the Geneva Conference and responded with the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (hereafter SEATO), a defense alliance against communism, which contradicted the Geneva accords and allowed South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. , may be protected by SEATO as a “protocol” entity.
In Taiwan, the United States sent the 7th Fleet into the Taiwan Strait during the Korean War, and in 1955, the Taiwan Defense Treaty with Chiang Kai-shek prevented unification. After the United States recognized the PRC as the government of all of China on January 1, 1979, including Taiwan (the One China Policy) and terminated the said defense treaty, the United States enacted the Taiwan Relations Act. Our defense relationship with Taiwan has created our current strategic ambivalence toward China.
Again, as in South Vietnam, we are defending a weaker entity allied with a historically dominant organization. In both cases we intervened to prevent the natural outcome of the merger. We should repeal the Taiwan Relations Act and mind our own business instead of wasting lives and money on another loss.
James W. Pfister, JD University of Toledo, Ph.D. University of Michigan (Political Science), retired after 46 years in the Department of Political Science at Eastern Michigan University. He lives in Devils Lake and can be contacted[email protected].