August, 1968. The Democratic National Convention convenes in Chicago, and George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy are announced as the nominees of a presidential and vice-presidential ticket. The New Left has formed the first major alliance with the strong labor movement, and Vietnam is only halfway over. The democratic nominees are committed to pulling out of Vietnam by the end of 1969, and mainland China has not met a U.S. president in 21 years. The next president was likely to have a new opportunity to establish new relations with one of two Chinas: the KMT on the island Taiwan or the Communist party known as People’s Republic of China in the mainland. The economic incentives for allying with the PRC have not been propagandized. Taiwan was still under martial law and the 228 Incident was fresh in the minds of the natives and Han descendents. The new Democratic nominee has a choice: to establish ties with the Kuomintang (KMT), which still has an official goal of recapturing mainland (as the PRC still does towards Taiwan circa 2013), or to warm ties with the second largest communist federation in the world, after the USSR.
The Democratic National Committee meets with McGovern and McCarthy after their convention, and evaluate the cost-benefit ratios of the options. If they ally with the PRC, they’ll be able to expand industry dramatically in a diverse amount of sectors, whereas if they ally with Taiwan, they’ll be able to assist a self-sufficient nationalist country that is also on a path towards rapid industrialization. At this time, many center-right diplomats view the PRC and the mainland as a necessary ally against the much larger communist threat, the Soviet Union. However, the DNC, weighing the relatively advanced republic of the KMT compared to the DNC, decide it would be in their best interest to establish a Taiwan Relations Act in light of China’s recent elevation to a nuclear power in 1964. Americans, weary of a growing war in Vietnam and not too enthusiastic about establishing a pact to declare war not not only Japan’s WWII enemy, but also a neighbor of Korea’s Forgotten War. America can weigh the economic pros of trading with the largest developing country in the world in history, or it can retain its monopoly on industrialization by exporting only John Deere tractors to a country experimenting alternatives to the end of The Great Leap Forward in 1961. No toothbrush, no Power Wheels, no plastic factory designed by Mattel and exported to the PRC has been conceived yet. The DNC still has an opportunity to trade with China, but in a much more limited way.
The strategy, is to selectively promote democracy piecemail through projects that carefully encourage industrialization whilst preserving the way of life of a rural, unincorporated commonwealth. The much larger mainland offers resources and immediate rewards, but Taiwan retains a much more concentrated tolerance of traditional Chinese culture, and a cost-benefit ratio would preserve more tradition if 1968 United States were to ally with Taiwan.
The Presidential election is held, debates between the Republican and Democrats are held, and Republican candidate claim the PRC is a “necessary evil” needed to ally with in the larger picture. The Democratic candidate claims Taiwan’s KMT is the “necessary evil” much further ahead the PRC on a path towards a full democracy.
As the citizens are polled, NATO forms preliminary agreements with Taiwan as part of a European-wide Taiwan Relations Act, promising to defend Taiwan in the instance of an invasion by a stronger or stronger-allied opponent. Americans, surprised by Europe’s quick recovery from WWII, are eager to offer competitive offers to Taiwan as a way to win a stake in the South China Sea and related economies.
A Shrewder Choice
Election Day, 1968. The Democratic Party wins the presidency. McGovern and McCarthy, riding high on a wave of European and U.S. Democractic support, meet with the KMT and give a cold shoulder to the ailing Mao. Fidel Castro, still a young leader in Cuba, feels less and less relevant by the day. While still having the Soviet Union as a major subsidizer, the buffer of China offered even more support in the event that the USSR underwent budgetary flooding. The United States begins a policy of exporting John Deer tractors to the PRC, as the sole remedy to the failed Great Leap Forward. On the other side of the sea, Taiwan begins industrializing in every sector fit to crop. Carriers and telecommunications technology are exported, and establish base, as large as Okinawa and USFK.
Angering everyone right of left, The Democrats have a long term goal of making China strong not through direct aid, but as a direct competitor to Taiwan’s growing influence. Eager to win economic contracts, the PRC Standing Committee vies to groom leaders willing to cater to democratic governments in exchange for even the most miniscule improvements technology beyond agriculture. As the free track towards modernity accelerates in Taiwan, a third force intervenes: the Middle East.
Fossil Fuels still being a major source of energy for developing Four Tigers, Taiwan has an opportunity to avoid major talks with burgeoning superpowers and form alliances with prospect-rich and moderately distant countries like Iran and Australia (still under Western-friendly relations). This allows Taiwan to avoid forming alliances viewed incendiary to the PRC while still retaining an opportunity to secure energy resources at a low cost.
As a counter to this, hawkish Democrats and Republicans, still in an icy decade of Cold-War paranoia, yet not nearly as paranoid as the 1955-1965 era, pursue Taiwan even more fervently as a strategy to spread traditional Chinese culture most effectively into the the land most ready to identify with a chance at liberation. Chinese, both from mainland and island nations, are still bitter at U.S. reparations to post-war Japan. With foreign newspapers speculating about similar assistance, Chinese wonder what costs are most beneficial to The Party and which are most beneficial to their culture. As many in Hong Kong experience firsthand, 100 years of British rule suggest Western influence will allow at least an open-analysis of both the present and the past. Mainland China, with a largely agricultural demographic of a total population of 800,000, needs a strong assistant to pull it out of poverty whilst preserving the power of the PRC Politburo.
Too Weak to Intervene
Faced with the choice to preserve its own legacy or risk losing much more, Taiwan initially refuses a pact with the U.S. and chooses to remain neutral in between the conflicts both long-going bilaterally and emerging, trilaterally. The Soviet Union has not yet gone bankrupt, but initially offers support to Taiwan, which is immediately and predictably rejected. Taiwan begins an Asian Spring, in 1969, and experiences an internal struggle. Eventually the KMT is dissolved and an interim government consisting of an independent minded, yet Western-consulted puppet cabinet. This stability initially piques China’s appetite for an invasion, much like a South China Sea Bay of Pigs invasion, but is, like the U.S.’s failed attempt, also thwarted. Instead China takes the opportunity to bid for more democratic industrialization, as a way to outcompete Taiwanese foreign economic policy. This leads to a rapid currency devaluation in both Taiwan and China, yet the outcome is non-violent, and mutual for both nations. The PRC does not cede monopoly as fast as the KMT, but it does not develop industry with obtuse regulatory agencies. The result is a continent developed with more renewable energy technologies than fossil fuels, and a population much more skeptical of unlimited growth potential and finance bubbles. Population grows accordingly to renewable energy advances, rather than short-term stock ups on imported coal and oil, and wealth is found in all strata of Chinese society. This allows China to prosper without the risk of overpopulation through poor education and agricultural dependency, and subsquently is allowed to reduce its population to 500,000 over the course of decades of urbanization and early-stage contraceptives. Further prospering from a relaxed level of population density, Taiwan becomes a democracy in 1976 and is followed by China, becoming a de facto full democracy in the year 1989.