Taiwan: The Threatened Democracy by Bruce Hershensohn begins by proclaiming that it is “biased in support of liberty”, which is an interesting way of saying heavily anti-PRC. The main idea of the book is that Taiwan is a “free democracy” the PRC is not, and so the PRC should be stopped. I don’t think it would matter to Hershensohn what exactly the PRC wanted, he would be against it out of principle. The book focuses on why the PRC is the bad guy much more than why Taiwan is the good guy.
Hershensohn goes over much of the history of the PRC and Taiwan since 1949, but only so that he can point out all of the bad things the PRC. While he goes over PRC topics as varied as forced abortions and aggressive diplomatic postures against Taiwan, he seems to go out of his way to ignore Taiwan’s faults. For example, the initial decision that countries must choose between diplomatically recognizing the PRC or the ROC was in fact the ROC’s, as a way to prevent the PRC from gaining international recognition, this is glossed over.
One of the books main lines of arguments in he book is that the PRC claims that agreements between states are binding – and then he points out all of the agreements before 1949 that the PRC ignores, mostly from the Qing dynasty era. He pushes this contradiction as proof that China is duplicitous and power hungry. Unfortunately this argument has obvious counter arguments that he never addresses. If those treaties were unfair or coercive then the PRC can hardly be blamed for breaking them, much like the Treaty of Versailles was so punitive that many people consider it one of the main instigators in pushing the Nazis into power in Germany.
The other main topic covered in this book is how the US’s dimplomatic relations with China and Taiwan have changed over time, and especially how the US State Department has been involved. Hershensohn has the view that the State department is full of a PRC toadies just waiting to throw Taiwan under the nearest bus. It was interesting to see his assessment of how the understanding of the main diplomatic statements the US has made has shifted. The Three Communiqués – the Shangai Communiqué, the Carter Communiqué, and the Regan Communiqué – are broken down and analyzed in the context of what was happening at the time in a very interesting way.
This a short book but one that I wouldn’t recommend to someone just beginning to read about China and Taiwan. I feel like its bias is too strong to give a proper overview of the situation. On the other hand, for someone who already has an understanding it could be fun to read a book as heavily biased as this one is, just to feel out the sides of the arguments.