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Vice President William Lai (賴清德) has no plans for Taiwan to formally declare independence if elected president in next year’s election, he told Bloomberg Businessweek in an interview published on Tuesday.

“Taiwan is already a sovereign, independent country called the Republic of China,” and “there are no plans to change the name of our country,” Lai said.

The statement was perhaps a response to questions surrounding Lai’s past description of himself as a “pragmatic worker for Taiwan independence.”

Nevertheless, it is inconsequential whether Taiwan declares independence since, as Lai himself said, the nation already has de facto independence. Whether or not that independence is recognized by the UN or other parties, Taiwan is in control of its own administrative affairs.

However, a crucial precursor to other nations including the US recognizing that independence and establishing formal diplomatic relations would be for Taiwan to amend its laws and Constitution, to remove references to territory now under the administration of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and to recognize the PRC as a separate sovereign nation.

The Taiwanese Constitution does not use the term “mainland,” but it makes reference to “existing national boundaries,” which is phrasing from the original 1947 Constitution.

There are also innumerable laws that stipulate special arrangements for people living in the PRC such as the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例).

Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) did attempt to amend the Constitution, but faced heavy opposition from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). That strong opposition remains in Taiwan today, which is why if Lai is elected he should engage the KMT in discussions and his administration should put this issue to a public vote through a referendum.

Taiwan’s future depends on it formally letting go of outdated and unrealistic territorial claims. For Taiwan’s Constitution to continue to assert sovereignty over PRC territory and modern-day Mongolia is the same as if Italy were to lay claim to France, England, Turkey and other parts of modern Europe and Africa based on the historical extent of the Roman Empire.

Ending such claims and recognizing the PRC’s sovereignty has important national security implications.

Taiwan’s judicial system cannot treat Chinese espionage as foreign aggression due to the nation’s failure to recognize the PRC as a foreign nation, Taiwan Statebuilding Party Chairman Wang Hsing-huan (王興煥) said on Wednesday. As a result, Chinese infiltration efforts in Taiwan have grown rampant, and those caught are shown leniency, he said.

There is no need for Taiwan to change the nation’s name, but Lai should push a “two Chinas” policy, to counter Beijing’s “one China” policy and to assert the nation’s sovereignty.

In a feature story published on April 17, 2018, veteran foreign-affairs researcher and retired US foreign service officer John J. Tkacik Jr wrote that the US followed a “two Chinas” policy throughout the 1970s.

“In 1971, the most vocal opponent of ‘two Chinas’ turned out to be Taiwan’s then-president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), and not the PRC’s founding father Mao Zedong (毛澤東),” he wrote.

Since then, the KMT has been unwavering in its opposition to a “two Chinas” policy and recognition of the PRC, which has put the US in a precarious situation. Perhaps it seemed to Chiang that there was hope for Taiwan to defeat the People’s Liberation Army and to “take back the mainland,” but that is nowhere near a possibility in modern times, nor is it the aim of Taiwanese in general.

Taiwan must clearly define the nation as the territory currently under its administration, and formally recognize the PRC as a foreign nation.

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