Taiwan: The Question Of One China – Part I

Taiwan has been one of the core issues that exhibit’s China’s insecurities towards its One China policy. Beijing has consistently hammered this point domestically and overseas that Taiwan has always been a part of Mainland China and has sought diplomatic affirmation from the US, India to countries in Africa and Latin America and even used its economic clout to make countries like Panama etc cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan (2017). Taiwan’s (formerly Republic of China) diplomatic isolation furthered in 2018 when Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic established diplomatic ties with China; snapping official ties with Taiwan. President Tsai of Taiwan has been very aggressive calling the isolation PRC’s “Dollar Diplomacy” wowing that Taiwan won’t back down and continue to push back against One China policy despite the diplomatic setbacks. The unsettled question of Taiwan and One China policy causes Beijing real heartburn. Let us first understand its legacy and history.

The Genesis of One China Policy

In 1684 during the Qing dynasty, Taiwan fell to China and officially became a province of the Chinese Empire in 1885. In the aftermath of the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War; Mainland China’s Qing Dynasty perpetually ceded Formosa (now known as Taiwan) to the Japanese empire with the Treaty of Shimonoseki.

In our book “The New Global Order”, we have documented how the communists in the US State Department sabotaged the war efforts in the Far East and turned a deaf ear to pleas from the Chinese Nationalists led by Chiang Kai Shek leading to the victory of Mao’s communist guerillas in 1949 establishing People’s Republic of China. The Chinese Nationalists or Kuomintang (KMT) under Chiang Kai Shek relocated themselves to Taiwan forming an independent government under the Republic of China which was recognized by western powers at UN. The Kuomintang (KMT) contended that the Republic of China claimed Formosa after Japan’s surrender in August 1945 and with no challenger to the Island of Formosa; it was the true inheritor of the territory.

After the breakout of the Korean War post World War 2, President Truman on June 27, 1950 stated that the “occupation of Formosa by communist forces would be a direct threat to the security of the Pacific area and to United States Forces performing their lawful and necessary functions in that area”. President Truman ordered the 7th Fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa and also called upon the ROC government on Formosa to cease all air and sea operations against the mainland. He added that “the determination of the future status of Formosa must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration by the United Nations”. However, countries like India in Asia and UK, France in Europe began to recognize China and finally, after much resistance by US and KMT; China was admitted into United Nations on 25th October 1971 and given the status of a Permanent Member in UNSC via UNGA resolution no. 2758 by a two-third vote.

“The détente with China and Taiwan’s isolation was solidified when the US in Joint Communique of 1979 under Carter administration sought to recognize People’s Republic of China and established diplomatic relations with it while cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan”

Korean Peninsula Book

China’s UN admission coincided with the secret talks between Nixon Administration (led by Henry Kissinger) and Chairman Mao which culminated into Shanghai Communiqué of 1972. This historic meeting as we all know changed the fate of the Cold War and the rest as we say is history. The declassified memos of conversations between Henry Kissinger and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai document how America again betrayed the Chinese Nationalists by stating to Zhou Enlai that it does not propose a “One China One Taiwan” or “Two China” solution and nor will it back any independence movement in Taiwan to allay Chinese concerns. The US thus left the status of Taiwan unsettled for a time in the future betraying the KMT to co-opt Communist China to decisively win the Cold war against the Soviet Union. The Shanghai Communique of 1972 reflected a position where the US backed China’s claim that Taiwan belongs to China but left the dispute to be settled peacefully between them. The détente with China and Taiwan’s isolation was solidified when the US in Joint Communique of 1979 under Carter administration sought to recognize People’s Republic of China and established diplomatic relations with it while cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The United States again reaffirmed its commitment to One China stating that Taiwan was a part of China.

The Clinton Administration went one step ahead of Carter and Reagan administrations stating the US position as: “The United States reiterates that it adheres to the One China policy and the principles set forth in the three U.S.-China joint communiqués”. In August 1995, President Clinton reportedly sent a secret letter to PRC President Jiang Zemin in which he stated that the US would (1) oppose Taiwan independence; (2) not support “Two Chinas” or One China and One Taiwan and (3) not support Taiwan’s admission to the United Nations. It is also noteworthy that the Clinton administration significantly facilitated the rise of China’s military-industrial complex which we have also documented in our book “The New Global Order”.

The above position of United States more or less continued under the Bush Administration which remained committed to One China principle categorically rejecting the proposed referendums of independence in Taiwan instead seeking a peaceful solution between China and Taiwan. Despite its continued back peddling from endorsing Taiwan’s position, the US has been constantly advocating Taiwan’s membership in bodies like WHO which China has steadfastly opposed citing that Taiwan is simply a province of China. This monkey balancing is not helping Taiwan’s cause but with the emerging bipolarity, this could change.

US – Taiwan Military Ties

While the United States continues to dither on Taiwan’s political and sovereign aspects, it has backed Taiwan’s self-defense with continued arms supplies and defence relationship despite Beijing’s opposition. US arms sales to Taiwan began in the 1950’s with the US-ROC Defense Treaty of 1954 and Formosa Resolution P.L. 84-4. The defence treaty was later scrapped and replaced by Taiwan Relations Act, 1979 (TRA, 1979) which mandated that the US would help Taiwan in self-defense and provide assistance to Taiwan in the case of use of any force on the island. The Reagan Administration continued with same policy in 1982. President George H W Bush in 1992 decided to sell 150 F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan citing the fragile military balance in Strait of Taiwan. In 1995-96, PLA began provocative military exercises in Strait of Taiwan and even fired missiles prompting the Clinton administration to dispatch two aircraft carriers to Strait of Taiwan to prevent any Chinese aggression on the island.

The Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2003 authorized Bush administration to treat Taiwan as a major non-NATO ally (under Section 1206). It also authorized the sale of 4 Kidd class destroyers (Section 1701). President Bush’s amendment of Foreign Services Act, 1980 vide Section 326 in 2003 regarding active overseas personnel was also a significant reform combining training and exchanges of senior personnel to enhance “interoperability” with Taiwan’s military. Thus the US has been arming Taiwan for self-defense even though diplomatically it has remained committed to One China principle. The United States ambiguous policies on Taiwan have been a big irritant for China and are back on the boil after President Trump and President Tsai’s ascension. President Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party have been actively campaigning for Taiwan’s independent identity refusing to endorse the 1992 consensus with China. President Tsai directly called President Trump on his victory, an anomaly further irking Beijing.

“The recent NDAA 2018 passed by US Senate promotes more military ties between US and Taiwan including military exercises between the two navies”

The US Congress passed Taiwan Travel Act in 2017 (TTA) which authorized the US to establish high-level political contacts between the two administrations. The US National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA 2017) authorized the US Navy to have Port of Call by Republic of China’s Navy in Hawaii, Guam and other areas. The recent NDAA 2018 passed by US Senate promotes more military ties between US and Taiwan including military exercises between the two navies. These laws and enhanced military cooperation will surely enrage China. Taiwan’s issue with One China has a long history and has the potential of converting into an active conflict as it strikes at the very root of China’s Once China doctrine. However, China is not one to sit idly and is already making counter moves. How will an assertive Taiwan react to aggressive Chinese moves?

We will expand upon this in the Part -II of this article.

Notes:

  • Burkina Faso resumes ties with China after Taiwan break http://m.startribune.com/burkina-faso-resumes-ties-with-china-after-taiwan-break/483769181/
  • Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume XVII, China, 1969–1972 https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v17/d203
  • Milestones: 1977–1980 – China Policy https://history.state.gov/milestones/1977-1980/china-policy
  • Congressional Research Service, China/Taiwan: Evolution Of The “One China” Policy—Key Statements From Washington, Beijing, And Taipei, June 24, 2011 https://china.usc.edu/congressional-research-service-chinataiwan-evolution-%E2%80%9Cone-china%E2%80%9D-policy%E2%80%94key-statements-washington
  • Taiwan Navy Reportedly Planning Eight Port Calls in 2018 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/taiwan-navy-reportedly-planning-eight-port-calls-2018-hsiao-j-d-
  • US Senate passes 2019 NDAA calling for joint Taiwan-US military drills https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3460870
  • Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on U.S. Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad, record of hearing on November 24, 1969
  • Rein in at the Brink of the Precipice, Stimson Center, 2003

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