The One-China Principle


3-01-05, 10:45 pm

Author’s Note: As we were coming to the end of writing this paper, on December 12 and 13, 2004, there was a major shift in the political lineup in Taiwan. The coalition that includes President Chen Shui-bian’s party had been widely favored to increase its influence over the legislature; but the three party opposition known as the 'blue team' rallied, winning 114 of the total 225 seats, the president’s coalition, the 'green team,' finished with 101. Lien Chan, leader of the Nationalists, the largest opposition party, hailed the victory with a statement, 'that all people want stability in this country and want to continue to develop.'
There were also indications that trade with the Mainland, having propelled a vigorous economic recovery this year, generated a more conciliatory Taiwanese stance both among business people and the public. In sum, pragmatic voters see gains from a reduction in hostility to Beijing.

Following the meeting in Beijing between Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China, and Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, on October 25, 2004, President Hu observed in recent years that overall US-China relations will keep advancing, in his opinion, so long as the two countries proceed from a strategic and long-term point of view.

Secretary Powell also noted that during his tenure, US-China relations had achieved great progress on the basis of mutual respect and cooperation. He remarked that President Bush attaches great importance to the development of mutually beneficial and cooperative relations and the constructive role China plays in such major international issues as anti-terrorism and the Sudan. The US, he said, will, as always, continue to resolutely support the One China Policy and oppose any activities leading to 'Taiwan independence.'

Notwithstanding these mutually constructive remarks, President Hu pointed out that the current situation across the Taiwan Straits remained complex and sensitive; the activities of separatist forces for 'Taiwan independence' are the root cause of tense cross-Strait relations and 'the most serious threat to peace and stability.' In fact, this is probably the most globally incendiary point that might affect beneficial developments for all in the 21st century.

While it is true that three US presidential regimes have joined in communiqués recognizing the validity of the One China Principle, at the same time, the US has established independent relations with Taiwan and supplied them with armaments. In fact, Formosa (its ancient name) has, for centuries, been a province of China with relatively independent administration as is historically the case with all their provinces. Nevertheless the US, under pressure from Churchill, agreed to British sponsorship of Taiwanese occupancy of China’s permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council from its outset until early 1971 when a majority of nations in the UN assembly moved for recognition of Beijing as the true representative. Furthermore, the US has raised questions about ambiguities in the communiqués and particularly about Taiwanese sovereignty.

How did Chinese history evolve to that point and, more specifically, when did direct US-China relations begin and what has been its role? In 1945, during the Civil War in China (that continued after the defeat of Japan, as the Kuomintang retreated towards Taiwan), the United States threatened naval intervention which allowed for de facto occupation of Taiwan by Chiang Kai Shek’s remnants of the defeated National Army forces.

It is common knowledge that China was subjected to European imperialism, particularly the British, during the 19th century. During the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and the latter part of the previous century, the United States, for the first time, took part in the imperialist domination of China when it acted as arbiter to establish extraterritorial rights for the occupying powers which never included the USA.

Early in the 20th century (1910) Sun Yat Sen led the first democratic revolution ending Chinese dynastic rule. However, in 1914 the world became embroiled in an inter-imperialist World War. The outcome shifted the interests of capitalistic imperialism to the suppression of 'proletarian' revolutions in Eastern Europe, of particular importance in Germany and in Russia where following four years of civil war, the USSR was established. The Russian Revolution and its socialist, humanistic promise impressed Sun Yat Sen, who invited the fledgling Chinese Communist Party to join in the Kuomintang as the embodiment of a democratic coalition. But Sun Yat Sen died shortly thereafter. In 1927 Chiang Kai Shek split the Kuomintang and forced the Communists into the Great March to the West where they formed a new base supported by the peasants and loyal workers from the East. They formed a Red Army for defense during the 1930s when the Japanese then invaded Korea and China.

During World War II, General Stillwell was sent to train the anti-Japanese armed forces. Not only were nationalist Kuomintang army units trained, but in the Communist controlled areas the Eighth Route Army was formed. The nationalist army dragged its feet in the war against Japan. It maneuvered into a confrontation with the Eighth Route Army. Under the leadership of Mao Zedong, the Communists captured Shiang Kai Shek; but were persuaded by Stalin to free him in a compromise in which he promised to prosecute the war against the Japanese, a promise he broke and precipitated an all-out civil war between the National Armies and the two Communist armies – the Red Army and the Eighth Route Army. This was truly a historic form of civil war between forces representing two main directions for the Chinese nation – a 'bourgeois' and a 'proletarian' controlled state (capitalist vs. socialist). Chiang Kai Shek retreated taking many of the national treasures to the islands of Quemoy and Matsu in the Taiwan Straits. The Red Armies, in pursuit, were ready to launch a naval attack on the islands from the mainland before he could move to Formosa (Taiwan).

From an objective point of view, the US, by threatening to intervene in a Civil War with naval action against the Red Army’s pursuit, was an interference in the internal affairs of the country. With tensions mounting in the USA over involvement in an East Asian conflict, in the weeks before Easter 1945, a movement developed against escalation into an international war that had nothing to do with the defeat of Hitler and Hirohito. This writer, in fact, organized a 'LIVE AND LET LIVE' movement among religious and public leaders, prominent educators and businessmen issuing a statement that appeared in advertisements: In this moment of Easter – Passover rejoicing, when all peoples of the Judeo-Christian faiths rededicate themselves to the hope, freedom and new life inherent in all faiths, we pause to consider the impasse in our country’s foreign policy…. The horrible prospect of atomic warfare made possible by man’s mastery of the infinite forces of nature has brought us to the era when men must find the way to solve even the most difficult international problems through negotiation and compromise.

We, therefore, urge upon our government a re-evaluation of our total foreign policy to bring it into focus with a changing world. For the first time in the history of US-China relations, a seven-point program was annunciated for peaceful coexistence between our countries. We summarize the seven points...
Shortly thereafter, all parties withdrew. Chiang Kai Shek’s forces made their way to Taiwan and had a peaceful interval to establish a local government. This was not unusual: from a historical perspective, the dynastic Chinese central governments tolerated local independence provided this did not lead to separatism. It was not unusual for warlords to establish and run local governments. In fact, this is one of the obstacles faced by the Communist-led government in Beijing today in its efforts to unify and modernize the country.

Thus began the split of a Chinese province with a distinct intent of separation. On again, off again maneuvers by the Kuomintang and Western powers continued throughout the second half of the 20th century.

Two years later the United Nations was formally established as a center for compromise between two worlds and the very same year Churchill, at the behest of the right wing in the USA, enunciated the beginning of the Cold War. During this time the PRC, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, followed the basic centralized command structure of the USSR.

The explosion of a hydrogen bomb by the USSR established a balance of terror in a divided world. The Soviet Union assisted the beginning of Chinese industrialization – except for sharing knowledge of nuclear power. On the other hand, Mao insisted that China would not be a 'junior partner' in a socialist alliance. This led to a split in 1957, followed by 20 years of floundering and searching for direction through the so-called 'Great Leap Forward' and the ten-year 'Cultural Revolution.' As Mao deteriorated, a Gang of Four (which included his wife) sought to perpetuate the turmoil but was defeated after a sharp struggle registered for history on 'a democracy wall' led by Chou En-lai and leaders he had saved like Deng Xiaoping. After Mao’s death, Chou En-lai, in 1975 (his last year), proposed a new road for China’s socialist development, debated in 1976 and established as policy direction in 1978 – a turning point in Chinese and in world history.

Essentially the new direction entailed modernization of its means of production and the establishment of market relations on the assumption that it would be regulated and consistent with the central planning of a socialist society. Furthermore, the reforms included encouragement of enterprise, legitimation of private property and an invitation to foreign capital to bring in manufacturing and high tech industries. Provinces like Hong Kong and Macao, as well as Taiwan, continued with capitalism, giving rise to Deng’s characterization of the Chinese economy as being 'one country – two systems.' While the return of Hong Kong and Macao to Chinese political jurisdiction was already contemplated based upon contractual relations, which were drawing to a close, Taiwan differed in that context since it had never been occupied by a foreign power. Nonetheless, the pledge of the central government to respect capitalist relations in these provinces is an umbrella that includes Taiwan. Taiwan, in essence, became a military protectorate of the US, was sponsored in international circles and favored economically with investment and trade, becoming one of the outstanding world producers of plastics and later, electronics. Its economic integration developed with the West before mainland modernization. Cross-channel investments did not begin until the modernization program was well under way in the late 1980s and in high gear in the 1990s. Though the Kuomintang oriented government continued to pressure enterprises against moving facilities to the mainland, that changed with the unprecedented growth of China’s economy in the eastern and southern provinces across the Straits. Taiwan continued to hold the Security Council seat until 1971, just before the Nixon rapprochement.

The Nixon administration, seeking to neutralize China during the Cold War and taking advantage of the 15-year split with the Soviet Union, made contact and visited Beijing to open relations. Notably this was also the period during which the Assembly in the United Nations moved to remove Taiwan’s representation in the China seat of the Security Council and recognize the legitimacy of the central government in Beijing.

By 1971, a new stage in the progression of US-China relations began with Kissinger’s private visit to Beijing followed by Nixon’s conference with Mao and Chou En-lai and the promulgation of the Shanghai communiqué, the first US commitment to the One China Principle. Since then, successive presidents twice reconfirmed this principle in three communiqués.

However, the USA raised new questions, which established an aura of ambiguity in the wordings of the key statements and their essential contents. In a study by the Congressional Research Service, part of Library of Congress, prepared for Congress in 2001, they stated: There are several complicating issues about the language in the statements. First, China’ in the ‘one China’ principle was not defined in the three joint communiqués. In the Normalization Communiqué, the United States recognized the PRC government as the sole legal government of China, but the PRC has never ruled Taiwan and other islands under the control of the ROC government. However, the US statement of December 1978 on normalization state the expectation that the Taiwan question ‘will be settled’ peacefully by the Chinese themselves. The TRA also stipulated the US expectation that the future of Taiwan ‘will be determined’ by peaceful means. The issues of the PRC’s possible use of force, US arms sales to Taiwan, and possible US defense of Taiwan have remained contentious.

In 1979, the Taiwan Relations Act in the Congress required the United States to provide defense articles and services to Taiwan and to consider, 'with grave concern,' any non-peaceful means to determine Taiwan’s future. However, since the late 1990s, members of Congress have been in a new debate over whether 'ambiguity' in US statements about the US military role continues to serve US interests in a peaceful outcome. In fact, the question of 'ambiguity' and other issues were debated in the 106th Congress in 1999 following a projection from the Heritage Foundation for a 'New American Century' and the defense of Taiwan by 23 conservatives including Richard Armitage and Paul Wolfowitz. This is a clarion call for the US use of force and a provocation to China. It should be noted that the claim of 'ambiguities' tends to be a fig leaf for aggressive determination of the outcome of the internal conflict in China.

On the question of use of force, the US insists that any understanding it came to precludes the use of force and bases any solutions only on peaceful means without consideration of provocations by Taiwan and its allies.

It is clear that the right wing in the US is determined to support the separation of Taiwan from China just as it backs Tibetan separation and, one suspects, the Falongong movement, whose leader resides in the USA.

Adding to the tensions in the region, Beijing announced in 2003 that they had developed a submarine that cannot be detected by existing surveillance equipment. It sent a ripple through Taiwan, Japan and the US. A side issue between China and Japan over natural gas deposits in the China Sea also added concern. In the fall of 2004 the Japanese made an effort to detect the submarine in a three-day aerial reconnaissance which failed. In early December, the Japanese government announced plans to initiate an armaments program reversing their non-militarist policy since the end of World War II. We expect the PRC to find some diplomatic resolution of the natural gas question, probably find some way of sharing with Japan. As for the submarine, its significance is two fold; the mainland has demonstrated unanticipated capabilities for defense or offense, though they have not been saber-rattling since testing bombs in near Taiwanese waters two years ago.

A spokesman for the Chinese Central Government, Zhang Mingquing, of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council of the PRC, addressed the current situation at a press conference on October 13th of this year.

'Since May,' he said, ‘the Taiwan authorities led by Chen Shui-bian has been gradually escalating separatist activities for Taiwan independence, both in Taiwan and internationally,’ listing a number of activities. These include: Trying to separate Taiwan from China through the so-called constitutional reform.

Trying to reduce the prominence of China in the official title of Taiwan; Continuing to push for Taiwan joining the United Nations; speeding up arms purchases and even clamoring for war with the mainland; denial of the fact that Taiwan is part of China and obstinately sticks to the stand of ‘one country on each side across the Straits;’ An October 10th speech by Chen that ‘The Republic of China is Taiwan and Taiwan is the Republic of China,’ promoting separatist activities for ‘Taiwan independence,’ which constitutes the biggest threat to security to the Asian Pacific region.

He said finally that the mainland has been repeatedly calling for early resumption of cross-Strait dialogue and talks on the basis of the One China principle and shelving political disputes. Chen Shui-bian’s proposal for State-to-State negotiations does not reflect the fact that there are no two sovereignties that would legitimize equal level discussions. Taiwan, historically, is a province of China and can negotiate for peaceful relations in that context with a promise of prosperity and stability for the Asian Pacific region and hence, the world.

As we write, Chen Shui-bian has indicated that he may quit the party. He took full responsibility for the defeat of the coalition of political parties advocating moves towards separation.

'People have made their choices. Let’s take it as a starting point for cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties,' Chen said in a televised speech. 'Let’s turn our competition into a force for pushing the nation forward.'

The opposition leader Lien Chan celebrated his group’s victory in the last four major elections. No doubt, Taiwanese people are recognizing that they are part of a country that is giving leadership in the 21st century to stability and economic development, which has already accrued to their benefit.

It is now possible that US military sales to Taiwan will diminish under new pressures against the $18 billion request of the Chen Administration. The Beijing government has, in its diplomatic wisdom, maintained its dignity.

There is no doubt that the possibility for peaceful reunification of China has taken a positive turn that will require rethinking by the second Bush Administration. There will be pressures to slow up the economic development of China as a whole; but the separation of Taiwan is no longer in sight.