Fri, Feb 23, 2001 - Page 13 News List

'Chinese Confederation' versus 'One China'

By Lee Chang-kuei 李長貴

The ROC on Taiwan has consistently maintained that the precondition to negotiation is a reciprocal acknowledgment across the Taiwan Strait that the two sides are equally sovereign states. Recently, PRC Vice Premier Qian Qichen (錢其琛) stated that "the two sides of Taiwan Strait belong to one China." This might seem an innovative approach -- there is at least a hint of equal status here -- but Qian's statement has not yet become formal policy by for instance, being stated by Jiang himself. But China's new statement fell far short of conceding that the ROC on Taiwan is an separate sovereign state. As a result Taipei remains distrustful and baffled by Qian's words.

Had Jiang himself officially stated that "the PRC and the ROC both belong to one China," negotiations for a "Chinese confederation" could easily have become a reality. The battle of words over one China would also ease. A Chinese confederation will, however, find it difficult to take shape against a background of an ambiguously defined one China.

Two Chinas under the ROC Constitution.

The PRC and the ROC are, under international law, both independent sovereign states. The ROC Constitution came into force on Dec. 25, 1947. At that time, both the KMT and the CCP participated in the drafting process, and both China and Taiwan were governed by this Constitution. After the ROC government relocated to Taiwan in 1949, the system and operation of government continues to follow the constitutional framework established in 1947. In addition, through Interpretation 31 of the Council of Grand Justices, the problem over the re-election of the ROC's central government legislative representatives was resolved, preserving the legal system in Taiwan. In 1949, the CCP took over the mainland, declared the adoption of a new state title, national flag, and national anthem, as well as a new constitution. The CCP then went on to announce the establishment of a new country, severing all relations with Taiwan.

In the 32 years from 1949 to 1981, the PRC's relationship with the ROC in Taiwan lacked clear definition in the PRC Constitution. This was the case until the following statement was inserted into the preamble of the PRC Constitution by a constitutional amendment on Dec. 4, 1982 -- "Taiwan is part of the PRC's sacred territory, and completing the unification of the motherland is a sacred task of all Chinese people, including the people of Taiwan." In other words, when the PRC established a new country in 1949, it abandoned Taiwan. Taiwan is part of the ROC, not part of the PRC. This is a historical fact.

The one China principle and "one China, with each side free to make its own interpretation" present constitutional problems. This is because after the CCP changed the name of the country in 1949, the reality of two Chinas was created. The amendment of the PRC Constitution in 1982 sought to fabricate the illusion of "one China." At the time of the Shanghai Communique, the one China the US government "recognized" was neither the ROC nor the PRC. Rather, it was "a China built by peaceful means," and "a future one China."

China has previously waged political warfare through its stance on the one China principle, and "one China, with each side free to make its own interpretation." Now it has made a three-part declaration: "There is only one China in the world; the mainland and Taiwan both belong to this one China; the permanent division of overall Chinese sovereignty and territory will not be tolerated."

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