Sat, Jul 12, 2003 - Page 8 News List

The pitfalls of the US' China policy

By Li Thian-hok 李天福

The PRC insists on the "one China" principle as the foundation of its policy toward Taiwan. The principle is a syllogism which runs as follows: There is only one China. The PRC is the sole, legitimate government of all China, of which Taiwan is a part. Therefore, Taiwan is subject to the sovereignty of the PRC, under the authority of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The US government, on the other hand, says it abides by the "one China" policy, often without explaining what is meant by the phrase. There are at least three substantive differences between the positions of Washington and Beijing.

First, China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, based on flimsy legal and historical grounds. The US merely acknowledges (ie, takes note of) the fact that the "Chinese" on both sides of the Taiwan strait claim Taiwan is part of China. The US has never recognized (ie, accepted) the PRC's sovereignty claim. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Jim Kelly has reiterated this point, citing former president Ronald Reagan's "six assurances." House Majority Leader Tom DeLay also emphasized this fact in his June 2 speech at the American Enterprise Institute and added that US "recognition of Beijing's territorial claims over Taiwan ... never will exist."

Second, as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), the US considers "any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means ... a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States." The three communiques are also predicated on peaceful settlement. China, however, has reneged on this agreement, having won US recognition of the PRC and other concessions. China insists on its "right" to use force against Taiwan, in order to gratify its expansionist ambitions.

Finally, the US maintains that any determination of the future status of Taiwan must have the assent of the people of Taiwan. China's position is that Taiwan's status should be determined by the 1.3 billion Chinese living under the CCP's control. The 23 million Taiwanese do not have a say in the choice between freedom and servitude.

Chinese officials and Beijing's diplomats have cleverly tried to portray the US' "one China" policy as one and the same as Beijing's "one China" principle. By repeating the "one China" policy mantra without any elaboration, the US government and the media have misled the public and the international community, causing an erroneous perception that America has recognized China's claim of sovereignty over Taiwan and unwittingly served as Beijing's propaganda mouthpiece.

Taiwan's inability to shed the archaic Republic of China constitutional framework also makes it more difficult for the nation to assert its separate sovereignty. The result is dire damage to Taiwan's international standing and the nation's growing isolation in the global community.

If Taiwan were to fall into China's hands, there would be adverse consequences for US strategic, political and economic interests throughout Asia. With China's armed forces controlling the vital sea lanes and air space around Taiwan, Japan's security would be mortally threatened. The damage to America's credibility as a guarantor of peace in East Asia may be so severe that Japan will face the unpalatable choice of either going nuclear or becoming a protectorate of the PRC. In time, the US could well be forced to withdraw from the Western Pacific.

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