The flags of the Republic of China (ROC) and the People's Republic of China (PRC) have been flying together in Vanuatu for 26 days now. Vanuatu's maintenance of a diplomatic relationship with both Taipei and Beijing is unprecedented in international diplomacy. Whether this model of dual recognition can be maintained depends on the state of cross-strait tensions.
Vanuatu's Prime Minister Serge Vohor told Taiwan's officials at an informal meeting that he looks forward to maintaining dual recognition of both China and Taiwan. It will be worth noting whether Beijing will tacitly accept the situation or actively oppose it. The key to establishing the "Vanuatu model" was Vohor's declaration that Vanuatu respects the "one China policy," while it also has the right to pursue "one Taiwan policy." He said that Vanuatu is a sovereign and independent country which has the freedom to decide which countries it recognizes. Further, the Vanuatu government and its people have a consensus: recognizing both China and Taiwan and receiving economic aid from both parties best serves its welfare and economic development.
In international business, acknowledging both sides of the Taiwan Strait is the international norm. Most countries have relations with Taiwan. They establish their embassies in Beijing and their economic and trade offices in Taipei. Why isn't this international business model adapted for international politics? The situation resembles that of Israel and Palestine. Many countries don't recognize Palestine, but other countries recognize both Israel and Palestine and use their influence to help maintain the peace. The same goes for pre-unified East and West Germany, and North and South Korea. These are models of co-existence between split countries, with both sides hostile to each other.
When the ROC withdrew from the UN, the US hoped both the ROC and PRC would be members. This hope was dashed by former president Chiang Kai-shek (
Taiwan established diplomatic relations with Vanuatu. Since Nov. 3 flags of both the PRC and the ROC have been flying there. This creates new prospects for Taiwan's diplomatic expansion. It remains to be seen if China, too, is looking at the situation in a different way. Vanuatu's dual recognition is a testing ground to see if Taipei and Beijing can put aside a zero-sum war of attrition, arrive at new ways of thinking, and achieve a win-win situation. A successful "Vanuatu model" would contribute enormously toward reducing cross-strait tensions and ensuring peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.