Taiwan suffers constantly at the hands of lazy journalists and politicians. This is especially evident regarding the China problem and the triangular relations between Taiwan, China and the US, and the phrase "one China."
Few journalists or politicians take the time to try to understand things like the 1972 Shanghai Communique and subsequent US statements. Even fewer have the courage to say what is really there. Does that make them "useful idiots?" Perhaps, but I prefer to simply use the phrase "lazy journalists and politicians."
This is what happens around the world, in organizations like the WHO and what happened in Irvine, California. Irvine's politicians and its mayor, eager to make a quick deal and some fast bucks, readily accepted the "one China" position of the People's Republic of China (PRC). They intentionally or unknowingly acted as if the PRC version of "one China" was the same as that of the US. They then tried to pass it off as official. Lazy, collaborative or downright deceptive, you can make the call.
The PRC of course is always asking the US to repeat the Shanghai Communique's commitment, hoping that somehow, sometime, someone will be stupid, drunk or lazy enough to make a slip of the tongue, use the wrong phrase, so that Beijing can say the US has changed its policy. Former US president Bill Clinton slipped up once with his three noes, but not irrevocably. It did not become policy. Lazy journalists, however. slip up all the time and this is what makes it bad for Taiwan.
In item 11 of the Shanghai Communique the Chinese side reaffirmed its position: It opposes "one China, one Taiwan," "one China, two governments," "two Chinas," an "independent Taiwan," or any activities that advocate that "the status of Taiwan remains to be determined."
In item 12 , the US declared its position: "The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position."
At that time, Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) regime controlled Taiwan and thought that the "one China" belonged to them, while Beijing thought that the "one China" belonged to them. The US did not state who it thought was the "sole legal government" was, but it kept its embassy in Taipei.
The crucial wording, however, is what followed -- that the US government "does not challenge that position." To not challenge something does not mean that one endorses it or rejects it, one simply does not challenge it. If two sides agree to disagree, then the points where they disagree are not going to be contested or challenged; they have already agreed to disagree.
When the US prepared to transfer its embassy from Taipei to Beijing in January 1979, a joint communique was released on Dec. 15, 1978. Item 2 stated: "The United States of America recognizes the Government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China. Within this context, the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan." In the eyes of the US, Chiang's government had lost its claim to be the government of "one China."
The kicker in that second communique came in Item 7. "The Government of the United States of America acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China." However, the US did not commit to what one China was.