The US "one China" policy is based on the Three Joint Communiques between China and the US and the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). The communiques do not actually say that the US agrees Taiwan is a part of China. Neither does the TRA which is a piece of domestic legislation issued after the US severed diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (ROC) and recognized the People's Republic of China (PRC). It recognizes Taiwan as an existing entity, and does not say that Taiwan is a part of China.
The third clause of the third section of the TRA says that "The president is directed to inform the Congress promptly of any threat to the security or the social or economic system of the people on Taiwan ... The president and the Congress shall determine, in accordance with constitutional processes, appropriate action by the United States in response to any such danger." The third clause of the second section of the act points out that "The preservation and enhancement of the human rights of all the people on Taiwan are hereby reaffirmed as objectives of the United States." From this, we can see that the aim of the US' "one China" policy is protecting and enhancing the human rights of the people of Taiwan.
Beijing's "one China" principle on the other hand indicates that Taiwan is a part of China. China is in favor of "peaceful reunification" under "one country, two systems" on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. It has also adopted an "Anti-Secession" Law, threatening that "The state shall never allow the `Taiwan independence' secessionist forces to make Taiwan secede from China under any name or by any means."
De facto and de jure, Taiwan is not Chinese territory, and the Taiwanese have no obligation to unite with China. And yet China tries to force Taiwan into unification. This is an example of Chinese hegemonic ideology, and this behavior goes against the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this way, Beijing is using its "one China" principle to try to oppress and obliterate the human rights of the Taiwanese, which means it is completely different from, and even contrary to, the US "one China" policy.
The current behavior of the US government seems to be moving away from the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the TRA. The US should abide by the universal values laid down in these documents and support the collective choice of the Taiwanese.
Wilson Chen is an honorary professor at National Taiwan University.
Translated by Anna Stiggelbout