In UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, the UN decided “to restore all its rights to the People’s Republic of China [PRC] and to recognize the representatives of its Government as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it.” The “representatives of Chiang Kai-shek” were of course the representatives of the Republic of China (ROC), so some people say that the whole incident had nothing to do with Taiwan, and that Taiwan and Taiwanese need not concern themselves about it.
However, Ministry of Foreign Affairs files record that on April 28, 1971, then-US State Department press secretary Charles Bray dropped a bombshell by saying, on the one hand, that sovereignty over Taiwan and the Penghu Islands was an unsettled question, and, on the other hand, the dispute should be resolved through peaceful negotiations between the ROC and the PRC.
A quick-witted reporter at the press conference picked up on this point by asking which of the two was the legal government of China. When Bray failed to give a straight answer, the reporter asked whether calling for the two Chinese governments to negotiate a solution to the Taiwan question was not tantamount to recognizing that sovereignty over Taiwan belonged to China and that the US didn’t want to intervene in a dispute between the two Chinas, both of which claimed sovereignty over Taiwan.
Unable to field these tricky questions, Bray simply stated that US governments had maintained a consistent stance on the issue and that the things he had said did not represent new policies. However, that very afternoon Bray called a second press conference to explain those items that had not been adequately covered in the morning. Bray said that the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation were just statements of the Allied powers’ intention that Taiwan would be returned to China, but that this objective had not been formally carried out in the peace treaties signed with Japan or any other agreement.
In 1971, the US was preparing to support the PRC’s admission as a member of the UN, and this naturally gave rise to the question of what was to be done about the ROC or Taiwan and the Penghu Islands. Considering that the US wanted to avoid the idea of an independent Taiwan and that Chiang didn’t want there to be “two Chinas,” surely the US wasn’t going to let Taiwan and Penghu be incorporated into the PRC.
Of course, the US would not have been happy to see that happen, so it is not surprising that Bray’s suggestion about peaceful negotiations was quickly snuffed out by then-US president Richard Nixon, who called it completely unrealistic.
One thing that is quite clear is that as soon as the ROC lost the right to represent China, the PRC became China’s only representative. That being the case, if Taiwan and Penghu were confirmed as belonging to China, where was the ROC supposed to go? That is why, when the Korean War broke out in 1950, then-US president Harry Truman had declared that Taiwan’s status was undetermined, and this remained as the essential rationale for maintaining a state of division across the Taiwan Strait until 1971.
Four decades have passed since then and the issue has still not been resolved on an international level and according to the law.