Dispatched by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) told Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in a meeting on March 24 that according to Taiwan’s Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), the concept of “one country, two areas (一國兩區)” is the legal basis for cross-strait relations. Wu also said that cross-strait relations are not state-to-state in nature and that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait both belong to “one China.”
Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) said that this all falls within the scope of the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution. By this logic, Taiwan should simply advocate “one China (一個中國)” and there should be no need for any “one China, with each side having its own interpretation (一中各表).” Since Ma claims that “one China” refers to the ROC, isn’t this all in accordance with the Constitution?
From a legal point of view, the ROC is divided into a “free area” and a “mainland area,” but this is just a territorial claim made in the Constitution. It is of no help in resolving the cross-strait political realities. For example, the ROC could claim that the US is a part of its territory, but that would not mean that US territory would ever become part of the ROC. Based on such a claim, the relationship between Taiwan and the US would be that of “one country, two areas” and non-state-to-state in nature, but saying so is just absurd.
While absurd, this would have little impact on Taiwan’s sovereignty and national dignity, because Washington makes no claims on Taiwan’s sovereignty.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC), however, does make a claim on Taiwan’s sovereignty, and there is a strong likelihood that the “one country, two areas” concept would weaken the ROC’s — Taiwan’s — sovereignty and lead to self-denigration on Taiwan’s part. The PRC claims that there is only “one China” and that both Taiwan and the “mainland” belong to that “one China.” In Beijing’s eyes, Taiwan is an area, not a country. In addition, the PRC government is recognized as the sole legal government of China by the international community.
When Wu mentioned the “one country, two areas” concept during his meeting with the Chinese leader, he should have clearly specified that “one country” refers to the ROC lest he acknowledge that Taiwan is “an area” belonging to the PRC rather than a country.
Fear of giving up sovereignty and denigrating Taiwan is precisely why Ma opposes the “one China” principle and stresses the view that there is “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” of what that China is, to emphasize that sovereignty over the ROC and Taiwan does not belong to the PRC.
During a question-and-answer session in the legislature, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) also opposed the simplistic term “one country, two areas,” as it may lead to unnecessary misunderstandings.
Moreover, the ROC Constitution divides ROC territory into two areas, one “free” and one “mainland” area, and the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area is used to govern cross-strait exchanges.
However, the Constitution does not regulate interactions between the ROC government and a government in its “mainland area,” in particular a government that is a sovereign state generally recognized in the international community — the PRC — and this is the fundamental problem of cross-strait relations.