On Tuesday last week, Panama terminated its diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (ROC) and changed its recognition to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Although this incident has had an emotional impact on Taiwan, it is inevitable that the “bogus China” under international law cannot be a match for the “real China.”
An official said that China and Panama established consular relations more than a century ago, on Jan. 16, 1910. Setting aside the question of whether consular relations actually signified mutual recognition, the fact is Taiwan was at that time a territory of the Empire of Japan. The official’s statement therefore only goes to show that those early China-Panama diplomatic relations were a Chinese affair that had nothing to do with Taiwan.
The official used the century-old record of diplomatic relations to tactfully explain the principle of international law that a country can only have one legitimate government.
In 1912, the ROC succeeded the Qing Dynasty and gained recognition from the international community as the legitimate government of China.
In 1949, the PRC defeated the ROC and established effective rule over China.
Then, at the UN General Assembly in 1971, the PRC won recognition from the international community as China’s legitimate government.
From that time on, the saying that “there is but one China in the world and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government and representative of China” has become common currency around the world.
Seeking to gain from the rupture, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is accusing President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration of causing the break in diplomatic relations because it does not recognize the so-called “1992 consensus,” among other things.
The mindless KMT crowd does not even understand that under international law, a country can only have one legitimate government, so if authorities in Taipei accept that there is only “one China,” Taiwan will immediately lose all its room for diplomatic relations and become no more than an overseas territory of the PRC.
The KMT’s warped logic would indeed be a shortcut to eliminating the ROC.
The nub of the problem lies in 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) resigned as president of the ROC; the ROC was crushed by the PRC; Chinese rejected the Constitution; and then-acting president Li Tsung-jen (李宗仁) fled to the US.
The “Chiang ROC” was not re-established in Taiwan until 1950. How, then, could it claim to be a continuation of the ROC founded in 1912 when it had gone through stages of having no president, no constitution, no electorate, no effective jurisdiction and not being recognized by any other countries?
How could it pretend to be the legitimate government of China following the total juridical and actual split that took place in that period around 1950? Even restyling itself as the “ROC on Taiwan” was in vain.
The ROC should be in China, otherwise, what is the “C” supposed to mean? Is it not precisely because of that “C” that the Beijing regime has the status of “successor government” under international law?
Every country in the world has diplomatic relations with China. They only have to choose between the ROC and the PRC.
The ROC got kicked out of China, and the ROC minus “C” is no longer what it was. It is inevitable that countries will break diplomatic relations with the “Chiang ROC” in Taipei, but as long as it is clear that “this ROC” is no longer “that ROC,” Beijing’s rabid behavior will have the unintended effect of helping Taiwan establish its own identity.
HoonTing is a political commentator.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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