Sat, Jul 07, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Trump right to doubt ‘one China’

By Joseph Bosco

Since then-US president Richard Nixon traveled to China and began Washington’s abandonment of official diplomatic and military relations with Taiwan, several shorthand policy phrases have defined the fraught Taiwan-US-China relationship.

The three main notions are: “one China,” cross-strait stability or the “status quo,” and strategic ambiguity.

“One China”: The 1972 US-China Shanghai Communique has been called the “original sin” of the trilateral relationship. It laid out the two sides’ understandings on the existence, or not, of a single Chinese polity encompassing both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing stated its position that, as a matter of historical, cultural and juridical fact, China and Taiwan are part of one legal entity called the People’s Republic of China — period. That is known as the communist government’s “one China” principle.

Washington, on the other hand, simply acknowledged that “all Chinese” on both sides of the Strait — the communist dictatorship under Mao Zedong (毛澤東) in Beijing and the anti-communist dictatorship under Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) in Taipei — shared that view, differing only on who should rule the merged territories.

The US position stated the “expectation” that the issue would be resolved “peacefully.” That is the US’ “one China” policy.

Almost immediately, China began posturing as if the two governments held identical positions and relentlessly advanced that false narrative over the next 45 years until it became absorbed into the general public consciousness.

Prominent journalists, as well as active and former public officials, either because they were simply careless or too accommodating to China, often state as established historical fact that Washington and Beijing have long agreed that Taiwan is part of China.

Former US national security adviser Henry Kissinger, who helped draft the communique, knows better, but has continued to accept that the US and Chinese interpretations inevitably would merge and Taiwan would be under combined pressure from the US and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to accept Beijing’s rule.

That is why he could self-confidently warn Taipei in 2007 that “China will not wait forever” — a message Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) was only too glad to echo shortly after assuming power when he said the Taiwan question “cannot be passed on from generation to generation.”

So, whenever minority US officials or commentators have tried to set the record straight on what “one China” means in Washington’s view, the PRC and its sympathetic US academic audience have accused them of undermining the foundation of the US-China relationship.

That explains the shock among international foreign policy establishments when US President Donald Trump explicitly questioned the sanctity of the policy even under the US perspective.

They assumed Washington was on the verge of contravening the linchpin of US-China relations — that Taiwan is part of China. It was the premise of the first question a CNN interviewer once put to me; yet, even after I — and others — corrected the error on air, two CNN hosts repeated it in subsequent programs, as has the BBC and other media.

Cross-strait stability or the “status quo”: The Shanghai Communique, in both the US and Chinese position statements, envisions “peace and stability” across the Taiwan Strait as conceptually equivalent to the preservation of the “status quo.” Washington has repeatedly called on both sides to avoid actions that would upset that undefined stasis, and create tension and instability.

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