Untangling ‘one China’ and its two ideologies

By HoonTing 雲程  / 

Sun, Jun 05, 2011 - Page 8

On May 20, former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan Richard Bush and the head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, Jason Yuan (袁健生), hosted a seminar during an academic conference to mark the centennial of the October 1911 Revolution in the Republic of China (ROC) at the Brookings Institution in the US capital.

Bush took the opportunity to remind those people in attendance that the US had broached the prickly issue of Taiwan and the Republic of China back in the 1950s and 1960s with the concepts of “New Country” (the founding of a new country) and “two Chinas.”

He then said that the concept of “two Chinas” that was proposed by the US government decades ago could still be applied to cross-strait relations today, but this would only be possible if Beijing would accept it.

Taiwan’s Presidential Office, via the Central News Agency, responded by reiterating that under the framework of the ROC Constitution, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait do not recognize each other’s sovereignty, but do not deny each other’s jurisdiction and are working toward a consensus, putting aside differences and pursuing peaceful cross-strait development.

Bush’s speech was interesting in that it allowed us to reflect on past political events through the prism of present realities.

The more pertinent question is what exactly did President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) mean when he invoked the ROC Constitution?

The ROC Constitution, to which the idea of “one China” is essential, underpins the “exile” status of the government of the ROC (but not of Taiwan).

Without it, the ROC would not be able to exist alongside the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the implications of which include the fact that the authorities in Taipei would also no longer be internationally regarded as exiled “Chinese Taipei.”

Ma’s continued emphasis on the Constitution reflects his own personal ideology and the way in which it embraces this exile status.

However, even as Ma disagrees with Beijing over the issue of legitimacy, he still expects China to accept the idea of both sides not recognizing each other’s sovereignty while not denying the other’s jurisdiction.

Surely this leads us right back to the concept of “two Chinas.” At the same time, it contradicts the idea of “one China” to which Ma insists he subscribes.

Such tangled logic. How can someone who holds such ideas hope to govern Taiwan properly?

Furthermore, although Bush discussed the “two Chinas” concept, he neglected to account for the fact that this is not 1979.

The US government no longer recognizes Taiwan as the ROC. As far as it is concerned, the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) only really talks about the de facto governing authorities in Taiwan. Although the ROC has been around for 100 years, both the “New Country” and “two Chinas” idea take as their starting point mutual cooperation and security between the US and Japan, including the 1950 Treaty of Peace with Japan (Treaty of San Francisco).

It is clear that Ma’s focus is on the governing regime, not the people.

His ideology has little to do with the notion of the “Taiwanese people” so explicitly stated in the TRA.

HoonTing is an independent Taiwanese researcher focusing on the issue of Taiwan’s status.

TRANSLATED BY KATHERINE WEI