On July 12, US President Barack Obama officially signed into law H.R. 1151, which supports Taiwan’s participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), paving the way for the nation’s bid to join the organization. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded by expressing its opposition to what it said was Washington’s intervention in a domestic Chinese issue.
The restrictions of international politics dictate that whenever Taiwan seeks participation in an international organization, it needs the support of both China and the US. Peaceful and stable cross-strait and Taiwan-US relations are two prerequisites to obtaining the support of both Washington and Beijing. More importantly, when they express their joint support, that also implies an improvement in Sino-US relations.
When Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) met for a two-day summit early last month, the time spent discussing Taiwan was drastically reduced. They merely restated their basic stances. This made it clear that Taiwan is no longer a source of tension between the two. It has transformed into an issue that subtly promotes the stable development of Sino-US relations.
Given the positive atmosphere of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait recently, when key Taiwanese and Chinese leaders have met, the Taiwanese side has expressed the hope that Beijing will support Taiwan’s participation in organizations of a low political nature, and the Chinese response has often been positive.
If China is willing to adhere to the so-called “1992 consensus” and look positively on Taiwan’s bid to participate in the ICAO, it would further consolidate the peaceful and stable cross-strait relationship.
Since Taiwanese and Chinese leaders have reached a tacit agreement on Taipei’s ICAO bid, it was reasonable to seek US support and Obama’s endorsement. Perhaps his support was a result of Washington sensing the agreement between Taiwan and China and because no potential harm is seen to Sino-US relations.
If the Chinese foreign ministry’s reaction was a matter of necessary ritual, Taiwan should show its understanding. If Beijing should then consider supporting Taiwan’s ICAO bid under the “one China” framework based on the “1992 consensus,” it will further promote mutual trust across the Taiwan Strait and also between Beijing and Washington, thus creating a positive cycle in the triangular relationship.
If the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can resolve the issue of Taiwan’s participation in international organizations based on the “1992 consensus” under the “one China” framework that would help reduce the number of variables in the relationship between Beijing and Washington. This will be beneficial to other aspects of their cooperation and serve as a key “lever” when building a “new type of big power relations.”
When constructing this new type of relationship, two other key levers are smooth Sino-South Korea-US and Sino-Japan-US relations. With a stable cross-strait relationship, Beijing and Washington can then concentrate on the other two relationships to make them function normally. This would also be helpful to the stable development of regional politics in East Asia, while promoting both Beijing’s and Washington’s core interests.
If Taiwan is able to participate in international organizations based on the so-called consensus under the “one China” framework, such participation would benefit both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Moreover, it will allow Taiwan to make greater contributions to regional and world peace.
Lee In-ming is vice president of the China University of Science and Technology.
Translated by Eddy Chang