The US State Department's US-China Economic and Security Review recently recommended a US reassessment of the "one China" policy.
Given China and Taiwan's changing situations, the policy's viability, success and future should be reviewed.
Also deserving of review is the topic of how the US can improve its support of Taiwan's national defense, and how it can help Taiwan break through its international economic isolation resulting from China's stranglehold.
The US report notes growing doubts concerning China's ability to find a peaceful resolution to the Taiwan question given its recent conduct toward Taiwan and Hong Kong. Similar doubts are growing regarding its promise to give Hong Kong autonomy.
As China's strength grows, its Asian neighbors are concerned that the US war on terrorism is causing the West to show less interest in the region.
The "one China" principle embodies China's ambitions for sovereignty over Taiwan, and is a formula used to block Tai-wan's international recognition.
Yet in the real world, "one China" incorporating Taiwan just doesn't exist, except as a baseless myth.
China insists that "There is only one China in the world, and both China and Taiwan belong to that one and same China" -- even though the Chinese Communist Party that now rules Beijing had itself advocated independence for the Japanese colonies of Taiwan and Korea during the Yenan Period (1935-1945).
The People's Republic of China has never had control over Taiwan in its half-century in existence. Taiwan and its people have never paid taxes to this Chinese government, nor have they enlisted in its armed forces.
The two nations have been separate for these 50 years, and it wasn't until 18 years ago, when Taiwan started allowing war veterans to return to China to visit their relatives, that any kind of interaction between the two sides was even allowed.
Surely this is sufficient evidence for the existence of two countries, not "one China."
Even older evidence against "one China" is known by every schoolchild: the Qing government suffered a defeat at the hands of the Japanese in 1894, and the following year signed a treaty permanently ceding Taiwan to Japan. In the San Francisco Peace Treaty after World War II, Japan merely gave up sovereignty of Taiwan -- and this sovereignty was at no time ceded to China.
From the point of view of international law, Taiwan's status remains unsettled, and China was certainly never given the right to rule it.
In 1945, when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government appeared on their shores, the Taiwanese saw them as a foreign power who were to use Taiwan as a base from which to retake the mainland. This, however, did not change the fact that Taiwan's sovereignty did not belong to China.
Since the KMT government was thus a foreign government, the PRC is even more so, and "one China" is nothing but an illusion.
This illusion has material consequences for Taiwan, whose people are internationally isolated and whose government is a diplomatic orphan. Yet in spite of this illusion, the Taiwanese are building on the reality of their freedom, embarking on reforms toward democracy and localization, and uprooting the lie that Taiwan is a part of China.
Yet the "one China" policy was adopted decades ago by Taiwan's main supporter in the international community, the US.
Although the US supports Taiwan's participation in international organizations, its policies are restricted by the outdated commitment to the "one China" policy. As other nations also bow to this fiction in order to curry favor with China, Taiwan is even excluded from the World Health Organization and other bodies it has much to offer.
So it is indeed encouraging that the US-China Economic and Security Review urges a State Department reassessment of the "one China" policy. This could be a pivotal step in helping Taiwan throw off the constrictions placed on it by China.
The US' "one China" policy originated from former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger's secret trip to China and was officially adopted in the Shanghai Communique when then US president Richard Nixon visited China in 1972.
America declared in this statement that "the US acknow-ledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China." The US later reaffirmed this stance in the Sino-US normalization communique of 1979 and the Aug. 17 communique of 1982. This policy is a product of Cold War ideology, where a line was clearly drawn between capitalist and communist states.
But a crack appeared between the Chinese and Russian communists, leading Kis-singer to unite with China against the Soviet Union in the name of pursuing a balance of power in diplomacy.
Under this strategy, active Sino-US cooperation pushed a formerly closed China to gradually open, but the US made too many concessions to China regarding cross-strait relations.
Now the US finds itself trapped by the "one China" policy, a 32-year-old bargaining chip no longer relevant to the cross-strait situation -- or to global diplomacy, for that matter.
The Soviet Union has collapsed, and it's unnecessary for the US to unite with China against Russia. Due to China's military expansion, US strategic interests increasingly conflict with those of China. Washington should not step back anymore.
Taiwan was still under an authoritarian foreign regime in 1972, but democracy has taken root and "native consciousness" has become mainstream opinion. The statement that "all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China" was merely the wishful thinking of the then leaders of the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party. It cannot represent the stance of the Taiwanese people, nor reflect the status quo on Taiwan.
The US' "one China" policy does specify peaceful negotiations regarding the cross-strait issue, yet China has never given up its ambition to attack Taiwan with force. For decades, but particularly in recent weeks, not only has Beijing threatened Taipei verbally, but it has carried out reckless military drills against Taiwan and even fired ballistic missiles to threaten the island.
For the US to continue to mouth the "one China" policy that rationalizes this violence is the same as "helping a tyrant to do evil," as a Chinese saying goes.
Genuine peace can come only from a balanced triangular relationship among Taiwan, China and the US. What has unbalanced the triangle is China's oppression of Taiwan, and the US cannot assist Taiwan as long as it is in thrall to Beijing's "one China" policy.
China has shown its ambition to attack Taiwan by force even as "native consciousness" became mainstream opinion here. The US can sell weapons to Taiwan in order to help it defend itself, as US President George W. Bush promised.
Nevertheless, Washington must change the outdated "one China" policy to ensure self-determination for the 23 million Taiwanese people.
TRANSLATED BY PAUL COOPER AND EDDY CHANG
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