To expand Taiwan’s diplomatic reach, the government might consider allowing allies to also recognize Beijing, officials said on Sunday. Following the severance of ties with Honduras, Taiwan would “not rule out any possibilities regarding our relations with countries that don’t have diplomatic ties with us,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said at a news conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when asked about dual recognition of Taipei and Beijing.
At a separate news conference, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said the current policy of requiring allies to not recognize Beijing could be abandoned, thereby “putting the ball in China’s court.” The policy dates back to the 1960s when Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) maintained the stance that “gentlemen and thieves” cannot coexist, referring to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party respectively.
Taiwan’s diplomatic challenges, which are largely related to its exclusion from the UN, are a direct result of that stance held by Chiang and his administration. The administrations of former US presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon had attempted to have Taipei and Beijing represented in the UN, but the idea was rejected by Taipei at the time.
Minds have changed in the KMT. President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration “should consider any approach that is in the Republic of China’s (ROC) interests,” KMT Legislator Lee De-wei (李德維) said.
The US and Japan should take the lead in resuming ties with the ROC, KMT Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said, adding that otherwise it would be hard for the two countries to convince others to establish or maintain ties with Taipei.
Although the strongest incentive for others to resume ties with Taipei could come from Washington and Tokyo doing so first, Taiwan must first facilitate that move. Taiwan allowing dual recognition would force Beijing to rethink its “one China” policy. Regardless of its incessant rhetoric, China relies heavily on its diplomatic and economic ties with the US and other powerful democracies. If the US recognized Beijing and Taipei, it is unlikely that Beijing would cut ties with Washington just to make a point.
Dual recognition has been discussed within Taiwan for decades, one notable example being in August 2007 when then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) responded to a reporter’s question about whether Taiwan would accept then-ally Honduras having ties with Taipei and Beijing. “Honduras can be friends with both Taiwan and China, but I don’t think Beijing will like the idea,” Chen said.
In 2018, Formosan Association for Public Affairs president Mike Kuo (郭正光) proposed that the Holy See could adopt dual recognition to serve Chinese and Taiwanese Catholics. The move would “set a precedent for other nations to emulate,” he said.
It is unlikely that Taiwan would amend its Constitution in the near term, remove territorial claims over areas now controlled by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), or rename the nation to “Taiwan.” However, accepting “two Chinas” would demonstrate an acceptance of the geopolitical reality, and would make it easier for friendly nations to have diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Chiang Kai-shek might have held fast to a dream of one day “retaking the mainland,” but such a possibility does not exist. There is no good argument in Taiwan to reject the PRC as the legitimate government of areas under its administration.
Taiwan must exert its sovereignty over Taiwan proper and Penghu, Lienchiang and Kinmen counties, and all their associated islands. It should also recognize the PRC’s sovereignty over its territory and accept other countries recognizing that sovereignty as well.
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