(Image from Huffington Post UK)
Washington (CNN)China’s Foreign Ministry firmly pushed back Saturday against President-elect Donald Trump’s suggestion that the “One China” policy on Taiwan is negotiable, calling it the “political foundation” of the relationship between the US and China.
China views Taiwan as a renegade province and, since 1979, the US has acknowledged Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China, with US-China relations governed by a set of protocols known as the “One China” policy.
“The ‘One China’ principle is the political foundation of Sino-US relations and it is non-negotiable. We urge the relevant side in the US to recognize the high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue and abide by the pledges by successive US administrations from both parties,” spokesman Lu Kang said.
He was responding to a question about Trump’s remarks Friday in The Wall Street Journal in which he said, “Everything is under negotiation, including ‘One China.’ “
“The pledges include adopting the ‘One China’ policy, adhering to the principles in the three Sino-US joint communiques and properly handling the Taiwan issue. Only doing so would prevent the healthy and stable development of Sino-US relations as well as bilateral cooperation in major areas from being affected,” Lu added.
Donald Trump framed his administration’s stance on the “One China Policy” in the following way during a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal:
“Everything is under negotiation including ‘One China'”.
Uh, not so fast, Donnie. Here is a little historical background & synopsis of the “One China Policy”:
- In 1949, the Chinese civil war fought between the Communist Party of China & the Kuomintang permanently turned in favor of the Communists. The Kuomintang then retreated to the island of Taiwan where they set up the Republic of China (ROC), now commonly referred to as Taiwan. The Communist Party founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in what is commonly referred to as China.
- The “One China Policy” is the policy / view that there is only one Chinese state and therefore any country seeking to establish diplomatic relations with either the ROC or PRC must sever diplomatic ties with the other. Since 1979, the US has only had unofficial relations with Taiwan.
- The “One China Policy” is different from the “One China Principle” that it is based upon. This principle insists that both China & Taiwan are incontrovertible parts of a single Chinese state.
- Both the ROC & PRC agreed to a modified version of the “One China Principle” called the 1992 Consensus. This agreement states that there is in fact only one sovereign state encompassing mainland China & Taiwan; but, the 2 governments disagree about which government is the legitimate one.
- The PRC considers themselves to be the “rightful government” of China and the ROC still technically holds this position as well. However, the current Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, is a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which already considers Taiwan to be an independent state. NOTE: Taiwan is not an independent country according to its own constitution. However, the DPP believes Taiwan’s independence to be a foregone conclusion and therefore a formal declaration would be superfluous. Does this seem to be deliberately vague and evasive? Perfect. Welcome to the world of international relations.
Clearly, Cross-Strait relations (China & Taiwan) is a very muddy situation that is constantly evolving. The only consistent truth is that that these two governments are not just mincing words. The ROC & PRC both have clear objectives that are at odds with those of the other. PRC government spokesman Lu Kang made the Chinese stance on the matter perfectly clear,
“There is only one China in the world. Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory and the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China,” Lu said. “These are facts recognized by the international community and no one can change this.”
The fact that Trump would so fleetingly describe the One China policy as “negotiable” is alarming. Trump first raised flags regarding China/Taiwan when he took a congratulatory call from the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen for his successful presidential campaign. This call was the first time that a President (or president elect) had spoken with Taiwanese head of state since 1979 (hint: this was on the behest of China)*. Naturally, China was less than thrilled and filed a formal complaint with the US govt. Trump defended himself by noting how we sell Taiwan a substantial amount of military supplies:
Yes, the US has a strong informal relationship with the Taiwanese government/military. Yes, in theory, I do not think that accepting a phone call is as big a deal as its been made out to be. Furthermore, the US had been beefing up its military presence in southeast Asia for years under President Obama.
However, the lack of formal diplomatic ties & interactions between US & the Taiwanese government has been an integral aspect of Sino-US relations. According to the “Open China Policy”, you can only have formal diplomatic relations with EITHER the PRC or ROC, not both. The Taiwanese government itself is moving in the direction of Taiwanization (independent Taiwan) while the People’s Republic of China is not changing their tune in the slightest.
This firing-from-the-hip approach to foreign policy is tremendously worrisome. This region of the world (Southeast Asia/Pacific region overall) is a meat-grinder of competing international interests. Addressing difficult problems in this region requires a tremendous amount of tact and; unfortunately, our 45th President chose to loosely address a hot-button issue. Braggadocio may play in the Rust Belt, but you better watch your ass when dealing with Mao’s disciples.
The PRC & ROC are dug in. If our commander-in-chief wants to maintain a strong American presence in the region, he needs to choose his words more carefully.