Taiwan: A bone of contention
Since the beginning of the Ukraine invasion by Russia to the arrival of the delegation lead by Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, One China Principle seems to get a buzz on Taiwan and US-China diplomatic contestation. Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China (ROC), is an island located near the south-east coast of mainland China. Its strategic and geopolitical importance can be compared to that of Crimea in the Black Sea.
The way Chinese Communist Party, which possesses the sole legal authority over the mainland, is pulling its itinerary toward Taiwan, is the same, under the circumstances Russia invaded that Black Sea Island in 2014. On top of that, grasp on the island could possibly increase its dominance in the South China Sea, undermining US influence in that region.
The recent official visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan has undermined the One China Principle, as claimed by the PRC government. "One-China Principle is bottom line of China's ties with other countries", says Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in a statement this month.
The PRC government doesn't want the United States to be engaged in Taiwan crisis, as it considers a "peaceful unification" process with the Taiwan authorities and if fails, the island must be taken by force. The PRC government vows that any attempt to "Taiwan independence" will be crushed seriously.However, Most of the Taiwanese people as well as the current government oppose the unification. The One China Principle is also rejected by those who are in favor of the independence movement.
Although the use of the phrase "One China Principle" is quite homographic, it denotes different countries and authorities use the expression to explain with their suitable policy measures. Let's take a closer look at how each of the concerned authorities accept the One China Principle for their respective interpretations:
One China Principle of The People's Republic of China (PRC): The People's Republic of China regards One China Principle as, under the name China, there would be only one sovereign state and the PRC is its sole legitimate government. It considers Taiwan as a part of China that was split in the Chinese Civil War. That being so, it sees Taiwan as a breakaway province.
The centerpiece of One China Principle was the UNGA Resolution 2758, passed on 25 October, 1971. It solved the proper representation of the PRC in the United Nations, but unfortunately, the position of Taiwan remained unresolved at that time. The Republic of China (ROC) government, in reality, has a de facto control over the island.
Why the PRC government has become infuriated at Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan can be traced back by the three US-China joint communiques on the establishment of their diplomatic relations. One of the communiques in 1979 details about the status of Taiwan:
Up to this, the Chinese officials have reproached that the United States has sent an official congressional delegation transgressing China's claim on the political status of Taiwan.
The PRC government has been increasing their military capabilities since they have passed an Anti-Secession Law in 2005. As for the present, the PRC'S military might outguns that of Taiwan in almost every possible way on the ground, in the air and at sea. Taiwan may keep busy Chinese forces for at least some days if there is a direct possible war until foreign supports arrive which they obviously expect from the USA. But after all, what actually US-policy suggests in the Taiwan case is to be understood closely.
One China Policy of the USA: There is no immense difference between One China Principle of China and One China Policy of USA although it is indispensable to explore and understand the two distinct foreign policy objectives. The United States does not challenge PRC's One China Principle, rather acknowledges that Chinese on either side of the strait maintain there is but one China and Taiwan is a part of China. But it also does not recognize PRC's sovereignty over Taiwan. In this manner, the leaders of the United States adopt somewhat dissimilar policy measures to their Chinese counterparts.
Many argue that the United States agreed with the PRC's demands for China's economic reform and opening-up at 70s. But how would the USA hedge Taiwan if an invasion from the Chinese takes place?
One such act was passed and enacted in the US Congress in 1979, defining the non-diplomatic relations between USA and Taiwan, the Taiwan Relations Act, which treats Taiwan as a sub-sovereign foreign state equivalent. No pledge was made up to protect Taiwan if the PRC makes an incursion nor does it repudiate it. Thus the policy has been coined by "strategic ambiguity", and concurrently it impedes Taiwan to declare independence and the PRC to wage a war against the island.
Most of the US presidents have maintained the status quo even up to Nancy Pelosi's visit but recent discrepancies of the both major powers shove off the Biden administration to reassess the One China Policy itself to protect Taiwan if an incursion takes place.
How Taiwan perceives One China Principle: Foreign policies of major powers are weighed with greater importance in international relations whether less account is given to the concerned parties as we see with the recognition of Taiwan. Only 13 countries and The Vatican of the UN maintains full diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
The current regime of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), however, considers Taiwan as an independent nation under the name Republic of China and its territory belongs to Taiwan, nearby Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu islands. Although recognition is a big requirement for Taiwan as it cannot alleviate the crisis, due to bulky Chinese trade outside and diplomacy onwards.
Yet, Taiwan independence movement caught a political boost after former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-Hui had declared that he would not challenge the communist authorities to rule mainland China. Thus, the controversy about to rule over mainland China was not the fundamental inquisition, question that arrived after then who owns the legitimacy of Taiwan.
The self-determined island proclaimed that China has been using Nancy Pelosi's visit as an excuse to start up drills calibrating its naval power and charge its whim over the people living under democracy. After China's largest-ever military exercises, Taiwan also held similar live-fire drills to prepare for any kind of upheaval.
"Only Taiwan's people can decide its future", announced Taiwan's foreign ministry in another statement for the vindication of any ambiguity regarding the legitimacy of their freedom.
The writer is from Department
of International Relations,
University of Dhaka.