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One-China policy

The One-China policy is a principle that there is one China and that mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are all part of that China. The acceptance or rejection of this principle is a major factor in relations between the People's Republic of China (PRC) controlling mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau and the Republic of China (ROC) controlling Taiwan.

The One-China policy is held adamantly by the PRC, which equates China with the PRC. It requires all countries seeking diplomatic relations with it to acknowledge its version of the policy and refrain from maintaining relations with the ROC. The acknowledgement that there is only one China (though not limited to the PRC in definition) is also a prerequisite the PRC has set for negotiations with the ROC government.

Legally, the ROC continues to maintain its version of the "One China" principle by constitutionally claiming sovereignty over mainland China. While this claim is not actively pursued, the claim has been reasserted as recently as October 8, 2008. Diplomatically, all countries having official relations with the ROC recognize the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China. Politically, however, the ROC's position towards the policy is divided. The Pan-Blue Coalition parties are more accepting of the One-China policy, but they do not equate China with the PRC; the ROC president Ma Ying-jeou, for example, stated in 2006 when he was the Kuomintang (KMT) chairman that "One China is the Republic of China". The Pan-Green Coalition parties are more hostile to the policy, as they view Taiwan as a country separate from China. The One China policy is a current policy of the Republic of China government.

Legislative claims of the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China

Both the ROC government and PRC government have taken official legal steps to delegitimize the other's status as national governments. The ROC in recent years has been less strident about denying the legitimacy of the PRC, but continues to maintain laws with the "One China" framework.

People's Republic of China (PRC)

Article 2:
There is only one China in the world. Both the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China. China's sovereignty and territorial integrity brook no division. Safeguarding China's sovereignty and territorial integrity is the common obligation of all Chinese people, the Taiwan compatriots included.
Taiwan is part of China. The state shall never allow the "Taiwan independence" secessionist forces to make Taiwan secede from China under any name or by any means."
Article 5: Upholding the principle of one China is the basis of peaceful reunification of the country.
To reunify the country through peaceful means best serves the fundamental interests of the compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. The state shall do its utmost with maximum sincerity to achieve a peaceful reunification.
After the country is reunified peacefully, Taiwan may practice systems different from those on the mainland and enjoy a high degree of autonomy.

Republic of China (ROC)

  • Article 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of China:"The territory of the Republic of China according to its existing national boundaries shall not be altered except by resolution of the National Assembly." (Effective 1948 to 2000.)
  • Article 4 of the Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China:"The territory of the Republic of China, defined by its existing national boundaries, shall not be altered unless initiated upon the proposal of one-fourth of all members of the Legislative Yuan, passed by three-fourths of the members of the Legislative Yuan present at a meeting requiring a quorum of three-fourths of all the members, and approved by three-fourths of the delegates to the National Assembly present at a meeting requiring a quorum of two-thirds of all the delegates." (Effective 2000 to 2005)
  • Article 4 of the Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China:"The territory of the Republic of China, defined by its existing national boundaries, shall not be altered unless initiated upon the proposal of one-fourth of the total members of the Legislative Yuan, passed by at least three-fourths of the members present at a meeting attended by at least three-fourths of the total members of the Legislative Yuan, and sanctioned by electors in the free area of the Republic of China at a referendum held upon expiration of a six-month period of public announcement of the proposal, wherein the number of valid votes in favor exceeds one-half of the total number of electors." (Effective 2005 to present)

Interpretations of the One-China policy

One interpretation, which was adopted during the Cold War, is that either the People's Republic of China or the Republic of China is the sole rightful government of all China and that the other government is illegitimate. While much of the western bloc maintained relations with the ROC until the 1970s under this policy, much of the eastern bloc maintained relations with the PRC. While the government of the ROC considered itself the remaining holdout of the legitimate government of a country overrun by what it thought of as Communist rebels, the PRC claimed to have succeeded the ROC in the Chinese Civil War. Though the ROC no longer portrays itself as the sole legitimate government of China, the position of the PRC remained unchanged until the early 2000s, when the PRC began to soften its position on this issue to promote Chinese reunification.

The revised position of the PRC was made clear in the Anti-Secession Law of 2005, which although stating that there is one China whose sovereignty is indivisible, does not explicitly identify this China with the PRC. (Almost all PRC laws have a suffix (prefix in Chinese grammar) "of the People's Republic of China" in their official names, but the Anti-Secession Law is an exception.) Beijing has made no major statements after 2004 which identify one China with the PRC and has shifted its definition of one China slightly to encompass a concept called the '1992 Consensus': both sides of the Taiwan strait recognise there is only one China - both mainland China and Taiwan belong to the same China, but agree to differ on the definition of that one China.

One interpretation of one China is that there exists only three geographical regions of China, which was split into two Chinese governments by the Chinese Civil War. This is largely the position of current supporters of Chinese reunification in Mainland China who believe that this "one China" should eventually reunite under a single government. Starting in 2005, this position has become close enough to the positions of the PRC to allow for high-level dialogue between the Communist Party of China and the Pan-Blue Coalition of Taiwan.

One-China policy of the Republic of China

In the Republic of China, all major parties reject the interpretation that the People's Republic of China is the One China that includes Taiwan; however, they differ on the interpretation of the One China principle. The Pan-Blue Coalition parties, consisting of the Kuomintang, the People's First Party, and the New Party, accept the One-China policy, but they do not equate China with the PRC; rather, they accept that the ROC and PRC will each equate itself with "One China" while agreeing that there is only "One China". In particular, the ROC president Ma Ying-Jeou stated in 2006 when he was the Kuomintang chairman that "One China is the Republic of China". Before democratization in the 1980s and 1990s, the authoritarian Kuomintang government actively claimed that the ROC is the only legitimate "One China" while the PRC is illegitimate. While this claim is not actively pursued by the ROC government, the claim has been reasserted as recently as October 8, 2008.

The Pan-Green Coalition parties, consisting of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union, are more hostile to the policy, as they view Taiwan as a country separate from China. The former President of the Republic of China, Chen Shui-bian of the DPP, regards acceptance of the "One China" principle as capitulation to the PRC, and prefers to view it as nothing more than a topic for discussion, in opposition to the PRC's insistence that the "One China" policy is a prerequisite for any negotiation.

The Republic of China continues to maintain its version of the "One China" principle by constitutionally claiming (but no longer actively pursuing) sovereignty over all of its territory before 1949, including Mongolia. When the Republic of China established diplomatic relations with Kiribati in 2003 the ROC officially declared that Kiribati could continue to have diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. Despite the declaration, however, all countries maintaining official ties with Taipei continue to recognize the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China.

One-China policy and diplomatic relations

The One-China Principle is also a requirement for any political entity to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. The PRC has traditionally attempted to get nations to recognize that "the Government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government of China...and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the People's Republic of China." However, many nations are unwilling to make this particular statement and there was often a protracted effort to find language regarding one China that is acceptable to both sides. Some countries use terms like "acknowledge", "understand", "take note of", while others explicitly use the term "support" or "recognize" for Beijing's position on the status of Taiwan.

The name "Chinese Taipei" is the only acceptable name in most international arenas since "Taiwan" suggests that Taiwan is a separate country and "Republic of China" suggests that there are two Chinas, and thus both violate the One-China Principle. Taiwan could also be used as shorthand for the Customs Union between Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu. For example, in CFSP Declaration on the March 2007 elections, issued on behalf of the European Union and with support of 37 countries, express mention is made of "Taiwan"

Most countries that recognize Beijing circumvent the diplomatic language by establishing "Trade Offices" that represents their interests on Taiwanese soil, while the ROC government represents its interests abroad with TECRO, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office. The United States (and any other nation having diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China) does not have formal diplomatic relations with the ROC. Instead, external relations are handled via nominally private organizations such as the American Institute in Taiwan or the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei.

In the case of the United States, the One-China policy was first stated in the Shanghai Communiqué of 1972: "the United States acknowledges that Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States does not challenge that position." Thus, the United States's One-China Policy is subtly different from the One China Principle that the PRC imposes on the rest of the world in that Washington has not expressed an explicitly immutable statement regarding whether it believes Taiwan is independent or not. Instead, Washington simply states that they understand the PRC's claims that the country claims Taiwan as its own. In fact, many scholars agree that US One-China Policy was not intended to please the PRC government, but as a way for Washington to conduct international relations in the region, which Beijing fails to state.

When President Jimmy Carter in 1979 broke off relations with the ROC in order to establish relations with the PRC, Congress responded by passing the Taiwan Relations Act, which while maintaining relations, stopped short of full recognition of the ROC. In 1982 President Ronald Reagan also saw that the Six Assurances were adopted, the sixth being that the United States would not formally recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. Still, United States policy has remained ambiguous. During the House International Relations Committee on April 21 of 2004, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, James A. Kelly, was asked by Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) whether America’s commitment to Taiwan’s democracy conflicted with the so-called One-China Policy. He admitted the difficulty on defining the U.S.'s position: "I didn’t really define it, and I’m not sure I very easily could define it." He added, "I can tell you what it is not. It is not the One-China principle that Beijing suggests."

For any country who wants to establish diplomatic relationship with the PRC, it must first discontinue any formal relationship with the ROC by the request of the PRC government. In order to compete for other countries' recognition, each other gives money to those remaining few small countries. Both the PRC and ROC governments have accused each other of monetary diplomacy. Several small African and Caribbean countries have established and discontinued diplomatic relationship with both sides several times in exchange for huge financial support from each side.

Of the 192 members of the United Nations, only Bhutan has chosen to recognize neither the People's Republic of China nor the Republic of China. All remaining governments have recognized one or the other, recognizing that government as the sole legitimate government of all China.

One-China policy and cross-strait relations

The acknowledgement of the One China Principle is also a prerequisite by the People's Republic of China government for any cross-strait dialogue be held with groups from Taiwan. The PRC's One-China policy rejects formulas which call for "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan" and has stated that efforts to divide the sovereignty of China could be met with military force.

The PRC has explicitly stated that it is flexible about the meaning "one China," and that "one China" may not necessarily be synonymous with the PRC, and has offered to talk with parties on Taiwan and the government on Taiwan on the basis of the Consensus of 1992 which states that there is one China, but that there are different interpretations of that one China. For example, in Premier Zhu Rongji's statements prior to the 2000 Presidential Election in Taiwan, he stated that as long as any ruling power in Taiwan accepts the One China Principle, they can negotiate and discuss anything freely. However, the One-China Principle would apparently require that Taiwan formally give up any possibility of Taiwan independence, and would preclude any "one nation, two states" formula similar to ones used in German Ostpolitik or in Korean reunification. Chen Shui-bian, president of the Republic of China between 2000 and 2008 repeatedly rejected the demands to accept the One China Principle and instead called for talks to discuss One China itself. With the january and march 2008 elections in Taiwan, and the election of Ma Ying-jeou as the President of the Republic of China, who was inaugurated on May 20, a new era of better relations between both sides of the Taiwan Strait was established. KMT officials visited the Mainland, and the Chinese ARATS met in Beijing with its Taiwanese counterpart, the SEF. Direct charter flights were therefore established.

One China was the formulation held by the ROC government before the 1990s, but it was asserted that the one China was the Republic of China rather than PRC. However, in 1991, President Lee Teng-hui indicated that he would not challenge the right of the Communist authorities to rule the mainland. This is a significant point in the history of Cross Straits relations in that the ROC no longer claims administrative authority over mainland China. Henceforth, the issue is no longer who rules all of China, but who claims legitimacy over Taiwan and the surrounding islands. Over the course of the 1990s, President Lee appeared to drift away from the One-China formulation, leading many to believe that he was actually sympathetic to Taiwan independence. In 1999, Lee proposed a Special state-to-state relations for mainland China-Taiwan relations which was received angrily by Beijing, which ended semi-official dialogue until June 2008, when ARATS and SEF met.

After the election of Chen Shui-bian in 2000, the policy of the ROC government was to propose negotiations without preconditions. While Chen did not explicitly reject Lee's two states theory, he did not explicitly endorse it either. Throughout 2001, there were unsuccessful attempts to find an acceptable formula for both sides, such as agreeing to "abide by the 1992 consensus." President Chen, after assuming the Democratic Progressive Party chairmanship in July 2002, moved to a somewhat less ambiguous policy, and stated in early August 2002 that "it is clear that both sides of the straits are separate countries." This statement was strongly criticized by opposition pan-blue coalition parties on Taiwan, which support a One-China Principle, but oppose defining this "One China" as the PRC.

The One China policy became an issue during the 2004 ROC Presidential election. Chen Shui-bian abandoned his earlier ambiguity and publicly rejected the One-China Principle claiming it would imply that Taiwan is part of the PRC. His opponent Lien Chan publicly supported a policy of "one China, different interpretations," as done in 1992. At the end of the 2004 election, Lien Chan and his running mate, James Soong, later announced that they would not put ultimate unification as the goal for their cross-strait policy and would not exclude the possibility of an independent Taiwan in the future. President Chen admits that he leans towards independence, but his main position is opposition to adopting the One China policy since it prevents Taiwanese people from being able to decide upon their own future. This point is reinforced by the most recent interview with the Washington Post in which Chen states, "We should not exclude independence as one of the options nor should we exclude unification as a possible choice. Similarly, we should not make Taiwan independence the only choice, nor should we make unification the only choice."

In an interview with Time Asia bureau prior to the 2004 presidential elections, Chen used the model of German and European Union as examples of how countries may come together while in the Soviet Union , a country may fragment. He added that as long as the Taiwanese people have the right to vote for unification or independence in a referendum without any external threats, he accepts the results. However, he noted that the current condition (on March 2004) was that Taiwan is a distinctly separate entity from China.

In March 2005, the PRC passed an Anti-Secession Law which authorized the use of force to prevent a "serious incident" that breaks the One China policy, but which at the same time did not identify one China with the People's Republic and offered to pursue political solutions. At the same session of the PRC Congress, a large increase in military spending was also passed, leading blue team members to interpret those measures as forcing the ROC to adhere to the One China Policy or else the PRC would attack.

In April and May 2005, Lien Chan and James Soong made separate trips to Mainland China, during which both explicitly supported the Consensus of 1992 and the concept of one China and in which both explicitly stated their parties' opposition to Taiwan independence. Although President Chen at one point supported the trips of Lien and Soong for diffusing cross-strait tensions., he also attacked them for working with the "enemy" PRC. On April 28, 2008, Honorary Chairman Lien Chan of the then opposition Kuomintang visited Beijing and met with Hu Jintao for the fourth time since their historic encounter on April 29, 2005 in their respective capacity as party leaders of both the Chinese Communist Party and the KMT. Lien also met Chen Yunlin, director of the PRC's Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council..

On May 28, 2008, Kuomintang Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung made a landmark visit to Beijing., and met and shook hands with the Chinese President Hu Jintao, at the Great Hall of the People. He also visited the mausoleum of Sun Yat-Sen. Hu Jintao called for resuming exchanges and talks, based on the 1992 Consensus, between the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan's Strait Exchange Foundation, as early as possible, and practically solving problems concerning the two sides through talks on equal footing. Once the ARATS-SEF dialogue is resumed, priority should be given to issues including cross-Strait weekend chartered flights and approval for mainland residents traveling to Taiwan, which are of the biggest concern to people on both sides of the Strait. "The KMT has won two important elections in Taiwan recently, Wu said, which showed that the mainstream opinion of the Taiwan people identified with what the KMT stood for, and most of the Taiwan people agree that the two sides on the strait can achieve peaceful development and a win-win situation.. Wu also told reporters that he had stressed to Hu that Taiwan needed an international presence. "The Taiwanese people need a sense of security, respect and a place in the international community," Wu said. Hu was also quoted as having promised to discuss feasible measures for Taiwan to take part in international activities, particularly its participation in World Health Organization activities..

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