Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan an Opportunity for US To Redefine Its ‘One-China’ Policy

How do the United States’ and China’s ideas on One China differ from each other? One can summarize China’s One-China principle as follows: (1) There is only one China in the world; (2) the government of the People’s Republic of China is the legitimate government representing all of China; and (3) Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory. The United States, on the other hand, does not have a One-China “principle,” but only a One-China “policy.” Under this One-China policy, the first issue lies in dealing with how one views the One-China principle. Unlike the Chinese Communist Party’s One-China principle, the United States’ One-China policy does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty. The United States maintains informal but extensive, close and friendly relations with Taiwan, which include a commitment to assist Taiwan in its self-defense under the Taiwan Relations Act — but the U.S. has not made any changes to its long-standing policy. The U.S. is only making important updates to how it engages with Taiwan to better reflect such policies and to respond to changing circumstances. These adjustments, while significant, still fall within the scope of its One-China policy.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly stated that China has always insisted on “peaceful reunification under one country, two systems,” on the basis of the “One-China principle and the 1992 Consensus,” and “the necessity of accomplishing the goal of reunification,” but he has not given up on resolving the situation in the Taiwan Strait by force, and as if to corroborate Xi’s remarks, the People’s Liberation Army began large-scale exercises the day after Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan. Meanwhile, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen stated that “neither side of the Taiwan Strait is subordinate to the other, and the people of Taiwan will not give in under pressure,” adding that Taiwan would continue to strengthen its national defense and demonstrate its determination to defend itself “to ensure that no one can force Taiwan to follow the path set by China.”

The United States, which has long adopted a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” has all along expressed a desire to avoid changes in the cross-strait status quo, yet President Joe Biden has repeatedly promised that the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense. Vladimir Putin’s statement that China “does not need to use force” in order to achieve reunification with Taiwan has been interpreted in many different ways; tension in the Taiwan Strait is intensifying, and China is using trade and commerce to smother Taiwan. But the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. has more than half the world’s market share in computer chips, so does China really dare to block trade completely?

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has provided the United States with an opportunity to redefine its One-China policy and to better understand the nature of China’s cross-strait strategy.

The author, Guo Zhenhe, is a scholar and adjunct professor at Soochow University School of Business.

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About Matthew McKay 30 Articles
A British citizen and raised in Switzerland, Matthew received his honours degree in Chinese Studies from the University of Oxford. Following a 15-year stint in the corporate sector, he went on to earn his MA in Chinese Languages, Literature and Civilization at the University of Geneva, and is both a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, and an Affiliate of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. Apart from Switzerland, he has lived in the UK, Taiwan and Germany, and his hobbies include literary translation, language teaching, and sampling cuisine from around the world.

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