Beyond Strategic Clarity: President Biden Should Make Clear to Xi That “Taiwan Is Not Part of China”
U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to hold talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on November 14, 2022 — their first in-person meeting since Biden took office in January 2021. We at FAPA call on the U.S. to abandon its misleading “One China Policy,” and urge President Biden to restate the U.S. longstanding position on Taiwan’s “undetermined” status when he meets with Xi, making clear that the U.S. regards that “Taiwan is NOT part of China.”
In a News Lens op-ed from November 13, FAPA urges the U.S. to abolish its misleading and outdated “One China Policy.” We believe that when dealing with Taiwan, the U.S. should rely on the 1979 “Taiwan Relations Act” (TRA) and the 1982 “Six Assurances” rather than the U.S.-PRC “Three Joint Communiques” — the basis of the U.S. One China Policy.
The U.S. “One China Policy” — which, though merely “acknowledges” China’s position over Taiwan — is not only misleading but also dangerous. It misleads the general public and international community into thinking that the U.S. “recognizes” the Chinese claim of sovereignty over Taiwan. It also emboldens China to invade and annex Taiwan by force.
Since the Japanese surrender to the Allied Powers in 1945, the United States has long maintained the position that China has never acquired sovereignty over Taiwan and that Taiwan’s international status remains “unsettled” or “undetermined.” Statements from various U.S. officials in the early post-war period attest to this point.
Prior to 1970, the U.S. State Department repeatedly testified to Congress that the legal status of Taiwan remained “unsettled.” The State Department also wrote to the Senate during hearings in 1969 and 1970 that: “In neither [the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951 nor the Taipei Peace Treaty of 1952] did Japan cede this area [of Taiwan and the Pescadores] to any particular entity. As Taiwan and the Pescadores are not covered by any existing international disposition, sovereignty over the area is an unsettled question subject to future international resolution.”
While the U.S. has never accepted China’s claim over Taiwan in the three U.S.-PRC Joint Communiques, its One China Policy is confusing and has led to dangerous misinterpretations. The communiques U.S.’s statements gave the PRC an unnecessary opportunity to distort the U.S. position by equating a position of “acknowledgment” (Ch. renshidao) with one of “recognition” (Ch. chengren).
As such, the U.S. should abolish the One China Policy, as it provides the PRC with a legal “justification” to invade and annex Taiwan. Through a distortion of this confusing policy, the PRC has accused the U.S. of violating China’s territorial integrity and its sovereignty over Taiwan. Indeed, they often point to the joint communiques as evidence that the U.S. has “recognized” its claims over Taiwan.
In contrast, when passing the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), Congress mandated that Taiwan be treated like an independent sovereign country for the purposes of U.S. law. The TRA also made clear that the U.S.’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC rests upon the expectation that the future of Taiwan “will be determined” by peaceful means. The 1982 Six Assurances, too, has been adhered to by all subsequent U.S. administrations, assuring that the U.S. “[has] not altered its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan.” When emphasizing the One China Policy, however, these realities are often neglected.
Since 2016, Congress has passed several pieces of legislation reaffirming that the Six Assurances, together with the TRA, form the “cornerstone” of U.S. relations with Taiwan. Going forward, the U.S. should emphasize the TRA and Six Assurances, which are formal documents, rather than the One China Policy, which has provided the PRC with a pretext for annexing Taiwan.
The world has undergone dramatic changes since the 1970s, and the One China Policy no longer reflects current realities. Taiwan is now a vibrant democratic country, while China has become openly aggressive and belligerent. Polls consistently show that most Taiwanese identify themselves as “Taiwanese” rather than Chinese. The “One China Policy” is obviously outdated.
The U.S.’s entire “One China” concept and its decision to establish diplomatic ties with the PRC (and cut off official ties with Taiwan) were predicated on Beijing’s commitment to resolve its differences with Taiwan peacefully. However, in the past five decades, Beijing has torn up its promises and routinely threatened to annex Taiwan by force.
Since China has significantly increased its military capability and seeks to accelerate its annexation of Taiwan, it has been long overdue for the U.S. to abandon its confusing and dangerous One China Policy, as the policy — as laid down in the three communiques — is supposed to be conditional on China’s peaceful approach to Taiwan.
In conclusion, even if the U.S. is not prepared to formally recognize Taiwan’s independent statehood, President Biden should restate the U.S. longstanding position on Taiwan’s “undetermined” status when he meets with Xi, making clear that the U.S. regards that Taiwan is not part of China and that Taiwan’s status and future should be determined peacefully in accordance with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.
(Read the full op-ed HERE)