Challenge the PRC’s One China Principle

An increasing number of countries and international organizations are abiding by the PRC’s One China Principle instead of the U.S. One China Policy. This partly results from the U.S. One China Policy’s passive language vis-à-vis Taiwan’s sovereignty status and the legitimacy of the island’s democracy. The U.S. could adopt the following policy statements to further distinguish its position from the PRC’s to push back against the One China Principle campaign:

  1. The United States recognizes the objective reality that the Taiwan government legitimately represents a democracy of 23.5 million people.
  2. The United States will ensure any resolution of the future of Taiwan must be done peacefully and with the active assent of the people of Taiwan.
  3. The United States encourages both sides to carry out constructive dialogue without preconditions.

Talking Point:

If viewing it as a competition for rhetorical leadership, the PRC’s One China Principle has already defeated the U.S. One China Policy. This can be seen from a growing number of countries and international organizations that are referring to Taiwan as a Province of China.

This situation partly results from the U.S. One China Policy’s passive language vis-à-vis Taiwan’s sovereignty and the legitimacy of the island’s democracy, which lies in the gray zone area in the graph below. For one, even though the U.S. does not recognize Taiwan as a part of China, it acknowledges such claim and “does not challenge that position” as cited in the 1972 Shanghai Communique. And, although the U.S. has been praising Taiwan’s democracy, its legitimacy is still not recognized today. For example, the President of Taiwan is still referred to as the Leader of Taiwan. This makes the One China Policy (Blue + Black part below) weaker than the One China Principle (Red + Gray + Black part below).

To further assert its position, the U.S. should adopt the following policy statements which are consistent within the current framework:

  1. The United States recognizes the objective reality that the Taiwan authorities legitimately represent a democracy of 23.5 million people.
  2. The United States will ensure any resolution of the future of Taiwan must be done peacefully and with the active assent of the people of Taiwan.
  3. The United States encourages both sides of the Taiwan Strait to carry out constructive dialogue without preconditions.

For the first policy statement, it would put Taiwan and the PRC on a more equitable status without contradicting to the current U.S. policy as it only “recognizes the objective reality.”

For the second policy statement, the U.S. One China Policy has long stipulated that the future of the Taiwan Strait must be resolved peacefully by both sides. This however does not proactively endorse Taiwan’s self-determination rights. FAPA would like to see the U.S. reiterating President Bill Clinton’s statement in 2000 that the Taiwan question must be resolved “with the assent of the people of Taiwan.”

Ultimately, the PRC has refused to engage with Taiwan to bring about an equitable solution to the cross-Strait differences by imposing the One China Principle as a precondition. It would be a simple but effective step to push back against the One China Principle by supporting a cross-Strait dialogue without preconditions.

Senate Confirmation of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director

The AIT Director, the U.S. de facto Ambassador to Taiwan, is appointed by the Secretary of State without checks and balances by Congress. Taiwanese Americans would like to see the AIT Director confirmed by the Senate, which has the right to oversee US-Taiwan relations through such a confirmation process.

Talking Point:

  • Current Status
    The American Institute in Taiwan is a non-profit organization created under the auspices of the U.S. government. The Department of State, through a semi-official contract with AIT, provides guidance and some funding in its operations. Primarily staffed by employees of the State Department, it serves as a de facto embassy providing services normally provided by a United States diplomatic mission.
    Due to its unique position, the appointment of an American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director, the U.S. de facto Ambassador to Taiwan, has always been the Department of State’s decision.
  • Lack of Congress’ Check and Balances
    Under the U.S. Constitution, it is the President’s duty to nominate, “by and with the advice of the Senate, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls.” Given that the AIT Director performs as an ambassador on behalf of the U.S., it is therefore necessary to have the check and balances by the Congress on the appointment. The lack of Congress’ involvement is not constitutionally reasonable and could potentially harm U.S. interests without proper oversight.
  • Failure to Recognize Taiwan’s Legitimacy
    When the AIT Director is not required to be confirmed by the Senate, it implies that Taiwan’s legitimacy is not fully recognized. FAPA believes that a democracy with a government elected by the 23 million people of Taiwan should be treated fairly and normally, and should not be left out from the category of “sovereign nations.”

Rename Taiwan’s de facto Embassy from TECRO to Taiwan Representative Office (TRO)

Taiwanese Americans believe that the current title of Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington DC, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), does not reflect the sovereignty of Taiwan. The U.S. could learn from the experience of Japan, which successfully resisted PRC pressure and renamed its “embassy” in Taiwan from “Interchange Association” into “Japan-Taiwan Interchange Association in 2017.” Lastly, referring to Taiwan as “Taiwan” is consistent with U.S. policy. We therefore seek Congress’ support to rename TECRO to TRO.

Talking Point:

The name TECRO was initiated by the KMT government in 1994 to replace the Coordination Council for North American Affairs (CCNAA), and later approved by the Clinton Administration. Although it was a great leap forward since the US severed its diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it gradually fails to keep up with the mainstream national identity of the Taiwanese people. Most importantly, the name of the de facto embassy cannot reflect the objective reality that Taiwan exists as an independent country.

  • Consistent with U.S. Policy
    In the Taiwan Guidelines of 1990, the State Department stated: “Consistent with the unofficial nature of U.S.-Taiwan ties, the U.S. Government no longer refers to Taiwan as the “Republic of China” — a term reflecting Taipei’s continuing claim to be the government of China. Nor does the U.S. Government refer to Taiwan as a “country” or a “government.” We refer to Taiwan simply as Taiwan, and to its leadership as “the Taiwan authorities.”
  • Countering the Dominance of the One China Principle
    Having a TRO in DC can be a countermeasure against the dominance of the One China Principle. From 2017 to 2018, the PRC pressured Taiwan’s non-diplomatic allies in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America to drop the name Taiwan or Republic of China from Taiwan’s embassies. For instance, Bahrain forcefully changed “Trade Mission of Taiwan to the Kingdom of Bahrain” into “Taipei Trade Office in the Kingdom of Bahrain.” In this sense, supporting TRO equals to countering the dominance of the One China Principle.
  • Japan-Taiwan Exchange Foundation. Why Can’t the U.S.?
    The Abe Administration changed the title of its de facto Embassy in Taiwan from Interchange Association into Japan-Taiwan Exchange Foundation in 2017. Japan traditionally was more concerned about PRC’s retaliation against its Taiwan Policy. However, it seems today that Tokyo is more willing to bear the pressure from Beijing.

Taiwan’s Participation in the World Health Organization (WHO)

Taiwan has been barred from joining the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) in the past two years due to the PRC’s pressure and political preconditions. This puts not only Taiwan but global health at risk — disease outbreaks do not stop at national borders. The SARS crisis in the early 2000’s took away 181 lives in Taiwan, which lacked timely information from the WHO. With bipartisan co-sponsors, Rep. Yoho introduced H.R.353 to direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan at the WHO.

Talking Point:

Taiwan is a node for international trade and travel, and isolating it from the global health system is both risky and dangerous. According to the Tourism Bureau of Taiwan, there were more than 10 million international tourists in Taiwan in 2018. Among them there are at least 530,000 American tourists.

  • SARS Experience
    Taiwan was barred from joining the WHO during SARS outbreaks between 2002 and 2003. Although Taiwan was effective in controlling the virus, the public health crisis took away 181 lives of the people of Taiwan due to the lack of specimen collection. Timely information is critical to virus prevention and the lack of access to it is extremely dangerous not only to Taiwan but also the entire world.
  • Taiwan’s Potential Contribution to Global Health
    In 2016, Taiwan became the 8th country passing the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) under WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR). Its ability in virus prevention, detection, and response is well recognized under the JEE framework.
    Compared to Western countries, Taiwan is known for its knowledge about epidemic viruses existing in tropical areas. This is why the U.S. in the past four years has been bringing together medical and global health experts to Taiwan to study Molecular Diagnosis for MERS-CoV, Dengue Prevention and Control, and Molecular Diagnosis for Zika, among others.
  • PRC’s Record in Global Health
    The PRC is notorious for its lack of transparency whenever disease outbreaks occur. It often behaves irresponsibly by hindering information communication domestically and internationally. Every country including the U.S. should step up and ensure the PRC is held accountable for putting global health at risk, including barring Taiwan from joining the WHO.


US-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement / Bilateral Trade Agreement

Taiwan was the 11th largest U.S. trading partner in 2017. Further, Taiwan was the export destination for over $9.9 billion in U.S. services exports in 2017, yielding a surplus for the U.S. of over $1.8 billion. Taiwan is the 15th largest export market for the United States, and for agriculture in particular, its 8th largest export destination. As a result, Taiwan is an important and growing source of job creation for the United States. U.S. Government data show that U.S. goods and services exports to Taiwan, combined with investment by Taiwan-affiliated companies throughout the United States, support 322,728 well-paid U.S. jobs.

Talking Point:

Focus on Big Sale Tickets

  • In 2015, Taiwan imported US$335 million of agricultural products from the U.S., and about $30 million was pork and pigs’ organs, which is less than 0.1% of total import from the U.S. It is unnecessary for the U.S. insist on this 0.1% as preconditions to block trade negotiations with Taiwan.
  • The U.S. can demand Taiwan to import more from the U.S. (total import was US$29.2 billion in 2015), to purchase more agricultural commodities (US$335 million in 2015) instead of insisting on sector specific liberalization.
  • The U.S. can put all its demands on the negotiation table, instead of demanding sector specific liberalization as a precondition for negotiating a trade deal.

Benefits on Service Trade

  • The U.S. has been enjoying a trade surplus in service trade with an annual average trade surplus of $240 billion in the past five years, and has great potential to get more access to the Taiwan market. Taiwan fulfills the three conditions of market potentials for service trade: trade openness, democratic system, and access to major financial centers in Asia.
  • A US-Taiwan FTA will help the Taiwan government to further liberalize its service sector, similar to Abe’s strategy of using the TPP to re-structure agriculture in Japan.

Reducing Trade Deficits with ASEAN Countries

  • The trade structure between ASEAN and the U.S. is mostly in final goods, which results in a persistent U.S. trade deficit with ASEAN countries which accounted for 11.11% of the total U.S. trade deficit in 2015.
  • The Taiwanese government has built up strong economic links with ASEAN countries through the New Southbound Policy. The U.S. can cut its trade deficits with ASEAN by investing in Taiwan on those sectors where the U.S. has “comparative disadvantage” but Taiwan has “comparative advantage” in the ASEAN Single Market.

A US-Taiwan FTA Can Strengthen Taiwan’s Sovereignty

  • Taiwan is over-reliant on the Chinese economy: 40% of exports and 70% of investment goes to the Chinese market. This gives the PRC a leverage to affect the political decision making in Taiwan and as a consequence undermines Taiwan’s sovereignty.
  • The PRC has been blocking Taiwan from signing FTAs with other countries. As a country that strongly supports market economy, it is in the U.S. interest to oppose the PRC’s bullying of Taiwan by signing a US-Taiwan FTA.

National Defense Authorization Act of 2020

  • Replace “asymmetrical defense” framework for arms sales to Taiwan with “modern and deterrent” capabilities.
  • Address Taiwan’s shortfall in fighter aircraft through the sale of F-16V or other aircraft of similar capability.
  • Extend an invitation to Taiwan to the RIMPAC as a full partner/partner in HADR exercise/observer.
  • Elevate the ranking of U.S. defense attaché in Taiwan from Colonel to Brigadier.

Talking Point:

From Asymmetrical Defense to “Modern and Deterrent” Capabilities
Since 2008, the U.S. has been imposing the “asymmetrical defense” framework on its arms sales to Taiwan. To put it in a nutshell, given the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) growing military power, the U.S. expects Taiwan to take advantage of its geography and limit its defense perimeter near the coastal area in a PLA amphibious invasion scenario. In this sense, instead of selling Taiwan modern and costly platforms such as fighter aircraft, the U.S. has been urging Taiwan to invest its forces in an economical way, such as multiple rocket launchers, mines, and anti-ship cruise missiles. However:

  • Amphibious invasion is only the last resort for the PLA as it is very likely to result in severe casualties. Instead, the PLA would seek to win over Taiwan in missile striking and joint sea-air blockade scenarios. It is therefore important for Taiwan to maintain the necessary capacity to defend itself before a PLA amphibious invasion takes place.
  • The objective for the U.S. is to deter a potential crisis from occurring. Helping Taiwan develop asymmetrical defense would send the signal that the U.S. has a weak commitment to Taiwan’s self-defense, and would only bolster the PRC’s confidence in annexing Taiwan militarily.
  • Taiwan has a bigger role to play in the Indo-Pacific region. In a potential South China Sea crisis, Taiwan has the geographical and material advantages compared to U.S. allies in Northeast and Southeast Asia respectively. Limiting Taiwan’s defense capacity is not in the U.S. interest.

Taiwan’s Airpower Modernization

  • Taiwan will soon retire its 54 Mirage 2000 in a few years due to high maintenance costs and the lack of modernization. As the only country that conducts arms sales with Taiwan, the U.S. should help address Taiwan’s future shortfall in fighter jets through the sale of F-16V or other aircraft of similar capability.
  • Losing air control would hamper Taiwan’s self-defense in the PLA’s joint sea-air blockade operations (including mine blockade) and amphibious invasion.
  • Helping Taiwan modernize its airpower will significantly boost the U.S. economy by sustaining existing high-skilled jobs in key manufacturing sectors and creating new ones.

Taiwan’s Participation in RIMPAC

Taiwan has not been able to join any bilateral or multilateral military exercise since 1979 when the U.S. established diplomatic ties with the PRC. This left the military of Taiwan behind the times in concepts, training, and management, among others. Joining the 2020 RIMPAC either as a full partner, partner in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, or as an observer could substantially improve the Taiwan Navy.

Elevate the Ranking of U.S. Defense Attaché in Taiwan from Colonel to Brigadier

The Taiwan Strait remains the most dangerous flash point in the Indo-Pacific region. In his New Year speech on Taiwan, Xi Jinping said that the PRC does “not promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option to use all necessary measures” to unify Taiwan. Due to the importance of Taiwan, the U.S. should elevate the ranking of U.S. Defense Attaché in Taiwan from Colonel to Brigadier to facilitate the security cooperation between the two countries.


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2019 Issues of Concern