Quietly, the US is taking steps to “normalize"relations with Taiwan. Last summer, the Democrats deleted the term “one-China” from their platform, in January a representative of Taiwan was invited for the first time to an inauguration of a US president. In April, the administration of Joe Biden announced that it would ease decades-old restrictions on contacts between the US administration and the Taiwanese government.
“This policy increases the risk of catastrophic war,” explains Peter Beinart, professor of political science at City University in New York. In the “New York Times”, he calls on Biden to continue supporting Taiwan militarily, but to stick to the decades-old” one-China doctrine." This “fiction” had proved its worth and allowed the two great powers, the USA and China, to keep their faces. The “one China policy” has been helping to preserve peace in one of the most dangerous regions of the world for decades.
The One China Fiction
The One China policy, a premise and fiction that emerged during the Cold War, assumes that there is only one China. All states wishing to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China must recognise this and therefore must not establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan at the same time.
This policy is a fiction because the Republic of China still exists. It includes Taiwan and some islands. But this independent republic is recognized by very few countries in the world. “By not making its relations with Taiwan official, the US can hold China to the fact that peaceful reunification is possible. And it gives China a reason not to intervene militarily,” says Beinart.
A military intervention is more than a theoretical possibility, because in China since 2005 a law says that a declaration of independence from Taiwan would be a reason for war. Officially, the US does not say how it would react in the event of an invasion of the People’s Republic of Taiwan. There are calls for more formal assurances.
This is exactly what Beinart criticizes. Its key message:
“Regardless of whether the U.S. officially promises to defend Taiwan, it is extremely reckless to think that the U.S. can provoke Beijing by reversing the one-China policy while threatening to militarily prevent China from intervening.”
Reckless deviation from the one-China policy
It would be reckless to deviate from the" one China policy " because any credible deterrent requires both power and will. And with both there are question marks.
- Mainland China is 180 kilometers from Taiwan, while Honolulu is 8000 kilometers away. US aircraft carriers are relatively easy to attack from the nearby mainland.
-While the People’s Republic clearly regards Taiwan as the number one problem in the context of Sino-American relations, the Washington establishment may support US entry into the war alongside Taiwan, but there is widespread scepticism in the country itself.
Sticking to the one-China policy does not mean dropping Taiwan. The country is a democratic example and relations with the West in general and with the US in particular are close. But as a small country in the shadow of a superpower, Taiwan has little room for manoeuvre in foreign policy. “The US would also never allow Mexico to enter into a military alliance with Beijing,” Beinart illustrates the situation.
Taiwan served as a retreat with the help of the US
The “one China policy” has a history. In 1682, the Qing Dynasty, founded by the Manchurians, had brought the island of Taiwan under the control of the mainland for the first time. in 1912, a republic was proclaimed in China. In 1949, after the Communists under the leadership of Mao Zedong agreed and brought China under their control after the Japanese occupation, Chiang Kai-Shek withdrew to Taiwan with his supporters and the help of the United States.
Since then, the People’s Republic has always taken the view that Taiwan, as a breakaway province, belongs to China and is trying to enforce the one-China policy internationally.
More and more states – Switzerland already in 1950 – broke off official relations with Taiwan and recognized the People’s Republic. in 1971, China’s UN membership passed from the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the People’s Republic. in 1979, the US severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established official relations with the People’s Republic.
But in practice, the Taiwanese passport is generally recognized, economic and cultural offices of Taiwan work all over the world like embassies and ensure international networking. Military cooperation with the US is close.
The one-China policy is thus a fiction, a diplomatic “pretend”. But this fiction is very effective, says Beinart. It has brought peace, individual freedom and prosperity to Taiwan. China, on the other hand, can hold on to the idea that Taiwan is part of China. If the West officially recognized Taiwan as an independent country, it would be a cause of war for Beijing. Therefore, Biden should refrain from his" extremely reckless " Taiwan policy.