Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tkacik on US "One China" Policy

A few days ago WSJ hosted an op-ed from Richard Allen that was good overall but contained a gross error -- the assertion that the US recognizes that Taiwan is part of China. The US does not. A large number of people wrote in but it looks like WSJ isn't going to publish any of them. Tkacik has graciously permitted me to put his letter online. It contains some excellent references:

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To the Editors:

It may be ancient history, but Richard V. Allen's memory of Nixon's Taiwan policy is garbled ("The Next Step in the Taiwan-China Dance," August 17). I served as a U.S. foreign service officer for 24 years working on China and Taiwan affairs, and I can attest that the United States has never subscribed to China's territorial claim on Taiwan. Nor did President Richard Nixon ever publicly articulate such a policy. In fact, Nixon instructed his Ambassador to the United Nations (then George H.W. Bush) to vote against Resolution 2758 granting the People's Republic of China's admission to the United Nations on October 25, 1971, (even though he and Kissinger knew they didn't have the votes in the U.N. General Assembly) precisely because that resolution required the expulsion of Taiwan's representatives. Nixon's public policy was "dual representation" -- support of U.N. seats for both Taipei and Beijing. To this day, official U.S. policy eschews recognition of China's claims to Taiwan. As recently as June 2007, the State Department's standard response to citizens concerned about Taiwan was that the United States has "not formally recognized Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan and [has] not made any determination as to Taiwan’s political status."[1]

Also in 2007, the United States became concerned that the United Nations Secretariat had issued documents asserting that the U.N. considered "Taiwan for all purposes to be an integral part of the PRC." U.S. diplomats informed the Secretariat that "while that assertion was consistent with the Chinese position, it is not universally held by U.N. member states, including the United States." The American diplomats then "urged the U.N. Secretariat to review its policy on the status of Taiwan and to avoid taking sides in a sensitive matter on which U.N. members have agreed to disagree for over 35 years." They warned that "if the UN Secretariat insists on describing Taiwan as a part of the PRC, or on using nomenclature for Taiwan that implies such status, the United States will be obliged to disassociate itself on a national basis from such position." The United Nations Secretariat has indeed ceased to assert that Taiwan is an integral part of China.

Mr. Allen's phrase "there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China" is a purely Chinese formula. It is testimony to the effectiveness of Beijing's (and the weakness of the State Department's) public diplomacy that Mr. Allen, himself a friend of Taiwan, confuses China's policy with America's.

John J. Tkacik, Jr.
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5 comments:

Readin said...

Tkacik says Mr. Allen's phrase "there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China" is a purely Chinese formula.

It is a Chinese formula, but Tkacik overlooks the fact that the U.S. did include it in the Shanghai Communique by saying that "The U.S. side declared: The United States acknowledges that all 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 Government does not challenge that position."

The formulation is problematic in that it presumes either that people on both sides are Chinese and all agree, or that only the Chinese opinions on both sides matter. Of course this was written back in 1972 when any Taiwan nationalist sentiments were firmly suppressed by the authoritarian Chiang regime, and also a time when the Cold War was still going strong and we were willing to make buddy-buddy with smaller human rights abusers in the much larger fight against the greater human rights abuser that was communism.

Anyway, Tkacik is right to say we didn't agree that Taiwan is part of China. But the point of confusion should be clarified rather than ignored if we hope to prevent future mistakes. We did use the language, but we only agreed not to challenge it, we didn't agree to agree with it.

Readin said...

This is out of place, but I don't know where else to put it. Readers might be interested to know that Google Maps has turned on street view for Taipei. Unfortunately they don't have it for the rest of the country yet.

Steven said...

Thanks for posting this great response.

Michael Turton said...

It is a Chinese formula, but Tkacik overlooks the fact that the U.S. did include it in the Shanghai Communique by saying that "The U.S. side declared: The United States acknowledges that all 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 Government does not challenge that position."

Readin, the US interpretation is quite clear: acknowledge means that they are aware of the position that China has, but their position does not RECOGNIZE the Chinese position. Not challenging a position is not the same as recognizing it, in diplospeak. Hence the US position si totally consistent, if a insanely nuanced. :)

Robert R. said...

I don't disagree... :P