On November 14, 2022, President Biden publicly assured Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, “The One China policy, our One China policy, has not changed, has not changed. We oppose unilateral change in the status quo by either side, and we’re committed to maintaining the peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits.”
Unfortunately, Xi Jinping has changed the status quo of his one-China policy. He insists that Taiwan must soon submit to an imposed union of the two states.
Useless Reassurances and Real Threats
During the same press conference, President Biden tried to reassure anti-communists that “I don’t think there’s any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan.”
Less than six months later, CNN reported on China’s reaction to a meeting between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen.
“China has started three days of military exercises around Taiwan after the island’s President met the U.S. House Speaker in defiance of repeated threats by Beijing. The exercises, dubbed ‘United Sharp Sword,’ have been denounced by Taiwan. China sees Taiwan as its own territory and has not ruled out using force to bring it under its control.”
The “military exercises” included seventy-one warplanes and nine Chinese Navy ships. How could this not be regarded as a threat?
The Historical Fiction Behind “One-China”
Yet, President Biden blithely acts as though there is no threat, placing his faith in the fiction that the U.S. has the same “One China Policy” that sustained the status quo of the last fifty years.
The nation of Taiwan came into existence in 1948 when the Communists defeated Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists. Chiang and his government escaped to Taiwan and established themselves there. With U.S. support, “The Republic of China” (Taiwan) claimed to be the legal ruler of all China. The Communists made the same claim in reverse. They said (and continue to say) that Taiwan is a part of China.
Nixon and Carter
The current confusion stems from the misbegotten détente policy pursued by President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1974. Mr. Nixon based his policy on another fiction: the strained relationship between the U.S.S.R. and its Chinese Communist allies.
The left-wing press praised President Nixon’s revised relationship with Red China. When he visited China in 1972, cameras captured every moment of the trip, interspersed with delighted news anchors heralding the “groundbreaking” diplomatic effort.
Later, President Jimmy Carter, Jr. decided to extend full and official diplomatic relations with China. Two key Red Chinese demands for “normalization” were the closure of Taiwan’s embassy in Washington and the expulsion of the island nation from the U.N. President Carter pasted on his trademark smile and agreed. There was little that Taiwan could do other than acquiesce to the new situation.
However, Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act to “preserve and promote extensive, close, and friendly commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people on Taiwan, as well as the people on the China mainland and all other people of the Western Pacific area.” President Carter signed it on April 10, 1979.
Dangerous International Ambiguity
Thus, the new law created a relationship with Taiwan that evolved into a strange and ambiguous situation in which the U.S. “supported” and traded extensively with a nation whose existence it did not officially acknowledge. The U.S. maintained (and maintains) an “unofficial presence in Taipei” through a private corporation called the American Institute.
As a result of this Byzantine situation, the United States claims to have a one-China policy while maintaining relationships with two countries, both claiming to be the real China.
This highly ambiguous situation cannot last indefinitely. Indeed, the Communists have set a deadline of 2049 for “reunification.” Taiwan now faces a threat similar to the “two-systems” arrangement that preceded the British handover of Hong Kong.
The Harrowing Example of Hong Kong
The British acquired Hong Kong in 1842 and operated it as a Crown Colony. Since World War II, Hong Kong has developed as an economic powerhouse—not unlike Taiwan. In September 1984, the British signed a treaty with China agreeing to turn over Hong Kong in 1997. In return, the Chinese agreed to respect the political and economic liberties that the people of Hong Kong had enjoyed under the British.
Again, the liberal press heralded the move. Hong Kong was a tremendously important trade center in and out of China. The media informed the world that it was in China’s economic interest to maintain the status quo under what was referred to as the concept of “one country, two systems.” Hong Kong would be a “special administrative region” until at least 2047. Accordingly, the British pulled out on July 1, 1997.
Of course, the Communists broke their promises more quickly than they made them. In 2020, Xi Jinping’s government forced Hong Kong to accept a national security law. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) says that “Since then, authorities have arrested dozens of pro-democracy activists, lawmakers, and journalists; curbed voting rights; and limited freedoms of the press and speech. These moves have not only drawn international condemnation but have also raised questions about Hong Kong’s status as a global financial hub and dimmed hopes that the city will ever become a full-fledged democracy.”
While the CFR acknowledges that “Chinese Communist Party officials do not preside over Hong Kong as they do over mainland provinces and municipalities,” the city is already controlled by the Communist Party. Xi already claims to be the sole authority in interpreting Hong Kong’s fundamental law.
Applying the Past to the Future
Taiwan’s future under Chinese Rule is not bright. The U.S. State Department should acknowledge this reality. Therefore, the U.S. should abandon the fiction of a one-China policy and recognize that Taiwan is a nation the U.S. is committed to protecting.
Anything less is an open invitation to China to move against Taiwan whenever Xi wishes.