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Explained: What is one-China policy?

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The One China policy refers to a United States policy which recognizes the PRC as the sole legal government of China, but only acknowledges, and does not endorse, the PRC position that Taiwan is part of China.

Washington, May 24: US President Joe Biden has said that the US would intervene militarily if China invades Taiwan. He said the burden to protect Taiwan is "even stronger" after Russia's action in Ukraine. It was one of the most forceful presidential statements in support of self-governing in decades.

 Explained: What is one-China policy?

However, the White House quickly downplayed the comments, saying they don't reflect a change in US policy. It's the third time in recent months that Biden has said the US would protect Taiwan from a Chinese attack, only to have the White House walk back those remarks.

"He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself."

The US traditionally has avoided making such an explicit security guarantee to Taiwan, with which it no longer has a mutual defence treaty.

The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which has governed US relations with the island, does not require the US to step in militarily to defend Taiwan if China invades.

However, it mandates America to ensure Taiwan has the resources to defend itself and to prevent any unilateral change of status in Taiwan by Beijing.

So, what is the US 'One China' Policy?

When the United States moved to recognize the People's Republic of China (PRC) and de-recognize the Republic of China (ROC) in 1979, the United States stated that the government of the People's Republic of China was "the sole legal Government of China." Sole, meaning the PRC was and is the only China, with no consideration of the ROC as a separate sovereign entity.

The United States did not, however, give in to Chinese demands that it recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan (which is the name preferred by the United States since it opted to de-recognize the ROC). Instead, Washington acknowledged the Chinese position that Taiwan was part of China. For geopolitical reasons, both the United States and the PRC were willing to go forward with diplomatic recognition despite their differences on this matter.

When China attempted to change the Chinese text from the original acknowledge to recognize, Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher told a Senate hearing questioner, "[W]e regard the English text as being the binding text. We regard the word 'acknowledge' as being the word that is determinative for the U.S." In the August 17, 1982, U.S.-China Communique, the United States went one step further, stating that it had no intention of pursuing a policy of "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan."

To this day, the U.S. "one China" position stands: the United States recognizes the PRC as the sole legal government of China but only acknowledges the Chinese position that Taiwan is part of China. Thus, the United States maintains formal relations with the PRC and has unofficial relations with Taiwan. The "one China" policy has subsequently been reaffirmed by every new incoming U.S. administration. The existence of this understanding has enabled the preservation of stability in the Taiwan Strait, allowing both Taiwan and mainland China to pursue their extraordinary political and socioeconomic transitions in relative peace.

What China said

Beijing on Monday said it was ready to defend its national interests over Taiwan, in a rebuke to US President Joe Biden's vow to protect the island from any invasion by China.

The United States should abide by the one-China principle and stipulations in the three China-U.S. joint communiques, and stop obscuring and hollowing out the one-China principle, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Monday in response to recent remarks by U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price.

In a social media post, Price said that China continues to misrepresent U.S. policy, and that the United States remains committed to its longstanding, bipartisan one-China policy, guided by the so-called "Taiwan Relations Act," Three Joint Communiques, and Six Assurances.

Wang said that Price's comments are a distortion of facts and history.

The Taiwan question is the most important and sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations. The core of the Taiwan question is "one China." There is but one China in the world, Taiwan is a part of China, and the government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China.

"This is the core concept of the one-China principle, which has become the consensus of the international community and the basic norm governing international relations," Wang said.

A total of 181 countries, including the United States, have established diplomatic relations with China on the basis of recognizing the one-China principle, he added.

In history, the Taiwan question was the biggest obstacle to the normalization of China-U.S. relations. That's because China firmly adhered to the one-China principle and would never make any compromises or concessions on this issue, Wang said.

In 1971, the United States affirmed to China that it would pursue new principles with regard to the Taiwan question, which include: the United States would acknowledge that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is a part of China, and the U.S. side would not support any "Taiwan independence" movement, the spokesperson said.

It is not difficult to tell from the fact that China is not misrepresenting the U.S. policy. It is the U.S. that has been constantly reneging on its own commitments, the consensus of the two sides, and its original position, in order to undermine the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and play the "Taiwan card" to contain China, Wang said.

He pointed out that the essence of both the one-China principle and the one-China policy is about "one China," which is the political consensus reached by China and the United States. Without the consensus, China and the United States could not have engaged with each other, established diplomatic ties, and developed bilateral relations.

The Taiwan question is purely China's internal affair, and realizing complete national reunification is the common aspiration of all Chinese people. China is determined to safeguard its own sovereignty and security interests.

"The Taiwan issue is a purely internal affair for China," he said. "On issues touching on China's core interests of sovereignty and territorial integrity, China has no room for compromise or concession."

Biden made a connection between the response of Western nations to Russia's assault on Ukraine and Beijing's perception of the risks of military action against Taiwan.

Wang said China would always defend its interests with the force of its 1.4 billion population.

"No one should underestimate the firm resolve, staunch will and strong ability of the Chinese people in defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he added.

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