China’s Policy toward Taiwan in the New Era

An aerial photo of Taipei by night (Credit: Unsplash)

This article was written by Mr. Wang Hongjian, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the EU. The opinions expressed in this article belong to our distinguished writer.

When Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi chose to visit Taiwan in disregard of China’s protest, China was compelled to take countermeasures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Taiwan question is a highly sensitive matter that concerns China’s core interests. It holds a special place in the hearts of 1.4 billion Chinese people. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that any foreign interference or any attempt to separate the island from China would spark strong outrage across the country. 

How will the situation evolve? Will tensions continue to rise or even conflicts arise in the Taiwan Strait? In order to predict the future, it is always wise to take a look at the past and China’s policies today. A few days ago, China published its third white paper on the Taiwan question. As opposed to the last one, which was released in 2000, this new white paper lays out China’s positions and policies toward Taiwan in the new era. 

Taiwan belongs to China, a fact that has a sound basis in history and jurisprudence. The earliest references to Taiwan in China date back to the year of 230. The central governments of China have set up administrative bodies to exercise jurisdiction over Taiwan since the 12th century. In 1895, the defeated Qing government was forced to cede Taiwan to Japan, and China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Taiwan 50 years later when Japan was defeated in the Second World War. 

The later part of history saw the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, replacing the Republic of China as the only legitimate government of the whole of China. The legitimacy of the PRC was reaffirmed when the 26th UNGA session adopted Resolution 2758 in 1971 to restore its lawful rights in the United Nations and recognize its representatives as the only legitimate representatives of China. To date, 181 countries, including European countries, have established diplomatic relations with the PRC on the basis of the one-China principle. 

Due to the civil war in the late 1940s and the interference of external forces, the two sides of the Taiwan Straits have fallen into a state of protracted political confrontation. Thanks to relentless efforts and utmost goodwill from the Chinese government, tensions across the Straits have been de-escalated, leaving the door open for peaceful development.

A great number of breakthroughs have been achieved in cross-Straits relations in the past decades. The two-way trade rose to US$328.3 billion in 2021 from US$46 million in 1978, up by more than 7,000 times. The mainland has become Taiwan’s biggest export market for the past 21 years in a row. The number of cross-Straits visits soared to 9 million from less than 50,000 in 1987. 

In 1992, the relations hit a new milestone when the two sides reached the “1992 Consensus”, making it clear that “both sides of the Taiwan Straits belong to one China and will work together toward national reunification.” The 1992 Consensus, serving as the anchor of the cross-Straits ties, has enabled cross-Straits institutionalized consultations and negotiations as well as expanded exchanges and cooperation in various fields, culminating in the first meeting and direct dialogue between the leaders of the two sides in 2015. 

However, the relations have been facing headwinds in recent years. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the Taiwan region has incorporated the pursuit of “independence” in its party program and put it into practice after winning the election in 2016. The DPP authorities refuse to recognize the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus and proclaim a new “two states” theory. They press for “de-sinicization”, promote “incremental independence” and obstruct cross-Straits exchanges and cooperation. They build up military forces with the intention of pursuing “independence” by force. They also seek to create “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan” on the international stage, endangering peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits.

The United States, for its part, has made the situation worse. Still lost in delusions of hegemony and trapped in a Cold War mindset, some forces in the US see China as a major strategic adversary and a long-term threat and are bent on containing China. Taiwan, naturally, is exploited as a convenient tool. The US seeks to obscure and hollow out the one-China principle by conducting “official” exchanges with Taiwan, increasing arms sales, helping it expand the so-called international space and inducing other countries to interfere in Taiwan affairs. The intention is to obstruct China’s peaceful reunification.

What’s clear is that the Taiwan question is China’s internal affairs and concerns China’s sovereignty. No country or organization has the right to interfere. Resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China’s complete reunification is a shared aspiration of all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation. 

To this end, we will uphold the basic principles of peaceful reunification and One Country, Two Systems, and exert utmost efforts and greatest sincerity to achieve peaceful reunification. We stand ready to engage with all parties, groups, or individuals in Taiwan in a broad exchange of views aimed at resolving the political differences between the two sides based on the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus.

Second, we will promote peaceful cross-Straits relations and integrated development. Continued efforts will be made to boost connectivity in any area where it is beneficial, including trade and economic cooperation, infrastructure, energy and resources, and industrial standards. Cooperation in culture, education, and health care and the sharing of social security and public resources will be promoted. We will also improve the systems and policies to guarantee the well-being of Taiwan compatriots and ensure that they are treated as equals on the mainland.

Third, we will stand firm against separatism and external interference. Peaceful means is our first choice in resolving the Taiwan question. But we will not renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures. This is to guard against external interference and all separatist activities. In no way does it target our fellow Chinese in Taiwan. Use of force would be the last resort taken under compelling circumstances.

Last, we will work with our fellow Chinese in Taiwan toward national reunification and rejuvenation. We have great patience, and we will create conditions for closer exchanges and communication between the two sides, increase our compatriots’ knowledge of the mainland and reduce misconceptions and misgivings, in order to help them resist the manipulation of separatists. 

Peaceful cross-Straits reunification is a blessing not only for the Chinese nation, but also for all people and the international community as a whole. The reunification of China will not harm the legitimate interests of any other country, including any economic interests they might have in Taiwan. On the contrary, it will bring more development opportunities to all countries, including European nations, and make the Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world more prosperous and stable.

The EU and its member states promised to observe the one-China principle when establishing diplomatic ties with China, which serves as the political foundation of our relations. We hope they keep their commitments, handle Taiwan-related issues properly and prudently, and oppose any action to split Taiwan from China. 

About the author

The author is Mr. Wang Hongjian, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the EU

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