The "One China" Policy: It's Past and Future

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The Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy jointly hosted a panel discussion with the Department of Politics and Government at Illinois State University, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, and the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs on the past and future of the “One China” Policy. The program was moderated by Dr. Dalton Lin of the Sam Nunn School and featured Jay Taylor and Dr. Steven Goldstein of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University as well as Dr. John Garver, Professor Emeritus of the Sam Nunn School. The panel spoke to a crowd of around 30 people about the distinctions between the “One China Principle” and the “One China Policy”.

Jay Taylor began the discussion by touching on the current “unofficial ceasefire” between the PRC and Taiwan. He continued by noting the muted level of propaganda between the two sides and that the current consensus makes it difficult for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to take a hardline and demand a date for reunification. He mentioned that the current Taiwanese President has suggested an attitude geared toward continuing this pragmatic line. In response, Dr. Goldstein remained optimistic that a solution could be reached in the future, but made the argument that the situation is more dangerous than commonly perceived.

Dr. Goldstein emphasized that the China reserves the right to use force should Taiwan “take steps” toward independence. This stance is problematic because the determination of Taiwanese action is subjective according to the PRC, leaving them room to interpret based on their interests. In addition, the PRC views Taiwan and mainland China as part of China with their sovereignty indivisible, and such a view has stopped nations in the international system from maintaining diplomatic relations with both the PRC and Taiwan.

Dr. Garver expanded on the international systemic power of the PRC and the global politics concerning the Taiwan issue. He argued that China spends a great deal of diplomatic energy to ensure that other nations maintain a “One China” policy. The Philippines, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and India are all examples of nations that have agreed to follow China’s lead. However, India has begun to question this understanding, hoping to use its support of “One China” as a bargaining chip in other negotiations with China. Dr. Garver estimates that this reaction is indicative of smaller nations following China’s lead on the issue while larger nations will not be as acquiescent. Finally, Dr. Garver briefly discussed what he called the Global Information War, in which China is expending great effort to influence global public opinion on the Taiwan issue. It is their hope to make American sincerity the issue and shift the focus onto the United States as the reason why the PRC and Taiwan remain separate.


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Christopher McDermott
  • Created:04/20/2017
  • Modified By:Christopher McDermott
  • Modified:04/20/2017