As the relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) becomes more contentious and distrustful, differences between the two countries over the current state and future status of Taiwan—always a source of tension—are becoming more pronounced, and the stakes more elevated. The island is in serious danger of becoming a source of zero-sum strategic competition between Beijing and Washington—a significance it has never possessed in the past.
For nearly fifty years, Beijing and Washington have successfully avoided the transformation of Taiwan into a focal point of strategic competition and a potential trigger of war. This has been made possible largely because of a tacit, but nonetheless clear, understanding reached between the two nations at the time of normalization and diplomatic recognition.
This understanding exchanged Washington’s official recognition of the PRC (and derecognition of the Republic of China, or ROC) as the sole legitimate government of China and its “acknowledgment” of the PRC’s position that Taiwan is a part of China. China, in exchange, replaced its stress on forcefully “liberating” Taiwan with a new policy of peaceful unification as a top priority.
The U.S. side of this understanding constitutes the core of its One China Policy, while Chinese leaders have repeated their position in official statements since the 1970s.
Read the full piece in The National Interest.