A statue of Zheng Chenggong, the Chinese Ming dynasty general who recovered Taiwan from the Dutch colonialists in 1662, is seen in Tainan, Taiwan, in February 2012. Photo: Nora Tam
Qin Gang
Qin Gang

One-China principle is the bedrock of peace across the Taiwan Strait

  • The US government, while claiming its one-China policy has not changed, has been hollowing it out with actions that will only embolden separatists
  • China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity on the Taiwan question must be respected

The one-China principle has been the bedrock of China-US relations as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. This bedrock, however, is in peril like never before.

Taiwan has been part of China since ancient times. General Zheng Chenggong is remembered as a national hero for taking back Taiwan from Dutch colonists 360 years ago. Cheng Kung University in Taiwan was named to honour him.

I remember that right after I assumed the ambassadorship, a Taiwan veteran in his 90s told me he wished to see Taiwan return to China in his remaining lifetime and wished he could revisit his hometown on the mainland.

Taiwan and the mainland have been separated due to the Chinese civil war in the 1940s. But people of the two sides share the same ancestry and language. They have strong cultural affinity, and their economies are increasingly integrated. In the past decade, cross-strait trade has doubled to US$328.3 billion.

Taiwan-born personal trainer Liu Genghong is now one of the most popular social media influencers on the mainland, with over 60 million followers working out with him. The mainland’s social media applications are widely loved and used by the people of Taiwan.
The Chinese government is committed to peaceful development of cross-strait relations. We have been doing our utmost for a peaceful reunification, as this is in the best interest of the whole nation, including our brothers and sisters in Taiwan. At the same time, not renouncing the use of force is not aimed at the people in Taiwan, but to deter “Taiwan independence” separatists and external interference.

Promoting peaceful reunification while not giving up the use of force are like two sides of the same coin. Their ultimate purpose is to create favourable conditions for peaceful reunification.

People walk down a street in Taipei, Taiwan, on November 10, 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE

The one-China principle must be upheld to do this, and the principle is understood as the following: there is only one China; Taiwan is not a sovereign country, but part of China; the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China. This has long been an international consensus solidly based on international law.

The Cairo Declaration issued by the leaders of China, the US and Britain in 1943 clearly states that all territories Japan stole from the Chinese, such as Taiwan and Penghu Islands, shall be restored to China. The Potsdam Proclamation of 1945 affirmed that the terms of the Cairo Declaration would be carried out.

The UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 passed in 1971 recognised that the representatives of the government of the People’s Republic of China are the only lawful representatives of China to the United Nations. On the basis of the one-China principle, 181 countries, including the United States, have established diplomatic relations with China.


The US has made a serious commitment to the one-China principle. In the Sino-US joint communiques, it has been acknowledged there is but one China, Taiwan is a part of China, and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government of China.

The US said it would only maintain cultural, commercial and other unofficial relations with Taiwan. It pledged not to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan and intends gradually to reduce its arms sales, leading, over a period of time, to a final resolution.

Then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai and US president Richard Nixon review Chinese troops at Nixon’s departure from Beijing to Hangzhou to continue his China visit, on February 26, 1972. The Shanghai communique was issued during that trip. Photo: AP

However, the principle is being seriously damaged. Tsai Ing-wen’s authorities reject the “1992 Consensus” that reflects the one-China principle and are plotting an incremental approach to “Taiwan independence”.


The US government, while claiming its one-China policy has not changed, that it does not support “Taiwan independence” and does not want conflict or confrontation with China, considers Taiwan as a “strategic node” in the first island chain to contain China.

It has been hollowing out the one-China policy. It puts its Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances, something that only reflects its own will, above the three Sino-US joint communiques, which are the common understanding between two countries. This has violated the basic norms governing international relations.
While substantially upgrading its official relations with Taiwan and sending senior officials to the island, the US side has been whitewashing its moves as developing “unofficial relations”. While paying lip service to cross-strait peace, it keeps selling sophisticated weaponry to Taiwan, only to add fuel to the fire. US actions will embolden separatists and turn the Taiwan Strait into a dangerous powder keg.


US President Joe Biden says US military will defend Taiwan if attacked

US President Joe Biden says US military will defend Taiwan if attacked
As the Ukraine crisis unfolds, noises about “Ukraine today, Taiwan tomorrow” are growing, drawing parallels between two issues that are totally different. Ukraine is a sovereign state; Taiwan has never been one. The Taiwan question is part of China’s internal affairs that brook no external interference.

The sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected. They include Ukraine, and should include China, whose sovereignty and territorial integrity on the Taiwan question must be respected.

On an issue concerning China’s core interests, we will never compromise or back down. Any discussion in America about “strategic clarity” or “strategic ambiguity” is a waste of time. No one should underestimate our determination, resolve and capability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Some two centuries after General Zheng’s recovery of Taiwan, president Abraham Lincoln led the American people in successfully protecting the unity of the United States. Lincoln famously said, “A house divided cannot stand”, and today, I don’t think the American people would allow any state to be divided, with external support, from the United States.


I hope the US can put itself in our shoes, respect the Chinese people’s aspiration for peace and national reunification, and choose the right side of history by abiding by the one-China principle and supporting the peaceful reunification of China.

Qin Gang is Chinese Ambassador to the United States