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Resumption of China-Nauru diplomatic ties an affirmation of one-China principle

Wang Shushen

The Parliament of Nauru, January 15, 2024. /Xinhua
The Parliament of Nauru, January 15, 2024. /Xinhua

The Parliament of Nauru, January 15, 2024. /Xinhua

Editor's note: Wang Shushen, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is the Deputy Director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The article reflects the author's views and not necessarily those of CGTN.

On January 16, the Parliament of Nauru approved and passed a motion to restore full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC). This move by Nauru, coming only a few days after the conclusion of two major elections in Taiwan with Lai Ching-te from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winning the race, has attracted worldwide attention.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs appreciates and welcomes the decision of the government of the Republic of Nauru, pointing out that there is but one China in the world, Taiwan being an inalienable part of China's territory, and the government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China. It's what has been affirmed in the Resolution 2758 of the UN General Assembly and is a prevailing consensus among the international community. The Nauru government's decision to reestablish diplomatic relations with China shows that the one-China principle is where global opinion trends and the arc of history are bending.

This move sparked immediate reactions in Taiwan, with commentators noting Nauru as the 10th "diplomatic ally" lost by the Taiwan authority led by Tsai Ing-wen, consequently reducing Taiwan's number of diplomatic allies to an all-time low of 12. The Kuomintang (KMT) party said that under the DPP's rule, the island's "foreign relations" are in great trouble and the "Taiwan independence clause" in the party platform should be abolished as soon as possible. Facing pressure, Taiwan authorities criticized the Nauru government for abruptly severing "diplomatic relations" and revealed that Nauru had sought substantial economic assistance from Taiwan, in a bid to deflect all responsibility. They also announced the complete cessation of bilateral cooperation programs with Nauru to demonstrate its uncompromising stance.

The Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taipei, southeast China's Taiwan. /Xinhua
The Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taipei, southeast China's Taiwan. /Xinhua

The Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taipei, southeast China's Taiwan. /Xinhua

Nauru's announcement of severing "diplomatic ties" with Taiwan also drew the attention of the United States. The U.S. Department of State released a statement saying that Nauru's decision was "disappointing" and that the U.S. would continue to deepen and expand its engagement with Taiwan and encourage all countries to expand engagement with Taiwan. Regarding Nauru's citation of UN Resolution 2758 in its decision to sever "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan, Chair of the American Institute in Taiwan, Laura Rosenberger said in a media briefing that UN Resolution 2758 did not make a determination on the status of Taiwan and does not preclude countries from having diplomatic relationships with Taiwan. This response by the U.S. appears to be a supportive gesture to the DPP in a challenging moment.

At present, it seems the Taiwan authorities and the United States are aligning their positions. On the one hand, they are downplaying the responsibility the DPP and Lai Ching-te have on Nauru's decision. On the other hand, they continue to challenge the one-China principle and try to keep debate over the Taiwan question active in the international arena.

As a sovereign state, the Nauru government has the right to independently make the choice of reestablishing diplomatic relations with China, in pursuit of the best interests of its own people. This follows the rational decisions made by nine countries in the recent past, including Honduras, Nicaragua, Solomon Islands and Kiribati, and is in line with international law and practices. The U.S. has no right to interfere in this matter. In March 2022, then U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative, intending to use domestic legislation to deter more countries from severing "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan and prevent a potential domino effect. Facts have shown that the U.S. approach has largely failed, and the Taiwan authorities' strategy of relying on the U.S. to strengthen itself has also failed.

The issue of Taiwan's international participation is not new. When Ma Ying-jeou, former chairman of the Chinese Kuomintang party, was in power, Taiwan adhered to the 1992 Consensus and opposed "Taiwan independence," pledging not to trumpet the ideas of "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan" in the international arena. At that time, cross-Straits negotiations pragmatically resolved the issue of Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization. As long as it adheres to the one-China principle, Taiwan's participation in international events can be handled well. However, after 2016, the DPP overturned the consensus and changed the status quo. Its efforts to expand "foreign relations" on a "pro-independence" path have consistently backfired.

The international community has now established a solid framework and consensus on the one-China principle. Taiwan, as a part of China, has no so-called "international status" of its own, nor is there any room for international participation that bypasses the one-China principle. For a new diplomatic partner of China, committing not to develop any official relations or exchanges with the Taiwan region is an appropriate expression of adherence to the one-China principle. Under the DPP's rule, Nauru is the most recent country to sever "diplomatic ties" with Taiwan, but it will not be the last.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com. Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries in the CGTN Opinion Section.)

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