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Explainer: Why does one-China principle matter?


The Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taipei, southeast China's Taiwan, May 24, 2019. /CFP
The Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taipei, southeast China's Taiwan, May 24, 2019. /CFP

The Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taipei, southeast China's Taiwan, May 24, 2019. /CFP

Following the "inaugural speech" by Taiwan region's new leader, Lai Ching-te, on May 20, governments, political parties and international organizations worldwide wasted no time to reiterate their adherence to the one-China principle and their firm opposition to the "Taiwan independence" agenda.

Nauru, which resumed diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) on January 24, immediately issued a statement to show their support for the one-China principle and reunification of China. It stated that Nauru recognizes that there is but one China in the world, with the government of the PRC as the sole government representing the whole of China.

Honduras, which formally established official diplomatic relations with the PRC on March 26, 2023, also reiterated its commitment to the one-China principle, with its Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina Garcia telling CGTN in a recent interview that the island of Taiwan is an inseparable part of China and that the Taiwan question is China's internal affair.

What's more, the United Nations also reaffirmed its adherence to the one-China principle on Thursday, saying Taiwan is a province of China.

What exactly is the one-China principle? And why is the one-China principle so important? Here are some facts you should know.

UNGA Resolution 2758

The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 2758 in October 1971, which expelled the representatives of the Taiwan authorities and restored the seat and all the lawful rights of the government of the PRC in the UN, marking a historic milestone for China’s diplomacy.

The resolution clearly stated that "the United Nations considers 'Taiwan' as a province of China with no separate status," and the "'authorities' in 'Taipei' are not considered to... enjoy any form of government status." At the UN, the island is referred to as "Taiwan, Province of China."

Besides, in multiple legal papers by the UN Office of Legal Affairs, the international organization clearly stated that "Taiwan has no independent status as a province of China," "the Taiwan authorities do not enjoy any form of government status," and that the correct titles for Taiwan should be "Taiwan Province of China," "Taiwan, China," "Chinese Taipei," etc. These documents affirm that there is only one China and Taiwan is part of China.

To date, 183 countries have established diplomatic relations with the PRC on the basis of the one-China principle.

The 1992 Consensus and one-China principle

In October 1992, the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation held talks in Hong Kong. Following these talks and a series of subsequent correspondence and telephone exchanges that year, the two organizations agreed to state that "the two sides of the Taiwan Straits both stick to the one-China principle."

There are documents and written records documenting the process of reaching the 1992 Consensus and its content. Its essence lies in the affirmation that "both sides of the Taiwan Straits belong to one China and will work together towards national reunification," which defines the nature of cross-Straits relations and lays the political foundation for the development of ties across the Straits.

Since then, the two sides have set aside their differences and initiated exchanges and dialogues. In 2001, the Taiwan authorities permitted direct ferry travel between the Chinese mainland's Fujian Province and the islands of Kinmen and Matsu, ending decades of isolation for the islands from the mainland. Seven years later, direct two-way mail, transport and trade across the Straits were fully established between the two sides, significantly facilitating the flow of people, goods and capital.

However, the Democratic Progressive Party authorities have refused to recognize the 1992 Consensus that embodies the one-China principle since 2016,  only to be denounced by the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office for "disrupting the foundation of peaceful development of cross-Straits relations."

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has stated on many occasions that there is only one China, and although the two sides have yet to achieve reunification, China's sovereignty and territorial integrity have never been and cannot be separated.

"Of all the major countries in the world, China is the only one that is yet to realize complete reunification. National reunification is the shared wish and aspiration of all the Chinese sons and daughters. It is also clearly stipulated in China's Constitution," Wang said in a keynote speech at the Asia Society headquarters in New York in 2022.

"We have always worked with the greatest sincerity and effort to pursue peaceful reunification. But we will never tolerate any activity aimed at secession," he said.

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