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China, US, Taiwan all have own interpretations of ‘one China’

Re “Stop pretending that Taiwan isn’t a country” by Jeff Jacoby (Ideas, Jan. 7): “One China” is the decades-old concept guiding US-China-Taiwan relations. My research shows that there are five interpretations of it: China has two, the United States has two, and Taiwan has one.

China maintains the “one China” principle, which advocates for reunification under the “one country, two system” formula as practiced in Hong Kong and Macau. This means Taiwan would become subordinated to China and its Communist system. The United States rejects the “one China” principle because it contains the right to use force against Taiwan to resolve issues.


The United States’ “one China” policy consists of two different frameworks: the “communiqués framework” and what I call the “second framework.” The former favors US-China ties, whereas the latter supports US-Taiwan relations. Trump’s administration favors the second framework. Both frameworks oppose China’s right to use force against Taiwan.

China wants the United States to follow the communiqués framework only, which marginalizes Taiwan. China actively promotes this framework while actively countering the second framework.

The Kuomintang on Taiwan has one interpretation, which backs unification with China under the system of democracy. Although the Democratic Progressive Party holds political power on Taiwan now, and wants to abandon “one China,” the principle itself, contrary to Jacoby’s contention, is far from being dead.

Judith Norton

South Dartmouth

The writer is the project manager of the East Asia Peace and Security Initiative. She worked in China for nearly 10 years and was a former research fellow on Taiwan, sponsored by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.