Beijing Accuses US of Trying to ‘Write Off’ One China Principle With Taiwan Relations Website Change

© AP Photo / Ng Han GuanA Chinese woman adjusts the Chinese national flag near U.S. national flags before a Strategic Dialogue expanded meeting that's part of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Thursday, July 10, 2014
A Chinese woman adjusts the Chinese national flag near U.S. national flags before a Strategic Dialogue expanded meeting that's part of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Thursday, July 10, 2014 - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.05.2022
The US has used Russia’s special operation in Ukraine to spread fears in Taiwan of an imminent Chinese invasion, encouraging Taipei to buy even more US weapons after penning one deal after another in recent years, totaling several billion dollars. The autonomous island figures centrally in the US’ anti-China strategy.
On Monday, Sputnik reported that the US State Department’s website about US-Taiwan relations had recently been rewritten to omit and downplay certain language about that relationship. Deletions included the phrase “the United States does not support Taiwan independence,” and passages explaining how their “robust unofficial relationship” works in plain terms were reworked into obscure references to diplomatic documents and moved further down the page, coming after lines hailing Taiwanese democracy and US-Taiwan friendship.
Beijing hit back on Tuesday morning, calling on the Biden administration to “stop engaging in political manipulation of Taiwan-related issues and containing China with the Taiwan question.”
“There is only one China in the world,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters on Tuesday.
“Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory. The Chinese government is the sole legal government representing the whole of China. This is a universally-recognized norm governing international relations and common consensus of the international community. History brooks no falsification, facts cannot be denied, and right and wrong should not be distorted,” he said.
“The US has made solemn commitments on the Taiwan question and the one-China principle in the three China-US joint communiqués,” Zhao continued. “The US’ latest modification of the fact sheet is a trick to obscure and write off the one-China principle. Such political manipulation of the Taiwan question and the attempt to change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait will hurt the US itself.”
Unofficial Friendship
Taiwan has been de facto autonomous since 1949, when the Chinese republican government was defeated in the civil war on the mainland and the socialist People’s Republic of China was founded in Beijing. Both governments claim to be the rightful Chinese government, but all but a handful of small, US-dominated countries have switched their recognition from Taipei to Beijing in the decades since - including the United States in 1979.
Despite the shift, Washington has continued to funnel Taiwan sufficient weaponry to defend its autonomy. In recent years, as a pro-independence faction came to power in Taipei and the US switched its global strategy toward “great power competition” with Russia and China, the pace of that support has sharply increased, and since Russia launched its special operation in Ukraine in February, it has accelerated still further.
March 2022 saw one US delegation after another, official and unofficial, visit the island, and the US Navy has performed several transits of the Taiwan Strait separating the island from the mainland - all actions Beijing considers provocative.
Nothing’s Changed?
It’s unclear if US policy is expected to change as a result of the reworded web page. One theory about the edits is that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to speak on May 5, the day of the edits, but his speech was postponed due to the diplomat contracting COVID-19. However, US and Taiwanese officials have insisted that US policy remains unchanged.
Ed Dunn, a spokesperson for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto US embassy on the island, told local media on Wednesday that Washington’s “One-China” policy is guided by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances made with China - a recapitulation of existing policy phraseology.
"Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region," Dunn said.
Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokeswoman Joanne Ou pointed to Dunn’s statement when asked by reporters, saying Taipei would continue to deepen its relations with the US, including self-defense capabilities, and promote “cross-strait peace and security.”
However, some lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) saw the US move as encouraging, saying it makes the US declaring its support for Taiwan easier.
DPP legislator Lin Chun-hsien told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) that Beijing and the US have different understandings of the One-China policy.
“The US used to turn a blind eye to the Chinese explanation of its one-China principle and, by removing those statements, it now clearly defines its one-China policy that no longer contains the part ‘Taiwan is a part of China,’” Lin said.
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