II. Origin of the Taiwan
Question

Taiwan was returned to China de jure and de facto at the end of the Second World War. It became an issue only as an aftermath of the ensuing anti-popular civil war started by Kuomintang, and more especially because of intervention by foreign forces.

Taiwan question and civil war launched by Kuomintang. During the war of resistance against Japanese aggression the Chinese Communist Party and other patriotic groups pressed Kuomintang into a national united front with the Communist Party to fight Japanese imperialist aggression. After victory of the war the two Parties should have joined hands to work for the resurgence of China. But the Kuomintang clique headed by Chiang Kaishek flouted the people's fervent aspirations for peace and for building an independent, democratic and prosperous new China. Relying on U.S. support, this clique tore up the 10 October 1945 agreement between the two Parties and launched an all-out anti-popular civil war. The Chinese people were compelled to respond with a people's liberation war which was to last more than three years under the leadership of the Communist Party. Since the Kuomintang clique had already been spurned by the people of all nationalities for its reign of terror, the government of the "Republic of China" in Nanjing was finally overthrown by the Chinese people. The People's Republic of China was proclaimed on 1 October 1949 and the Government of the new People's Republic became the sole legal government of China. A group of military and political officials of the Kuomintang clique took refuge in Taiwan and, with the support of the then U.S. administration, created the division between the two sides of the Straits.

Taiwan question and responsibility of the United States. Against the backdrop of East-West confrontation in the wake of the Second World War and guided by its conceived global strategy and national interest considerations, the U.S. government gave full support to the Kuomintang, providing it with money, weapons and advisors to carry on the civil war and block the advance of the Chinese people's revolution. However, the U.S. government never achieved its objective. The White Paper on United States Relations with China released by the Department of State in 1949 and Secretary of State Dean Acheson's letter of transmittal to President Harry S. Truman had to admit this. Dean Acheson lamented in his letter: "The unfortunate but inescapable fact is that the ominous result of the civil war in China was beyond the control of the government of the United States. ... Nothing that was left undone by this country has contributed to it. It was the product of internal Chinese forces, forces which this country tried to influence but could not."

At the time of the founding of the People's Republic of China the then U.S. administration could have pulled itself from the quagmire of China's civil war. But it failed to do so. Instead, it adopted a policy of isolation and containment of New China. When the Korean War broke out, it started armed intervention in the inter-Taiwan Straits relations which were entirely China's internal affairs. On 27 June 1950 President Truman announced: "I have ordered the Seventh Fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa." Thus the Seventh Fleet invaded the Taiwan Straits and the U.S. 13th Air Force set up base in Taiwan. In December 1954 the U.S. concluded with the Taiwan authorities a so-called mutual defense treaty placing China's Taiwan Province under U.S. "protection". The erroneous policy of the U.S. government of continued interference in China's internal affairs led to prolonged and intense confrontation in the Taiwan Straits area and henceforth the Taiwan question became a major dispute between China and the United States.

In order to ease tension in the Taiwan Straits area and seek ways of solving the dispute between the two countries, the Chinese Government started dialogues with the United States from the mid-1950s onwards. The two countries held 136 sessions of talks at ambassadorial level from August 1955 to February 1970. However, no progress had been made in that period on the key issue of easing and removing tension in the Taiwan Straits area. It was not until late 1960s and early 1970s when the international situation had undergone changes and as New China had gained in strength that the U.S. began to readjust its China policy and the relations between the two countries started a thawing. In October 1971 the United Nations General Assembly adopted at its 26th session Resolution 2758 which restored all the lawful rights of the People's Republic of China in the United Nations and expelled the "representatives" of the Taiwan authorities from the U.N. U.S. President Richard Nixon visited China in February 1972 in the course of which the two countries issued a joint communiqu'e?? in Shanghai stating that: "The U.S. side declared: the United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position."

In December 1978 the U.S. Government accepted the three principles proposed by the Chinese Government for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, namely, the United States should sever "diplomatic relations" and abrogate the "mutual defense treaty" with the Taiwan authorities and withdraw U.S. military forces from Taiwan. On 1 January 1979 China and the United States formally established diplomatic relations. The Communiqu'e on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations said that: "The United States of America recognizes the Government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China. Within this context, the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan ... ... The Government of the United States of America acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China." Normalization of Sino-U.S. relations was thus achieved.

Regrettably, however, scarcely three months after the event, a so-called Taiwan Relations Act was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by the President. A domestic legislation of the U.S. as it was, this Act contained many clauses that contravened the communiqu'e? on the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the U.S. and the principles of international law, and seriously prejudiced the rights and interests of the Chinese people. Invoking this legislation, the U.S. Government has continued its arms sales to Taiwan, interference in China's internal affairs and obstruction to Taiwan's reunification with the mainland.

In order to resolve the issue of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, the Chinese and the U.S. governments negotiated and reached an agreement on 17 August 1982. A communique? bearing the same date became the third joint communique? governing Sino-U.S. relations. In that communique? the U.S. Government stated that: "It does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan, that its arms sales to Taiwan will not exceed, either in qualitative or in quantitative terms, the level of those supplied in recent years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China and that it intends gradually to reduce its sale of arms to Taiwan, leading, over a period of time, to a final resolution." Yet in the past dozen or more years the U.S. Government has not only failed to implement the communiqu'e? in earnest, but has repeatedly contravened it. In September 1992 the U.S. Government even decided to sell 150 F-16 high-performance fighter aircraft to Taiwan. This action of the U.S. Government has added a new stumbling block in the way of the development of Sino-U.S. relations and settlement of the Taiwan question.

It is clear from the foregoing that the U.S. Government is responsible for holding up the settlement of the Taiwan question. Since the 1970s many Americans of vision and goodwill in or outside the administration have contributed much by way of helping to resolve the differences between China and the U.S. on the Taiwan question. The aforesaid three joint communiqu'e?s testify to their effort and contribution of which the Chinese Government and people are highly appreciative. On the other hand, one cannot fail to note that there are people in the U.S. who still do not want to see a reunified China. They have cooked up various pretexts and exerted influence to obstruct the settlement of the Taiwan question.

The Chinese Government is convinced that the American and the Chinese peoples are friendly to each other and that the normal development of the relations between the two countries accords with the long-term interests and common aspiration of both peoples. Both countries should cherish the three hard-won joint communiqu'e?s guiding the development of bilateral relations. As long as both sides abide by the principles enshrined in those communique?s, respect each other and set store by their overall common interests, it will not be difficult to settle the Taiwan question that has been left over from history and Sino-U.S. relations will surely see steady improvement and development ahead.