China, Taiwan and United States

Taiwan: sovereign state or Chinese province?

According to Equzhou, Taiwan Island, also called Formosa, has offered refuge to the nationalist government of Guomindang, led by Chiang Kai-shek, which was defeated in 1949 during the Chinese civil war. The island therefore took the name of the Republic of China (Roc). At the time, the Communist government refrained from taking the island by force due to the presence of the US 7th Fleet. The vindication of the ‘legitimate claims’ of mainland China then constituted one of the most enduring themes of Communist propaganda: during the Cold War, the countries adhering to the Western bloc recognized the Taipei government, following the US example, while those linked to the USSR supported Beijing. For this reason, in the negotiations for the normalization of relations, the ruling class of the CPC has placed the interruption of relations with Taiwan as a precondition since the 1950s. The contrasts of that period led to much more relaxed relations with Beijing. President Ma Ying-jeou, a member of Guomindang elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012, is an advocate of rapprochement. An important step on this path was the ‘1992 Consensus’, an informal meeting between representatives of both countries who agreed on the existence of only one China in cultural terms, regardless of political differences. The event was part of a series of attempts to reduce the tension existing in the Taiwan Strait, especially in relation to the international repercussions of the Tiananmen Square repressions and the contemporary Chinese need to open up to the world in the 1990s. framework of economic cooperation, strongly supported in 2010 by President Hu Jintao. Despite the conciliatory political will and in spite of the economic growth from which the ROC was also able to benefit, the event was accompanied by protests from part of the Taiwanese population, which claims its own political and cultural identity. The international situation in Taiwan is in some ways delicate. Currently, Taiwan is recognized by Belize, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Nicaragua, Palau, Panamá, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Saint Kitts and Nevis, São Tomé and Príncipe, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Tuvalu and the Vatican. A step forward was represented, on 7 November 2015, by the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Taiwanese counterpart Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore.

China and the United States: technical tests of G2

China has always been a fundamental hub of US foreign policy since the period of the Korean conflict (1950-53). Diplomatic normalization (1972) and market opening (1979) were not enough to offset the shock of the Tiananmen Square repressions (1989), which prompted President George HW Bush to suspend high-level diplomatic exchanges. The use of secret spokespersons has however preserved the path of conciliation with the accession to APEC in 1991 and to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1992. The critical attitude of the United States was maintained under the administration of Bill Clinton who, however, while making public statements about the brutality of the Chinese regime, she went so far as to establish a Washington-Beijing hotline in 1998. With George W. Bush has reached an integration not only strategic, relating to issues such as the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, but also economic: the Senior Dialogue (2005) and the Strategic Economic Dialogue (2006-08), merged into the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (2009) with the election of Barack Obama. In this slow process of rapprochement, the general objectives for the PRC have been to build a good relationship with the most influential world power and to obtain a consensus useful for economic progress through various exchange agreements and, above all, with the symbolic entry into the WTO (2001). The United States tried to balance the Asian situation in its favor and, in particular, to bring an actor like China, which still advocated the multipolar criterion of the ‘third way’, back to international norms. During the January 2011 summit on the problems that followed the referendum for the independence of South Sudan involving China and the USA, there was evidence of the complementarity between the agencies of the respective countries in charge of analyzing and implementing political decisions. Both bureaucracies therefore agreed to organize themselves according to an articulated mechanism that allowed mutual understanding and a soft resolution of the initial diplomatic conflicts. During the same summit, Barack Obama and then President Hu Jintao were able to redesign Sino-American relations: the planning of regular meetings between representatives of the two countries both for diplomatic reasons and to discuss Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and southern and Asia-Pacific area; special dialogue meetings relating to the theme of international security and anti-terrorism; a Strategic Security Dialogue that encompasses a wide variety of issues that may prove invaluable in less defined areas, especially for disputes in the South China Sea. In September 2015, President Xi Jinping made his first state visit to the US, a trip that highlighted the issues under discussion between the two countries: cybersecurity, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, free trade agreements and combating climate change. Precisely on this issue, in 2015, the two countries took a joint stance in favor of reducing emissions, which suggests a possible dual global leadership role in the near future. However, conflicting economic interests keep the relationship between China and the US in an ambiguous state of ‘love and hate’ and will be one of the main features of the international scenario in the coming years.

China, Taiwan and United States

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