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Pranav Bharadwaj asked: Why is One-China policy so important to PRC?

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  • Prashant Kumar Singh replies: One China policy is a cardinal principle of the People's Republic of China (PRC). This policy means that there is only one China and Taiwan is a part of it, and it is PRC alone that represents China or, in other words, the entire Chinese nation. It does not recognise the existence of the Republic of China (ROC), which otherwise continues to exist in the island of Taiwan. This policy is a legacy of Chinese Civil War, which was fought between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Kuomintang (KMT). It practically ended in 1949, with a defeated KMT relocating ROC to the island of Taiwan and CPC founding PRC on Mainland China. But theoretically, the Civil War is yet to officially conclude. KMT's survival and ROC’s existence on the island remained a challenge for CPC's legitimacy to rule and PRC's legal existence, at least, for more than two decades.

    With PRC finally unseating ROC in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 1971, the challenge to its legitimacy gradually died down. But the quest to reunify Taiwan with Mainland – seen as an unfinished task of the Chinese Civil War – has since emerged as a defining feature of Chinese nationalism. The continued existence of KMT, which has not surrendered, and a democratic ROC, which is still recognised by around a dozen and half countries, remain an ideological challenge to PRC. Besides, Taiwan, as an informal ally of the United States, has a significant place in the major power politics. Taiwan also limits China's naval capabilities to break into the Western Pacific. These historical, ideological and strategic factors explain the importance of One China policy for PRC.

    It should be noted that KMT as well as the ROC Constitution too believes in One China. But, according to them China is represented by ROC. Article 4 of the ROC Constitution, adopted on December 25, 1946 and promulgated on January 01, 1947, stipulates that, “The territory of the Republic of China within its existing national boundaries shall not be altered except by a resolution of the National Assembly.” Although KMT's political conviction and ROC's constitutional position does not carry much weight in the present, it at least underscores that the idea of One China has a far wider appeal.

    The present ruling party in Taiwan, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), however does not believe in One China, in any sense. The DPP, which emerged from the struggle for democracy in the late 1980s, represents the assertion of national identity by sections of Taiwanese society. Sections within the DPP and other pro-independence forces have time and again demanded amendment to the aforementioned article. However, the DPP government has not been able to carry out the amendment for a variety of reasons.

    Posted on April 10, 2019

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