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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times China’s non-binding agreements

China’s non-binding agreements

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According to the White House, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) are to hold their first face-to-face meeting today, on the sidelines of the G20 gathering in Indonesia.

The US has said that it would brief Taiwan on the results of the meeting, and on Friday last week, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) responded to this by calling it “egregious in nature,” and said that in so doing the US would be in serious contravention of the “one China” principle and the Three Joint Communiques.

Beijing’s “one China” principle holds that there is only one China, that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is its sole legitimate representative and that Taiwan is a part of China.

The US’ “one China” policy agrees that there is only one China in the world, and that the PRC is its sole representative.

For China, the Taiwan issue is an internal matter, and the Taiwan Strait is China’s “internal waters.”

For Washington, the Taiwan issue is not an internal matter for China to solve, and the Taiwan Strait is international waters, through which all countries have freedom of navigation.

The US briefing Taiwan on the results of the meeting between Biden and Xi does contravene China’s “one China” principle, which does not countenance the idea of Taiwanese sovereignty, but it in no way contravenes the US’ “one China” policy, which is quite at home with Taiwan’s sovereignty.

As for Beijing’s accusation that the US is contravening the three communiques and that its behavior in so doing is somehow “egregious,” to what extent does Beijing act in good faith in respect to international treaties and agreements?

The 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki clearly states that Taiwan and Penghu were ceded to Japan in perpetuity, and yet Beijing still has the audacity of saying that Taiwan is an inalienable and inseparable part of China’s territory.

Of course, China would just roll out the same excuses, that Shimonoseki is nothing but a “historical document,” that it “does not have any actual significance,” and that it is not worth the paper it is written on.

Another example is the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the treaty between the UK and China signed in 1984 by then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and then-Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽).

The treaty set the conditions in which Hong Kong was handed over to China, and for the governance of the territory after July 1, 1997, including that the “one country, two systems” model would be used for 50 years.

Only 22 years after the handover, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang (陸慷) said that the treaty was just a historical document that no longer had any practical significance and was not binding in any way.

If, according to China’s logic, the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong’s future — signed in Beijing on Dec. 19, 1984, and which came into force on May 27 the following year when instruments of ratification were exchanged — could be viewed as a historical document that is non-binding and has no practical significance, how seriously should the US take the three communiques, signed separately as the Shanghai Communique in 1972, the Joint Communique on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations in 1979 and the Aug. 17 communique in 1982?

Should those not be seen as non-binding historical documents of no practical significance too?

Chang Kuo-tsai is a retired associate professor of National Hsinchu University of Education.

Translated by Paul Cooper

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2022/11/14

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