Can anyone explain the US's "one China policy"

I mean, I know what it is SUPPOSED to mean, but that explanation is pretty much nonsense, isn’t it? How do we recognize that there is only 1 China and the PRC as the legitimate gov’t, but also have “informal” foreign relations and defense agreements with Taiwan?

Are there any other situations where we have such relationships? I was thinking Israel/Palestine, but we don’t have defense agreements w/ Palestine.

Why wouldn’t we expect PRC be displeased with this position?

Just strikes me as an amazingly impressive expression of unworkable nonsense.

It can’t be explained, and that’s intentional - it’s known as “strategic ambiguity.” The goal is to make both sides feel slightly supported, or at least like we’re not completely siding with the other.

Of course they’re displeased, just not as displeased as if we outright announced that Taiwan was an independent country and maybe signed defensive treaties with them.

What’s unworkable about it? Been walking that line for a while so far.

It’s not like the U.S. invented it. It derives from the approach mainland China & Taiwan have taken to managing their relationship for decades.

I mean, it’s been decades where we’ve had reasonably cordial relationships with both countries and Taiwan has remained an independent democratic large purchaser from US weapons manufacturers. Sounds like a win-win-win.

Do you have a policy that would do better?

When the realpolitik rubber meets the road, it’s often not satisfying or coherent, but it maybe actually works.

Diplomatic workarounds of seemingly intractable problems often come across that way.

According to that Wikipedia article, the way they do it seems clear:

It “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” and “does not challenge that position.”

In other words, they utilize the fact that Taiwan also only thinks there is One China, but that they are the legitimate government of said China. Hence the US gets to technically agree with the communist policy, while not actually picking a side.

yeah I dont know why when mao wanted his government recognized we didn’t say 1 you ain’t getting HK back it will be a UN protectorate or “free city” if anything and 2 Taiwan is an actual state as conditions for doing so

I think some of it was late imperial guilt over how we treated china in years past

It’s very simple. We say we believe in a One-China policy but we don’t care what it means and we treat Taiwan as an independent country.

Yeah - that’s pretty much my take.

What will we do should PRC decide they are tired of the current situation? Does the 1-China policy encourage/discourage certain responses?

Are there other areas of policy - international or domestic - in which the US practices such “strategic ambiguity?”

Though I think we avoid calling Taiwan a country when China is in the room. (Look, for example, at the groveling apology John Cena had to do to avoid having his new movie banned in China.)

All I know is I had to go through a bunch of strings and change “country” to “country or region”.
There is a disclaimer in our dox that says just because a value is in the “country” field doesn’t mean we (the company) thinks that entity is a country (it can have entities that are definitely not countries like Antarctica).
During the exercise I kept referring it to “changing labels so China doesn’t nuke us”


Almost anything to do with nukes is deliberately ambiguous. There are exactly zero historical events where the US said “If (hypothetically) you did X, we [will / will not] nuke you.” Leaving the adversary to wonder what would or wouldn’t happen if they ever did X. Whether or not X was ever particularly on their mind.

There have been entire companies that were forced to stop operating in PRC China because they accidentally mentioned Taiwan as a seperate country in some obscure spreadsheet and the PRC media got their hands on it and blasted the company as being “Pro-West” and they got boycotted.

Cena Sucks

A few years ago the PRC threatened to revoke a bunch of airlines’ rights to fly there if they referred to Taiwan as a “country” on their web sites. Flights to Taipei had to be listed as “Taipei, China”, or label Taiwan as a “region”. Which may have had something to do with why @N9IWP had to change a bunch of labels to “country or region”.

There is a bit of analogy between most nations not calling their embassy in Taipei an embassy and most countries not locating their embassy in Western Jerusalem, which has been part of Israel since it’s founding, and where its parliament and Supreme Court are located. Everyone knows Taiwan is a country, and everyone knows that West Jerusalem wouldn’t be in play in a compromise settlement with Palestine, but, diplomatically, you aren’t to say it.

Trump moving the U.S. embassy to West Jerusalem was a bit analogous, except for the cost, to if the U.S. changed the sign in front of the American Institute in Taipei to say American Embassy. These are unnecessarily risky moves, even though the Israel move didn’t turn out to be a disaster.

I recommend Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan for how it got this way.

Why would they be displeased? The only reason we’re pretending China is a single country is because they want us to.

Taiwan has indicated it would give up any claims to the mainland and declare itself just Taiwan. But the People’s Republic of China has said that it will invade Taiwan if they did this.

Kinda. Mainland China is displeased with the US’s “1 China” formulation.

But only because we won’t fully agree w Mainland China’s interpretation of it, namely that Taiwan is a temporary breakaway that will, by force if necessary, be brought back under Beijing’s thumb where it rightfully and historically belongs.

Which is bunk of course, but is bunk that’s popular w the mainland people and the mainland government. The former being closely related to the incessant flow of propaganda promulgated by the latter.