Offensive against the One-China-Policy (I)

BERLIN/TAIPEI/WASHINGTON (Own report) - Following his talks with the Taiwanese foreign minister, a member of the German Bundestag called for abandoning the One-China-Policy and recognizing Taiwan as an independent nation. The western powers should support Taiwan's membership in the United Nations, demanded Ulrich Lechte (FDP), a member of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee, during his recent stay in Taiwan's capital Taipei. His demand comes at a time, when Washington is intensifying its support for Taiwan and increasing its arms exports to the island. Just a few days ago, US President Donald Trump approved the delivery of military hardware worth $8 billion to Taipei, including 66 F-16 fighter jets. In addition to US warships, French naval units are now crossing the Taiwan Strait to increase pressure on Beijing. Demands to dispatch a German warship to the Taiwan Strait are already being raised.

The One-China-Policy

Taiwan, a South-Chinese island, to which the Kuomintang had retreated towards the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 - some had also fled to the British colony Hong Kong [1] - had initially been internationally recognized as the legitimate representative of China under the name of the "Republic of China." The government under Chiang Kai-shek represented China at the United Nations and had a seat on the UN Security Council. This changed in the early 1970s, when the United States initiated a rapprochement with the People's Republic of China. With the prospect of losing its war against Vietnam, the US government was seeking to secure alternative channels of influence in Asia, on the one hand, and, on the other, to exacerbate tensions between Beijing and Moscow and increase pressure on the Soviet Union. The People's Republic embarked on the rapprochement, but demanded, in return, its recognition as China's sole legitimate representative (the "One-China Policy"). This was essentially accomplished when the UN General Assembly recognized the People's Republic on October 25, 1971. Beijing is still seeking reunification with Taiwan, which traditionally belongs to China. Countries wishing to maintain relations with Beijing have to recognize this.

Call for Taiwan's Secession

A member of the German Bundestag is now calling for the One-China-Policy to be abandoned. Ulrich Lechte (FDP), member of the Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee, visited Taiwan in early August and met on August 5 with Taiwanese Foreign Minster Joseph Wu "for political talks," in the capital Taipei, as he reported on Facebook.[2] Several of the island’s newspapers quoted from the interview he had given to the official Central News Agency (CNA). Lechte declared that the "one country, two systems" framework has failed. Within this framework, Hong Kong had been integrated from British colonial rule into the People's Republic of China and Beijing had promised Taiwan the same following reunification. Lechte called on the western countries to reconsider their relations with Taiwan. For example, they should help Taiwan become a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Interpol, because these organizations only recognize the People's Republic as China’s legitimate representative. Lechte declared in Taipei, that he supports Taiwan's bid to join the United Nations as an "independent state."[3] Taiwan's explicit secession from China would mean openly abandoning the One-China-Policy.

The Taiwan Relations Act

Lechte’s declarations come at a time, when the United States is intensifying its support for Taiwan. By officially recognizing the People's Republic on January 1, 1979, the USA had to break diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, they were actually continued up to today under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) enacted on April 10, 1979. The TRA requires that the staff of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) is delegated by the US State Department and other US government authorities - thus giving the AIT the status of a regular embassy. The US law also requires that any infringement of the de facto Taiwanese independence will be strictly rejected by Washington. In case of a conflict, the United States reserves the right to intervene by any means necessary on Taiwan's behalf. Last but not least, the Taiwan Relations Act provides for arms supplies to the extent that enables Taipei to successfully defend itself against possible attacks from the People’s Republic. In 2003, the USA declared Taiwan a "major non-NATO ally." US President Barack Obama approved arms deliveries to Taipei worth nearly $14 billion - more than all his predecessors since 1979 together. US soldiers are stationed on the island - officially as "advisors" and "observers."

Arms Exports

The Trump administration is continuing Taiwan’s massive rearmament against the People's Republic. At the end of June 2017, it approved an initial delivery of military hardware worth $1.42 billion. The arms deal reached a temporary peak with the US president approving to supply Taiwan 66 F-16 fighter jets to replace the existing F-16 fleet Taiwan had purchased in 1992, as well as 75 engines and other systems. Worth nearly $8 billion, it is one the biggest arms deals ever between the USA and Taiwan[4] and is escalating tensions between the USA and the People's Republic of China. Beijing announced that it will impose sanctions on the respective US arms companies if the deal is implemented.

Gunboat Diplomacy

In addition, recently, western warships have been transiting through the Strait of Taiwan more frequently. At its narrowest point, the strait, separating the island from Fujian Province on the mainland, is only 180 km wide. A spokesperson for the US Pacific Command officially confirmed at the beginning of July 2018, following a cruise by two guided missile destroyers through the strait that the United States is regularly sending warships through the area.[5] Most recently, a US guided missile cruiser traveled this route at the end of July. The transit is to mark US naval presence, making it clear that, in a crisis situation, Washington would intervene on behalf of Taiwan. However, the US is not the only country making a show of force in the Strait of Taiwan. The French frigate Vendamaire cruised through the strait on April 6. At the time it was made known by French military circles that the French Navy usually transits through the strait once a year.[6] Beijing protested and withdrew its invitation for French naval forces to participate in its planned parade of ships for the 70th Anniversary of the creation of China's Navy.

German Valor

Transatlantic circles are apparently now considering the transit of a German warship through the Straits of Taiwan. In June, a US journalist, making reference to several - unnamed - high-ranking officials in Berlin, reported that the German Ministry of Defense is discussing joining the United States and France in their naval operations and dispatching also a ship from the German fleet to the South China coast. By passing through the strait between Taiwan and the continent, it would not only be possible to demonstrate German presence in East Asia, and simultaneously, independence from the United States, but, it would demonstrate its catching up to France, as a naval power. "The initiation of a [German, ed. note] naval operation off the coast of Taiwan" would - should it take place - "be a trailblazer, an unprecedented act of valor," according to the "Springer" daily "Die Welt".[7] Even if there is no majority in sight favoring such a measure in Berlin, the debate has been launched.


Please also note our video column on the conflict with China.


[1] See also Proteste in Hongkong.

[2] Bericht von Ulrich Lechte auf seinem Facebook-Account.

[3] Lin Chia-nan: German lawmaker urges global support. 07.08.2019. Zin Kao: Democratic countries should support UN membership for Taiwan: German member of parliament. 07.08.2019.

[4] USA rüsten Taiwan mit 66 F-16-Kampfjets aus. 21.08.2019.

[5] Patrick Zoll: Wieso US-Kriegsschiffe in der Strasse von Taiwan Präsenz markieren. 08.07.2018.

[6] Französisches Kriegsschiff passiert Meerenge zwischen China und Taiwan. 25.04.2019.

[7] John Vinocur: Das wäre das Ende der deutschen Zurückhaltung. 11.06.2019.