The so-called “Double 10” celebration in Taiwan seems like a good occasion to revisit the “One China” policy adopted by most countries, including the Philippines. We say so because the celebration appears to confuse what that policy actually means, even among some of the more educated people in society.
There are those, for instance, who have such a narrow view of it that they ignore certain realities, such as the fact that officials in Taipei, rather than those in Beijing, exercise authority over Filipinos working on the island. And those on the opposite extreme would, perhaps, use that same example to dismiss the policy as a myth.
First, the “One China” policy is very real. By subscribing to it, the Philippines basically recognizes the policy that there is only one China, the one with a government seat in Beijing. According to the 1975 joint communiqué issued by the Philippines and China in Beijing, “The Philippine Government recognizes the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, fully understands and respects the position of the Chinese Government that there is but one China and that Taiwan is an integral part of Chinese territory, and decides to remove all its official representations from Taiwan within one month from the date of signature of this communique.”
Clearly, the Philippines has no diplomatic ties with its closest neighbor, Taiwan. And while there is a relationship – more like a cooperation for practical reasons – between Manila and Taipei, it is not official. Diplomatic representation has been replaced by offices that manage economic and cultural relations.
The second point is that the “One China” policy is useful in guiding the future relationship between Manila and Beijing. The policy lays the foundation for peace and economic cooperation between the two countries. Note that the 1975 Beijing communiqué stipulates that, “The two Governments recognize and agree to respect each other’s territorial integrity.”
The communiqué also says, “The two Governments agree to adopt active measures for the development of trade and economic relations between them.” In short, the policy opens the door for the Philippines to do business with today’s second-largest economy, and it provides a basis for peaceful resolution of differences, including the disputed territories issue.
China and Taiwan
Yes, the relationships mentioned here are complicated, and to get embroiled in it would be akin to China intefering in the Philippine claim to Sabah. Hopefully, a brief history may offer clarity.
In 1927, a civil war erupted in China. The government, which was controlled by the Nationalists, was challenged by the Communists. Fighting was interrupted a decade later when Japan invaded China, and the warring Chinese formed a united front against the invaders.
The civil war resumed after Japan was defeated in World War II. And in 1949, communist forces led by Mao Tse-Tung defeated the Nationalists led by General Chiang Kai-shek. The general and his government, the Kuomintang or KMT, retreated to Taiwan, which had become part of China earlier in 1945.
Later in the midst of the Cold War, the United States and China began mending their relationship. Washington and Beijing signed a “One China” policy in Shanghai in 1972. The Philippines and China signed a similar policy three years later, just months after General Chiang died.
The civil war has not ended to this day, although there has been no fighting for decades. That unfinished business nothwithstanding, there is no dispute over which side won and who controls the mainland with the capital Beijing. And even though the Kuomintang is presently not in power in Taiwan, it still celebrates “Double 10,” which some people have argued is more like the anniversary of the KMT than a national day event.