The “One China" Framework at 50 (1972–2022): The Myth of “Consensus” and Its Evolving Policy Significance

Title: The “One China" Framework at 50 (1972–2022): The Myth of “Consensus” and Its Evolving Policy Significance
Format: Journal Article
Publication Date: December 2022
Published In: The China Quarterly
Publisher Cambridge University Press

This lead article surveys the history and evolving policy legacies of the “one China” framework 50 years after US President Richard Nixon's historic 1972 visit to China. It begins by introducing key concepts and highlighting the crucial difference between Beijing's self-defined “one-China principle” and the US's, Japan's and key other countries’ variable “one China” policies as it relates to Taiwan. It argues that three seminal 1970s developments consolidated the “one China” framework as an informal institution of international politics. The ambiguity baked in by Cold War-era geopolitical necessity provided flexibility sufficient to enable diplomatic breakthroughs between erstwhile adversaries, but also planted seeds for deepening contestation and frictions today. Recent developments – especially Taiwan's democratization and Beijing's increasingly bold and proactive assertion of its claim to sovereignty over Taiwan – have transformed incentive structures in Taipei and for its major international partners. The net effect is that the myth of “consensus” and the ambiguities enabling the framework's half-century of success face unprecedented challenges today.

本篇专节的首文回顾了尼克松 1972 年历史性访华 50 年后,“一个中国”框架的发展和政策遗产。它首先定义几个贯串专节的关键概念,重点强调了中华人民共和国政府主张的“一个中国原则”与美国、日本和其他主要国家的“一个中国”政策之间的关键区别。本文指出 1970 年代三个开创性的发展如何巩固了“一个中国”框架作为国际政治的非正式机制。“一个中国”框架内含的模糊性为昔日冷战对手之间的外交突破提供了足够的灵活性,但也为今日升高的竞争和摩擦埋下了种子。最终结果是,支撑该框架半个世纪成功的模糊性现正面临着前所未有的挑战。

Ivan Allen College Contributors:
External Contributors: Adam P. Liff

Liff, A., & Lin, D. (2022). The “One China” Framework at 50 (1972–2022): The Myth of “Consensus” and Its Evolving Policy Significance. The China Quarterly, 252, 977-1000. doi:10.1017/S030574102200131X

Related Departments:
  • School of International Affairs