The United States has fallen in love with soccer once again. The fact that the U.S. Women’s national team has been so successful has only helped the cause. The U.S. Men’s team, however, has a lot of work to do. One thing no one understands about the USMT is it’s formation. The U.S. plays a 4-3-3 formation, which emphasizes quick passing triangles in the midfield. The problem is, the U.S. really didn’t play like that at first. It was a 4-3-3 in name only. Just like the U.S. One-China policy is One-China in name only. Despite the existence of a One-China policy, its use, in practice, has been vague and inconsistent.
So how did what once was one China become China and Taiwan? After centuries of the dynasty system, it’s collapse left a choice to be made. A dispute arose over what form of government China would have. Two factions emerged: the Kuomintang and the Communists. The Kuomintang were nationalists lead by Chiang Kai-Shek, the leader of, at that time, unified China. The Communists were led by, you guessed it, Mao Zedong. Eventually the disputes turned to civil war. The Kuomintang were militarily superior to the Communists in almost every way imaginable. The early outlook was simple. The Communists were going to lose and lose badly. This was nearly complete after the Long March in 1934 when the almost 100,000 people who started was thinned down to approximately 8,000.
When the Communists were on the brink, they received a form of relief: the Japanese incursions into Manchuria. At first, the Nationalist government attempted to call a truce with the Communists. However, it wasn’t long before the truce completely broke down and the Nationalists resumed their initial endeavor. While Chiang Kai-Shek was busy trying to defeat the Communists, the Japanese were ravaging parts of northern China. Mao was a savvy leader, the Communist forces rebuilt destroyed villages and gained a plethora of support among the locals. With a newfound vein of support, the Communists started advancing on the Nationalists and, to a lesser extent, the Japanese. By the end of 1945, the Communists had the support of over 1.2 million people.
Enter the United States. At the end of World War II, the United States finally decided it should do something about the Chinese Civil War. The first thing the U.S. did was use Japanese troops as quasi-garrisons. If the Japanese, with their weaponry, remained in cities not easily accessible by Kuomintang troops, it would prevent Communist troops from taking those cities over. The United States also airlifted thousands of KMT troops to parts of Manchuria in order to accept the Japanese surrender. Now I know what you’re thinking, that’s not really a big deal is it? I mean, come on, it’s just a tiny favor, right? Wrong. Allowing the KMT to accept more surrenders helped them gain more weaponry from the Japanese and less went to the Communists. Furthermore, the United States military committed 150,000 troops to Chiang Kai-Shek to try and keep China from falling into the hands of Mao. Not to mention the fact that the U.S. also trained over 500,000 Kuomintang troops and sent about $4 billion dollars of mostly military aid to the Nationalist government.
Even with all of the United States aid to the Kuomintang government, it wasn’t enough to defeat the Communists. The KMT eventually retreated to a few pacific islands, known today as Taiwan or Chinese Taipei, in some circles, or the Republic of China. The Communists, took over mainland China and established the government that the majority of the western world despised, the People’s Republic of China. However, that didn’t fully resolve the conflict, or anything really. Immediately after the split there was one prevailing view held by each side. There was only one China and they were the legitimate government of China. The ROC and the PRC both wanted immediate reunification under their national government.
Over time, each side began to view the divide differently. Let’s start with the Taiwanese people. According to a plethora of recent polls, the majority of the Taiwanese people oppose reunification and independence. In fact, the majority of Taiwanese people actually support the way things are now. The PRC, on the other hand, hasn’t really gotten over it. China still believes in reunification without a doubt. It’s in the preamble of their Constitution, not to mention Article 2 and Article 5. The PRC even wants states to give up recognition and cut off ties with the ROC in order to have relations with the PRC.
Since the United States wants to have diplomatic ties with both China and Taiwan, it’s been put in a quandary. This is where the U.S. One-China Policy emerges. It all starts with the Shanghai Communique of 1972. Under the purview of President Nixon, the Communique was signed during his visit to China. The policy declared the intent to seek normalized relations with China. It also stated that neither the United States or China will seek singular hegemony in the region. Look who well that worked out. There is some debate over whether the Communique recognized that there is One China under the authority of the PRC or if the U.S. simply recognized that the PRC thought it was so.
The next step the United States took in trying to navigate the minefield between Taiwan and China was the Joint Communique of 1979. The Joint Communique officially normalized relations with the PRC and broke off official relations with the ROC (Taiwan). However, the United States also passed the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 which allowed for informal relations with the ROC. In other words, the U.S. basically did nothing different except in name only. Then came the Joint Communique of 1982. The U.S. and the PRC began to disagree over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. The Joint Communique sought to resolve that by using the vaguest language possible to not obligate both sides to do anything at all. The U.S. somewhat pledged to reduce arms sales, yet, the text was so malleable as to opt the U.S. out of such an obligation. Even though the Joint Communique of 1982 was basically meaningless, the U.S. still felt the need to assuage Taiwanese fears of being abandoned. It was from that feeling that the Six Assurances emerged. Assurance 5 stated clearly that the United States would not officially recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan.
Now, we come to the modern era. One-China policy was largely a silent factor during the 1990s. During the Obama Administration’s tenure, President Obama has made statements promising to keep a One-China policy intact. So what does all of this mean? I think former Assistant Secretary of State for the Asia Pacific Region, James A. Kelly, but it best when he said that we have no clue what our current One-China policy actually entails. Judging by current U.S. policy, Kelly couldn’t have thrown a more perfect strike. The U.S. not only actively sells weapons to Taiwan to the tune of millions of dollars, but also supports the Taiwanese government in a diplomatic capacity. Nevertheless, all of that seems to be countered by an active nuclear co-operation agreement with China. Not to mention the billions of dollars worth of trade between the two nations and a BIT in the works.
Despite the existence of a One-China policy, its use, in practice, has been vague and inconsistent. In time, things may start to clear up. Eventually, lines will have to be drawn. The USMT finally started to play like a 4-3-3 during the Copa America and they ended up placing in the top four. When clear lines are drawn and followed, great things can happen. Unfortunately, no more vague policies can be drawn than the ones dealing with the United State’s One-China policy, and that probably won’t change any time soon.