One China or Two? page 2 of 6
It was in the late 1950s that I first went to China (Taiwan) to study Chinese at the State Department Language School in Taichung (central Taiwan). Traveling down the highway from Taipei to Taichung, I was struck by the sight of huge billboards along the roadsides plastered with slogans saying that the ROC (the Nationalists) would return to the mainland and eliminate the “Communist bandits”– the gungfei. The Communists were always referred to as gungfei, and their capital, Beijing (which means northern capital) was still referred to as "Peiping" or "Beiping" (meaning northern peace). (The Nationalists' capital on the mainland had been Nanjing, meaning southern capital.)
I should point out that the great majority–about 95 percent—of the population on Taiwan are Hanren (Chinese mainlanders, or those descended from mainlanders), with the rest of the population having descended from aborigine tribes. However, those Hanren born in Taiwan called themselves Taiwanese.
All my teachers at the language school were 1949 refugees from the mainland, so they were my primary sources of information and influence at the time. It wasn’t until eight years later, after tours in Hong Kong and Washington, when I returned to work in the embassy in Taiwan that I was first exposed to the views of the those Hanren who considered themselves Taiwanese. During my Washington tour I had directed the Chinese Division of the Voice of America. My staff there was composed primarily of immigrant Chinese from Taiwan. After getting more or less completely oriented to what our Chinese broadcasts were saying, and how they were saying it, I discovered that we were using ROC lingo in our broadcasts when we were addressing or referring to the mainland Chinese government. In other words, we were calling them gungfei, or "Communist bandits," and we were calling their capital "Beiping" instead of "Beijing." This would have made some sense if our intended audience were the people on Taiwan, but the audiences we were trying to reach were the people on the mainland. I finally received permission from the State Department to use the correct terminology in terms of what was acceptable in the People's Republic of China. Only one exception was made, and that was when we were quoting Secretary Rusk who always used the Taiwan terminology when referring to the mainland.
It was during that time when other signs began to appear indicating that we were rethinking our China policy. The State Department gathered a group of prominent American Sinologists—including Doak Barnett, Ezra Vogel, and Bob Scalapino—to meet on a regular basis with those in government concerned with China issues. (I was included because of my job at the VOA.) At the same time the National Committee on United States–China Relations (NCUSCR) was formed as a nongovernment organization with the mission "to encourage understanding of China and the United States between citizens of the two countries." It has proven over the years, and remains so, to be extremely influential and effective in opening and maintaining communication channels between the two countries.
I returned to the embassy in Taiwan in 1969, when signs of the changes in our thinking began to appear publicly, but still very subtlety–mostly as changes in the terminology used by American officials. For example, Secretary of State Rogers began to say "Beijing," instead of "Peiping," and the "People's Republic of China"–the PRC-- as opposed to saying "Communist China." Then Vice President Agnew paid two separate visits to Taiwan to meet with President Chiang Kaishek to help prepare the Republic of China (on Taiwan) for what was coming. During his visit in 1970 he announced the removal of the U.S. Seventh Fleet from the Taiwan Strait where it had been patrolling since 1950.
The newly evolving policy became obvious in July 1971 with the publicity surrounding Dr. Henry Kissinger’s Beijing visit (2), followed in February 1972 by the Shanghai Communiqué. The China-Taiwan question was incorporated into that communiqué as follows: “The Chinese side reaffirmed its position: The Taiwan question is the crucial question obstructing the normalization of relations between China and the United States” while the U.S. side declared: “The United States 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. The United States Government does not challenge that position. . . .”
In the eight years that followed, our relations with the mainland were nurtured by continuous meetings of high-level officials and through two-way exchange delegations including people from all walks of life, from teachers, public officials, and labor representatives to athletes and performing artists.
On January 1, 1979, the official exchange of recognition between the United States and the People's Republic of China took place. The United States terminated its defense treaty with Taiwan, removing U.S. troops and the Air Force from Taiwan as part of the process. These actions changed the dynamics of the Taiwan question. Up until that time it had been a question of “return to the mainland” with the Nationalists displacing the Communists. Now with U.S. recognition of the PRC as the government of China, it became a question of Taiwan establishing its own identity. Then for the first time, China’s new leader Deng Xiaoping abandoned three decades of Maoist rhetoric about the “liberation” of Taiwan and proposed a version of his “one China, two systems” approach, to be agreed upon in negotiations between Beijing and Taipei. This evolved into the current longstanding debate about the question of “One China” or "One China and One Taiwan"–separate entities, separate states? What will be the result?