Foreign relations of the Republic of China

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This article is about the foreign relations of the Republic of China on Taiwan. For related meanings, see foreign relations of China.

International disputes

The political status of the Republic of China on Taiwan is itself controversial and described in political status of Taiwan.

The 1970s saw a switch in diplomatic recognition from the Republic of China to the People's Republic of China. In October 1971, Resolution 2758 was passed by the UN General Assembly, expelling "the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek" and replacing the China seat on the Security Council (and all other UN organs) with delegates from the People's Republic of China. It declared "that the representatives of the Government of the People's Republic of China are the only lawful representatives of China to the United Nations" and thus regard the Republic of China not legitimate to represent the whole China.

Multiple attempts by the Republic of China to rejoin the UN have not made it past committee. The resolutions submitted in recent years emphasize that Resolution 2758 only addressed the representation of China and ask for the representation of the "23 million people of Taiwan" rather than for the expulsion of the PRC in favor of the ROC. Today, only 25 nations recognize the Republic of China, as the PRC makes breaking ties with the ROC and the recognition of the PRC as the sole legal government of China the prerequisite to diplomatic relations.

Although the current presidential administration leans toward Taiwan independence it has not formally renounced its jurisdiction over Mainland China (including Tibet). The relationship with Mongolia is more complicated. Until 1945, the ROC claimed jurisdiction over Mongolia, but under Soviet pressure, it recognized Mongolian independence. Shortly thereafter, it repudiated this recognition and continued to claim jurisdiction over Mongolia until recently.

Since the late 1990s, relationship with Mongolia has become a controversial topic. The DPP is attempting to establish diplomatic relations with Mongolia, but this move is controversial because it is widely seen as a prelude for renouncing ROC sovereignty over Mainland China thereby declaring Taiwan independence.

On less official terms, Taiwan is involved in a complex dispute for control over the Spratly Islands with mainland China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and possibly Brunei; and over the Paracel Islands, occupied by mainland China, but claimed by Vietnam and ROC. ROC claims the Japanese-administered Senkaku-shoto (Senkaku Islands/Diaoyu Tai), as does mainland China.

On November 7, 2003, ties were established with Kiribati. However, Taipei did not demand that ties be broken with Beijing and ROC Foreign Minister Eugene Chien said that he would not reject having both sides of the Taiwan strait recognized simultaneously.[1] ( The PRC also broke precedent by not cutting ties until November 29 and spent the interim lobbying for Kiribati President Anote Tong to reverse his decision. The decision to hold off for weeks was possibly due to the strategic importance of the PRC's satellite tracking base on Kiribati, which had been used for Shenzhou V and thought to have been used to spy on a U.S. missile range in the Marshall Islands.

List of countries with diplomatic relations with the ROC

The 26 nations which have official diplomatic with the ROC all recognize it as the sole-legitimate government of the whole of China, instead of just its current jurisdiction of the island groups of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu. South Korea and Saudi Arabia ended their diplomatic relations with the ROC in 1992, and South Africa switched recognition to the PRC in 1998. Liberia switched from the PRC to the ROC in 1989, and back again in October 2003. In March 31,2004, Dominica ended its recognition, which began in 1983 because of offers from the PRC to provide $117 million in 6 years. Although Singapore switched diplomatic relations to the PRC in 1992, it maintains close economic and military ties and Singaporean soldiers are sometimes sent to Taiwan for training.

Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, The Gambia, Senegal, Sao Tome & Principe, Burkina Faso, Chad, Malawi, Swaziland, the Holy See, Palau, the Solomon Islands, and the Marshall Islands all have embassies in Taipei.

U.S.-Taiwan Relations

Relationships between the United States and Taiwan are governed by the Taiwan Relations Act. In addition Taiwan has been mentioned in the Three Communiques between the United States and the People's Republic of China.

According to the CIA World Factbook,

 The U.S. has welcomed and encouraged the cross-Strait dialogue 
 as a process which contributes to a reduction of tension and to an 
 environment conducive to the eventual peaceful resolution of the 
 outstanding differences between the two sides. The United States 
 believes that differences between Taipei and Beijing should be 
 resolved by the people on both sides of the Strait themselves. The 
 U.S. has consistently stated that its abiding interest is that the 
 process be peaceful. 

This statement is an example of the careful wording that the United States has to undergo in order to avoid possibly disastrous diplomatic gaffes. A clear statement that the United States does not recognize the PRC claim to Taiwan would bring instant diplomatic retaliation from the PRC. A clear statement that the United States does recognize the PRC claim over Taiwan would risk encouraging the PRC to take military action against Taiwan, and would also be politically almost impossible, in view of the sympathy that Taiwan has in the United States. So the United States responds by refusing to be clear on anything.

Fortunately, all of the parties in this issue are not dissatisfied by the current situation, and there is a general agreement to maintain the "status quo," which includes not being very clear about what the "status quo" really is. Unfortunately, there was some worry that the policy of strategic ambiguity would cause mistaken impressions of people's intentions. Partly to deal with this situation, the policy of the Four Noes and One Without has been developed in which Taiwan has pledged not to take certain actions that would be provocative toward Beijing. In a number of cases, when Taiwan appeared to be moving away from this policy, Washington has asked for and received assurances that this was not the case.

Similar positions on Taiwan are taken by a majority of countries. 26 nations recognize the ROC as the legitimate ruler of China and reject the PRC claims to legitimacy. During the 1990s, Taiwan actively encouraged such recognition through generous grants of foreign aid. In the 2000s, this strategy was abandoned because the PRC could outbid the ROC with foreign aid, and the spending of large sums of money to buy recognition became quite unpopular on Taiwan.

In the 2000s, Taiwan's diplomatic strategy appears to have shifted to encourage "democratic solidarity" with major powers such as the United States, Europe, and Japan.

Diplomatic representation in the US

Official diplomatic relations are currently nonexistent; unofficial commercial and cultural relations with the people of the US are maintained through a private instrumentality, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the US with headquarters in Taipei and field offices in Washington and 12 other US cities. TECRO is technically a private organization, but its staff consists of career diplomats who have temporarily "retired."

Diplomatic representation from the US

Official diplomatic relations are currently nonexistent; unofficial commercial and cultural relations with the people on Taiwan are maintained through a private corporation, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which has its headquarters in Rosslyn, Virginia.

Technically, the AIT is a private organization, but its staff consists of career diplomats from the United States State Department who are formally "on leave" to serve in the AIT. Again, this is an example of the type of compromise that the United States has to go through in order to prevent diplomatic problems.

Relations with other countries

While maintaining diplomatic relations with the PRC, many countries still maintain unofficial 'trade missions' or 'representative offices' in Taipei, to deal with commercial and consular issues. However, owing to political sensitivities, these countries may often forward visa applications to their nearest embassy or consulate, rather than processing them locally. Similarly, the ROC maintains Taipei Economic and Cultural Office or Taipei Representative Offices in other countries, such as the UK.

The ROC also has to compete at the Olympic Games and other international sporting events under the name 'Chinese Taipei', with a different flag and anthem, because of pressure from the PRC.

The dispute over the ROC's status has also affected the island's air links with the outside world, particularly Europe, North America and Australia. For many years, Mandarin Airlines, a subsidiary of the ROC's national airline, China Airlines (CAL) served many international destinations that CAL did not, owing to political sensitivities. However, in 1995 CAL dropped the ROC national colours from its livery, and now flies to international destinations under its own name.

Many countries' national airlines operate services to Taipei using a different name and livery. For example, British Airways has never flown between London and Taipei, but its now defunct subsidiary, 'British Asia Airways' did, with Chinese characters on their aircraft's tailfins instead of BA's Union Jack. Australian carrier Qantas had a subsidiary called Australia Asia Airlines, which flew between Sydney and Taipei, but now operates flights to the island as a code share with EVA Air.

Before the completion of the second runway at New Tokyo International Airport (now Narita International Airport) near Tokyo, Japan, airlines from Taiwan were required to fly to Tokyo International Airport (commonly known as Haneda Airport) in Ota, Tokyo in order not to offend the airlines from the People's Republic of China that flew to the airport in Narita. Also, Japan Air Lines set up a subsidiary called Japan Asia Airways for flights to Taiwan.

International dialling codes are assigned by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to its member states and their dependencies. However, as the ROC was not an ITU member state, it had to be allocated the code 886 unofficially, with the ITU listing the code as 'reserved'. The PRC does not recognise the 886 country code, although it does recognise those allocated to Hong Kong and Macau. Instead it has reserved part of its numbering plan for calls to Taiwan, using the prefix 06.

International organization participation


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