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The Myth of “One China”

  • Edward L. Dreyer

Abstract

“There is only ‘One China,’ and Taiwan”—or Tibet, or Xinjiang, or some other territory—“has always been part of that China.”1 This at least is the official position of the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), repeated again and again by spokespersons who remain relentlessly on this message. The message is well suited to the PRC’s contemporary political needs, and it permits the PRC to deny the legitimacy of any aspirations to independence on the part of Tibetans, Uighurs, Mongols, or any other minority ethnic group. Since their territories have “always” been part of “China,” their histories are, in some sense, part of Chinese history, even if the peoples in question are not native speakers of Chinese and do not identify with the dominant Han nationality.2 If Taiwan has always been part of China, then surely the PRC government has the right to “reunify” the island with the mainland, even though the PRC has never exercised any authority over Taiwan. The “One China” doctrine thus underlies a powerful claim to Taiwan that is widely, if not universally, recognized by the international community.

Keywords

Qing Dynasty Ming Dynasty Chinese History Yuan Dynasty Qing Government 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    For the assertion that the kingdom of Bohai, a successor state to Koguryŏ/ Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms (samguk) of pre-unification Korea, was “not an independent country but a local government under the control of the Tang dynasty” whose history is “inseparable from Chinese history,” see “Raiders of the Arc of History,” South China Morning Post, October 4, 2006. For differing Chinese and South Korean view on Koguryŏ itself, see Choe Sang-Hun, “Tussle Over a Vanished Kingdom,” International Herald Tribune, October 12, 2006.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The issue resurfaced recently in a dispute between China and South Korea over the sacred mountain on the China-North Korea border: see Koichi Furuya, “Squabble over Mt. Baekdu May Be Prelude to Bigger Problems,” Asahi Shimbun, January 24, 2007.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    This etymology from the Chunqiu fanlu of Dong Zhongshu is translated on p. 179 of Wm. Theodore de Bary, Wing-tsit Chan, and Burton Watson, Sources of the Chinese Tradition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960), a compilation that includes translations of other sources of Mandate of Heaven and dynastic cycle theory.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Morris Rossabi, ed., China among Equals: The Middle Kingdom and Its Neighbors, 10th–14th Centuries (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983) contains several case studies of diplomacy among these empires.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    This map is on p. xxiv of Frederick W. Mote and Denis Twitchett, eds., The Cambridge History of China, Volume 7: The Ming Dynasty, 1368–1644, Part I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    See Nan Juyi’s biography in L. Carrington Goodrich and Chaoying Fang, eds., Dictionary of Ming Biography (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), pp. 1085–1088.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    See Frederic Wakeman Jr., The Great Enterprise: The Manchu Reconstruction of Imperial Order in Seventeenth Century China, 2 vols. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985) for a detailed account of these events.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Peter C. Perdue, China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005) deals authoritatively with these developments.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    L. Petech, China and Tibet in the Early XVIIIth Century: History of the Establishment of Chinese Protectorate in Tibet 2nd revised ed. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1972) for this history.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    Charles R. Bawden, The Modern History of Mongolia (New York: Praeger, 1968) for this phenomenon, and for a general history of the Qing attempt to maintain the separateness of Mongolia and the breakdown of this separation.Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    This material is from pp. 47 and 54 of Leonard Blussé, Tribuut aan China: View Euuwen Nederlands-Chinese Betrekkingen (Amsterdam: Otto Cramwinckel, 1989).Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    I am grateful to Gerrit van der Wees for forwarding these selections in translation. John E. Wills Jr., Pepper, Guns and Parleys: The Dutch East India Company in China, 1662–1681 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974) is an important study based on Dutch and Chinese sources.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    Swisher’s entry on Koxinga in Arthur W. Hummel, ed., Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1943), p. 109, says “is supposed to have committed suicide.”Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    Ralph C. Croizier, Koxinga and Chinese Nationalism: History, Myth and the Hero (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977), pp. 25–27, suspects natural causes but allows that the evidence is inconclusive: “As with so much about his life, the manner of his death remains a historical mystery and a potent source of myth.”Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    See Ramon H. Myers, “Taiwan under Ch’ing Imperial Rule, 1684–1985,” Journal of the Institute of Chinese Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, vol. 4, no. 2 (1971), pp. 495–520.Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    See Robert S. Sakai, “The Ryûkyû (Liu-ch’iu) Islands as a Fief of Satsuma,” in The Chinese World Order: Traditional China’s Foreign Relations, ed. John K. Fairbank (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968), pp. 112–134.Google Scholar
  17. 24.
    Edward I-te Chen, “Japan’s Decision to Annex Taiwan: A Study of Itô-Mutsu Diplomacy,” Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 37, no. 1 (November 1977), pp. 61–72.Google Scholar
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    Edward I-te Chen, “Japanese Colonialism in Korea and Formosa: A Comparison of the Systems of Political Control,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol. 30 (1970), pp. 126–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 28.
    For a vivid example of Chinese diplomacy in action, see Neville Maxwell, India’s China War (New York: Doubleday, 1972), pp. 269–303.Google Scholar
  20. 29.
    June Teufel Dreyer, China’s Forty Millions: Minority Nationalities and National Integration in the People’s Republic of China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976).Google Scholar

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© Peter C. Y. Chow 2008

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  • Edward L. Dreyer

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