The United States *One China Policy* is NOT the Same as the PRC *One China Principle*

January 7, 2020
The “One China Policy” and the “One China Principle” are not the same.

Journalists and analysts often conflate the two versions, and explicitly say that the U.S. abides by the PRC’s version of One China. However, this is both incorrect and a false interpretation of U.S. policy.

The United States’ “One China Policy” does not recognize Taiwan as part of the PRC.

The U.S. has never recognized Taiwan as a part of the PRC. The U.S. merely acknowledges that the PRC holds the position that Taiwan is part of the PRC.

U.S. Policy – The One China Policy

The official U.S. policy is that Taiwan’s status is undetermined. The One China Policy is intentionally ambiguous, and the U.S. does not take a position on the resolution of the Cross-Strait situation – leaving any final resolution of their differences up to the two parties. However, the U.S. opposes either side unilaterally changing the status quo, and has stated its interest in the peaceful resolution of Cross-Strait differences. Washington has also said that any such resolution should take place with the consent of the Taiwan people.

While interpreted slightly differently by different U.S. administrations, the U.S. One China Policy has long served as a way to maintain a strong relationship with Taiwan while also maintaining official diplomatic relations with the PRC.

PRC Policy – The One China Principle

The PRC follows the One China Principle, a core belief stating that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, with the PRC serving as the sole legitimate government of that China. The U.S. acknowledges this position, but does not take a stance on its validity.

Resources

The Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiqués with the PRC, and the Six Assurances to Taiwan provide the foundation for U.S. policy on Taiwan and China.
Please see One China Policy Primer – The Brookings Institution for how the U.S.’ One-China policy interacts with these documents.
See also One China, Multiple Interpretations by the Center for Advanced China Research.