Two Chinas

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Two Chinas
China map.png
Territory controlled by the People's Republic of China (PRC) (purple) and the Republic of China (ROC) (orange). The size of minor islands has been exaggerated in this map for ease of identification.
Traditional Chinese兩個中國
Simplified Chinese两个中国

The term Two Chinas refers to the current geopolitical situation of two political entities each calling itself "China" (simplified Chinese: 中国; traditional Chinese: 中國; pinyin: Zhōngguó):[1][2]


In 1912, the Xuantong Emperor abdicated as a result of the Xinhai Revolution, and the Republic of China was established in Nanjing by revolutionaries under Sun Yat-sen. At the same time, the Beiyang government, led by Yuan Shikai, a former Qing dynasty general, existed in Beijing, whose legitimacy was challenged by the Nationalist government under the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party).

From 1912 to 1949, China was scarred by warlords, the Japanese invasion and the Chinese Civil War. Throughout this turbulent period, various short-lived governments existed in China. These include Yuan Shikai's Beiyang Government (1912–1928), the Chinese Soviet Republic established by the Communist Party of China (1931–1937),[3] the Fujian People's Government (1933–1934), the puppet state of Manchukuo (1932–1945), and Wang Jingwei's Japanese sponsored puppet state (1940–1945).

As the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949, the Chinese communist People's Republic of China (PRC), led by Chairman Mao Zedong, took control of Mainland China. The Republic of China, led by President Chiang Kai-Shek, retreated the government of the Republic of China to Taiwan.

Though fighting continued for the next several years, by the time of the Korean War the lines of control were sharply drawn: the Communist-led People's Republic of China government in Beijing controlled most of mainland China, while the Kuomintang-led Republic of China government, now in Taipei, controlled the island of Taiwan, some surrounding islands, and a number of islands off the coast of Fujian. This stalemate was enforced with the assistance of the United States government that began deterring an invasion of Taiwan after the start of the Korean War.

For many years, both governments contended to be the sole legitimate government of China. With the fighting largely over, the major battleground became diplomatic. Before the 1970s, the Republic of China was still recognized by many countries and the United Nations as the sole legitimate government of "China", which claimed sovereignty over both mainland China and Taiwan. The Republic of China had been a founding member of the United Nations and was one of the five permanent members of the Security Council until 1971, when they were expelled from the UN and China's representation was replaced by the People's Republic of China (PRC) via UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. Before the 1970s, few foreign governments recognised the People's Republic of China. The first governments to recognise it as the government of "China" were Soviet bloc countries, members of the non-aligned movement, and the United Kingdom (1950). The catalyst to change came in 1971, when the United Nations General Assembly expelled representatives of Chiang Kai-shek by refusing to recognise their accreditations as representatives of China. Recognition for the People's Republic of China soon followed from most other governments, including the United States. The Republic of China continued to compete with the People's Republic of China (PRC) to be recognised as the legitimate government of China.

Since the 1990s, however, a rising movement for formal recognition of Taiwanese independence has made the political status of Taiwan the dominant issue, replacing the debate about the legitimate government of China. A view in Taiwan is that the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China are both sovereign, thus forming "two Chinas", or "one China, one Taiwan". Former Republic of China President Chen Shui-bian adamantly supported this status quo, and accordingly largely abandoned the campaign for the Republic of China to be recognised as the sole legitimate government of China. Under President Chen, the ROC government was campaigning for the Republic of China to join the United Nations as representative of its effective territory—Taiwan and nearby islands—only. The next Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou ceased that push.[citation needed]

Current situation[edit]

The map shows the One-China policy in practice.
  Nations which recognize the PRC as the legitimate government of China.
  Nations which recognize the PRC as the legitimate government of China, but with informal relations with Taiwan.
  Nations which recognize the ROC as the legitimate government of China.
  States with no reported position at present.

The People's Republic of China (which administers mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau) and the Republic of China (which administers Taiwan) do not officially recognize each other's sovereignty. The position of the People's Republic of China and the Kuomintang of the Republic of China remains that there is only one sovereign entity of China, and that each of them represents the legitimate government of all of China—including both mainland China and Taiwan—and the other is illegitimate. The Democratic Progressive Party of the Republic of China's position is that Taiwan is an independent sovereign state named Republic of China, and Taiwan is not part of "China".

People's Republic of China[edit]

The government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) opposes treating the Republic of China (ROC) as a legitimate state and portrays Taiwan as a rogue province of the PRC.[4] The People's Republic of China government has consistently opposed "two Chinas", instead espousing that all of "China" is under one single, indivisible sovereignty under its "One China Principle", explicitly including Taiwan. Under this principle, while the PRC has no de facto control over territory administered by the ROC, the PRC nevertheless claims that the territories controlled by both the PRC and ROC are part of the same, indivisible sovereign entity "China".[5][6] Furthermore, under the succession of states theory, the PRC claims that it has succeeded the ROC as the government of "China", and thus the current ROC regime based in Taiwan is illegitimate and has been superseded.[citation needed]

PRC government policy mandates that any country that wishes to establish a diplomatic relationship with the PRC must first discontinue any formal relationship with the ROC. According to The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, "non-recognition of the Taiwanese government is a prerequisite for conducting formal diplomatic relations with the PRC—in effect forcing other governments to choose between Beijing and Taipei."[7][8] In order to compete for other countries' recognition, each government has given money to certain small countries. Several small African and Caribbean countries have established and discontinued diplomatic relationships with both sides several times in exchange for huge financial support from each side.[9] The PRC also uses its international influence to prohibit the ROC from entering international events such as the Olympic Games under its official name. Instead, the ROC was forced to adopt the name Chinese Taipei to enter such events since the 1980s.[10] Furthermore, on press releases and other media, the PRC never refers to the ROC as such, instead referring to the territory of Taiwan as "China's Taiwan Province", and to the ROC government as "the Taiwan authority".[citation needed]

Republic of China[edit]

Until the constitutional reforms of 1991, the Republic of China actively asserted its claim of sovereignty over all of China. ROC authorities clarified the constitutional reforms by stating they do not "dispute the fact that the PRC controls mainland China."[11]

The emergence of free speech and democracy in Taiwan and the resulting ability of the Taiwan independence movement to gain ground has further complicated matters. While the PRC finds the "Two Chinas" unpalatable, it considers an independent Taiwanese state to be an even worse alternative. Handling of the issue has varied by administration now that the democratic Republic of China has experienced several changes of leadership of the Executive Yuan.

In 1999, then President Lee Teng-hui defined the relationship as "Special state-to-state relations".

President Chen Shui-bian declared in 2002 that "with Taiwan and China on each side of the Taiwan Strait, each side is a country". In 2003 he explained that "Taiwan is not a province of one country nor is it a state of another".[12][13] The Chen administration took steps to use Taiwan internationally in the name of preventing confusion over the "two Chinas". For example, some Taiwanese have had difficulty traveling with "REPUBLIC OF CHINA" passports as officials mistook them for citizens of the People's Republic of China, so "TAIWAN" has been added to the cover of Republic of China passports.[14]

In September 2008 President Ma Ying-jeou stated that the relations are neither between two Chinas nor two states, saying instead that it is a "special relationship". Further, he stated that the sovereignty issues between the two cannot be resolved at present, but he quoted the '1992 Consensus', currently accepted by both sides, as a temporary measure until a solution becomes available.[15] The spokesman for the ROC Presidential Office Wang Yu-chi (Chinese: 王郁琦) later clarified the President's statement and said that the relations are between two regions of one country, based on the ROC Constitutional position, the Statute Governing the Relations Between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and Mainland Area and the 1992 Consensus.[16]

However, since President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party came to office in 2016, she refuses to recognize the 1992 consensus reached between the PRC and Kuomintang (KMT) that both sides belong to “one China”. Beijing responded by stopping communications with Taipei.[17]

Historical usage[edit]

In Chinese history, periods of prolonged political divisions and dynastic transitions saw the existence of more than one "China" at the same time.[18]

China was politically divided during several sustained periods historically, with two or more states simultaneously existing on territories associated with "China" and claiming to represent "China". Examples include the Spring and Autumn, Warring States, Three Kingdoms, Sixteen Kingdoms, Northern and Southern dynasties, and Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms periods, among others.

During dynastic transitions, it was rare for one dynasty to end abruptly and transition smoothly to a new one.[19] For instance, during the Ming–Qing transition, the Ming dynasty existed alongside the Qing dynasty from 1636 to 1644. The predecessor of the Qing dynasty, the Later Jin, was established in 1616 and ruled over northeastern China whilst the Ming dynasty ruled over China proper.[20] Following the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, remnants of the Ming imperial family continued to rule parts of southern China until 1662 as the Southern Ming.[21] Multiple ephemeral regimes also existed during this period, including the Shun and Xi dynasties on mainland China, and the Ming loyalist Kingdom of Tungning on Taiwan.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gayner, Jeffrey B (2 July 1977). "U.S. Diplomacy and the Two Chinas". Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  2. ^ Swift J. (2003) The Two Chinas. In: The Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of the Cold War. Palgrave Macmillan, London. IBN978-0-333-99404-7.
  3. ^ Lyman P. Van Slyke, The Chinese Communist movement: a report of the United States War Department, July 1945, Stanford University Press, 1968, p. 44
  4. ^ "CONSTITUTION OF THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA". The People's Daily. 1982-12-04.
  5. ^ "CONSTITUTION OF THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA". The People's Daily — Read 3rd paragraph, 10th line-. 1982-12-04.
  6. ^ "Anti-Secession Law". The People's Daily. 2005-03-14.
  7. ^ Erikson, Daniel P.; Chen, Janice (2007). "China, Taiwan, and the Battle for Latin America". The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs. 31 (2): 71.
  8. ^ "The One-China Principle and the Taiwan Issue". China Internet Information Center. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  9. ^ "China and Taiwan in Africa". HiiDunia. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  10. ^ Catherine K. Lin (2008-08-05). "How 'Chinese Taipei' came about". Taipei Times.
  11. ^ "TAIWAN (REPUBLIC OF CHINA): Constitution, Government & Legislation". Jurist Legal intelligence, Pitt University. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  12. ^ "Extracted text of the telecast relating to cross-strait relations" (in Chinese). Mainland Affairs Council of Republic of China. 2002-08-03. Archived from the original on 2004-12-17. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 台灣不是別人的一部分;不是別人的地方政府、別人的一省
  13. ^ Wang, James (2003-10-22). "Fortune will favor a brave Taiwan". Taipei Times.
  14. ^ "Chang gives his approval to passports". Taipei Times. 15 January 2002. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Taiwan and China in 'special relations': Ma". China Post. 2008-09-04.
  16. ^ "Presidential Office defends Ma". Taipei Times. 2008-09-05.
  17. ^ "Taiwan opposition candidate calls for return to one China formula". Reuters. November 14, 2019 – via
  18. ^ Graff, David; Higham, Robin (2012). A Military History of China. p. 39. ISBN 9780813140674.
  19. ^ Wilkinson, Endymion (2000). Chinese History: A Manual. p. 14. ISBN 9780674002494.
  20. ^ Perkins, Dorothy (2013). Encyclopedia of China: History and Culture. p. 1. ISBN 9781135935627.
  21. ^ Di Cosmo, Nicola (2007). The Diary of a Manchu Soldier in Seventeenth-Century China: "My Service in the Army", by Dzengseo. p. 1. ISBN 9781135789558.