After 47 Years, Is the US “Revoking” the Shanghai Communique?


                  by David Parmer / Tokyo

               A Milestone Series of Agreements

This year marks the 47th anniversary of the monumental Shanghai Communiqué issued by the United States and the People’s Republic of China on February 28, 1972. The document, hammered out by China’s Premier Zhou Enlai and US President Richard M. Nixon and their respective teams has stood for just under half a century as the bedrock for US-China relations, and for a clear and un-ambiguous understanding of the status of Taiwan.

There were, in fact two more communiqués issued by the two parties that form the understanding and intent of China and the United States regarding their interests in the Asia-Pacific region. The second communiqué was issued on January 1, 1979 and dealt with the recognition by the United States of the fact that the PRC was the legal government of China and that there is one China and Taiwan is part of that China. At this time the PRC issued a Message To Compatriots in Taiwan calling for peaceful reunification with the mainland. (The 40th anniversary of the sending of this message was noted in a speech this year by President Xi Jinping who reiterated its message.) The third joint communiqué as issued on August 17, 1982 dealt with arms sales to Taiwan, and while the issue was not fully resolved, the US promised to decrease these sales.

                US Turning Back on Agreements?

Recent actions under the current US Trump administration seem to suggest that the US is turning back on the spirit, if not the letter of the Shanghai Communiqué and the two subsequent communiqués.

The clearest sign of a change in attitude and policy by the US government was the passage and implementation of the Taiwan Travel Act on March 17, 2018. This document states that there have not been enough high-level communications between Taiwan and the US. The remedy is to encourage high-level officials of both the US and Taiwan to visit the other.

Another strong indication of a shift in US policy was the passage and signing, on December 31, 2018, of a bill entitled the Asian Reassurance Initiative Act, which reiterates in detail the US Indo-Pacific strategy and authorizes US$1.5 billion to make the Indo-Pacific strategy a reality. Section 209 of this act specifically deals with Taiwan and stipulates that the US will continue to supply arms to Taiwan to meet “existing and likely future threats from the People’s Republic of China…” This, of course goes against, at least in sprit if not in act, to phase out arms sales to Taiwan as agreed to in the Third Communiqué on August 17, 1982.

Add this to the US$256 upgrade of the American Institute in Taiwan, which Reuters describes as “a de-facto embassy” and you have a pattern where actions seem to speak louder than words.

It is not out of the question for the PRC to look at these actions as a unilateral rolling back of the Shanghai Communiqué and subsequent communiqués by conducting a one-sided re-negotiation and making a U-Turn that negates the “One China Policy.”

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Photo: China Daily