To find a solution to the Taiwan question, policy-makers and scholars have discussed the proposal of the interim (or peace) agreement across the Taiwan Strait (Chang 1999b; White 2000; for a critique of White, see Dittmer 2000). Nevertheless, the proposal does not address the underlying question of sovereignty, and misses the key issue of Taiwan's place in international society.
This chapter aims to fill this gap. It argues that the solution to the Taiwan question must take into account Taiwan's desire and place in international relations; to do so, Beijing has to reconsider its Taiwan policy in terms of a new concept of sovereignty. Beijing's rigid approach to sovereignty has led to Taiwan's attempts to take the alternative route of trying to generate international legitimacy by emphasising democracy (Larus 2006). This chapter examines ways to move beyond these diverging approaches and bring China and Taiwan back into a shared framework that reduces the likelihood of conflict and meets the needs for international recognition of both sides.
The notion of sovereignty is a key concept in the normative thinking and strategic policy on the Taiwan question, yet it appears illusory, ambiguous and problematic. It lends political leaders forceful justification for their actions on the one hand, and traps them in a fixed way of thinking without policy innovation on the other. Currently the One China policy means recognising only ‘one China’, the Mainland, as legitimate. And the membership of the UN means international recognition as a sovereign state. In this normative conceptual imperative, Taiwan is excluded from the UN.
To deal with the Taiwan question, Professor Wang Yizhou (2000) from the Academy of Social Sciences of China has called for a search for a new concept of sovereignty which is capable of defending the core element of the sovereignty principle while at the same time providing greater flexibility. Wang, however, does not propose a concrete idea. The chapter attempts to transcend nationalist thinking, challenge the traditional concept of sovereignty, and outline an alternative approach to international recognition for China and Taiwan. It will provide an analysis of China's conceptions of sovereignty, the Taiwanese response, and options for bringing these diverging approaches back into a shared framework for interna- tional recognition. The chapter does not focus on any immediate practical solution to the Taiwan question, but on the long-term intellectual ‘solution’.