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ROC Representations & One-China Policy

Taiwan, the East Asian island, attracts foreign specialists with its innovation-focused economy and great possibilities for gathering valuable work experience in the Asian markets. Our expat guide on moving to Taiwan covers the nation’s main cities, visa regulations, and more.
Cross-strait relations continue to be strained, but have warmed up recently.

Taiwan’s Status and the One-China Policy

A full retrospective of the events that have led to Taiwan’s disputed legal status would go beyond the scope of this article. To summarize very briefly: The current status is a direct result of the Chinese Civil War in the years immediately following World War II. In this period, communist forces founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the Chinese mainland. This reduced the power of the previous regime, the Republic of China (ROC), to Taiwan and its surrounding islands. Since then, both regimes have claimed sovereignty over a China that encompasses both the mainland and Taiwan.

The PRC has maintained the policy that there is only one state called “China”, over which it has sovereignty. If any country wishes to establish diplomatic ties with mainland China, it cannot host official representations of the ROC on its national territory and must accept the PRC’s sovereignty over Taiwan or at least acknowledge its position on this issue. Conversely, hosting an ROC embassy or consulate means acknowledging the ROC as sovereign over mainland China. This has come to be known as the One-China Policy.

The policy continues to be the dominating issue in cross-strait relations (i.e. relations between the PRC and ROC) and is one of the most significant topics in Taiwanese politics. Over the past decade, there has been a mutual warming up of relations between the two parties, particularly in economic terms.

However, in March 2016, President Tsai Ing-wen was voted into office. Her party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), traditionally leans towards independence from China, which has caused tensions to rise again. The number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan, for instance, has dropped significantly since the election.

Taiwanese Representations

As a direct result of the One-China Policy, there are only very few countries which recognize the sovereignty of the ROC and have official Taiwanese diplomatic missions (i.e. embassies and consulates). Ties to the People’s Republic of China are vital for many, if not most nations around the world. Numerous countries still have close economic or political ties to Taiwan, of course. However, instead of official diplomatic missions of Taiwan, they usually host unofficial representations, frequently called Taipei Representative Office or similar. The name Taiwan is deliberately avoided, as it might imply that this was indeed an embassy of a country distinct from mainland China.

Apart from the different name, the representative offices assume nearly every function a regular embassy would and should also be treated as such. This includes the issuing of visas. For a full list of Taiwanese representations abroad, both embassies and representative offices, please see the website of the Taiwan ROC Embassies and Missions Abroad.


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