ON Feb. 28, 1972, President Nixon and Premier Zhou Enlai issued the Shanghai Communiqu'e, stating that ``the United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.'' This communiqu'e, the foundation for normalizing Sino-American relations, formulated the one-China policy for the solution of the Taiwan problem. Consistent with this policy, the US in 1979 established diplomatic relations with China and cut official ties with Taiwan.
The one-China policy is based on a number of assumptions which are no longer valid, for these reasons:
Peaceful solutions. The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 states that ``the US decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China rests upon the expectation that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means.''
The Tiananmen Square massacre of last June sharply diminishes this expectation. If the Chinese government responds to its people's demands for more democracy with machine guns and tanks, how can it be expected to settle the Taiwan problem peacefully?
Socioeconomic similarities. Two decades ago, Taiwan and China did not differ as they do now. Today, Taiwan's per capita income ($7,600) is 15 times higher than China's, and with 2 percent of China's population, it has a larger foreign trade. Educationally, Taiwan is second only to Japan in Asia, with the percentage of college graduates 10 times higher than in China.
Taiwan is fully capable of becoming a new nation independent of China. It has a population of 20 million - more than that of 130 United Nations members. Its gross national product exceeds $150 billion, larger than that of any UN member in the Middle East or Africa.
One-nation, two-systems. Recognizing the differences between itself and Taiwan, China pledged to use the formula of ``one-nation, two-systems'' if it annexed Taiwan. As with the 1984 Hong Kong agreement between Britain and China, this pledge would allow Taiwan to maintain its capitalist system.
Will the Chinese keep this promise? The Basic Law of Hong Kong ratified by a committee in Beijing on Feb. 16 might provide an answer. This law would limit to 20 the number of elected seats in Hong Kong's 60-member legislature, leaving the majority to be manipulated by Beijing. The elected total would rise only to 30 by the year 2003.
The Taiwanese voice. Rapid economic development in Taiwan has created a huge middle class demanding greater political participation. The people on Taiwan long to shape their own destiny and will resist any attempt by a foreign power to usurp this right. Last year, 32 candidates from the Democratic Progressive Party formed the Coalition of New Nationhood and pledged to use peaceful means to pursue a policy of ``a new nation, a new constitution, and a new congress.'' The coalition received broad support in last December's election.
American security concerns. Because of Mikhail Gorbachev's peace initiatives and his willingness to loosen Soviet control over East Europe, international tension will probably continue to diminish. As a result, the need for the US to cooperate with China to stop Soviet expansion will be lessened.
Meanwhile, American allies in Southeast Asia want to see Taiwan free from China. By taking over Taiwan, China's submarines would pose a threat to peace and security in that region.
The one-China policy is outdated. All assumptions behind it are either outmoded or unrealistic. The island not only differs from the mainland significantly but is also capable of becoming an independent nation.
The State Department has pledged to the Baltic republics to ``firmly support their efforts for peaceful self-determination.'' Shouldn't the US be equally supportive of the Taiwanese struggle for independence?