The 3 US-China Communiques Are Obsolete

The CCP has violated the spirit and intent of the 3 Communiques
October 12, 2021 Updated: October 14, 2021


The ongoing belligerence of the Chinese regime, including the intimidation of Taiwan, violates the spirit and intent of the Three Communiques.

No treaties or even diplomatic agreements of lesser forms last forever—particularly when existential threats to nations evolve over time through miscalculations, technology advances, and/or the changing course of human events. The so-called “Three Communiques” between the United States and the Chinese regime are a case in point.

At the height of the Cold War, President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger “opened China” to the civilized world through the issuance of the Shanghai Communique in February 1972 after they met with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai on their trip to China.

The key provisions from the Shanghai Communique include the following. The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain that there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The U.S. government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves.

This action shocked many China observers at the time, coming as it did during China’s “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” during which Mao Zedong’s youthful Red Guards purged Chinese society of alleged “dissidents,” and millions of people were killed, tortured, and imprisoned.

In opening China, the United States and Western elites—and especially the multinational corporations and banks—were convinced that “excesses” like the Cultural Revolution could be excised from Chinese Communist Party (CCP) behavior, and over time communist China could be peacefully brought into the global system through open trade policies and access to world markets and Western technology. In short, money was considered to be more important than ideology in mitigating CCP behavior. Of equal significance in 1971, the U.N. General Assembly voted to admit China to the United Nations, after which began the Chinese Communist (ChiCom) corruption of the U.N. (with the World Health Organization being a key example during the pandemic over the past two years). The international prestige that China obtained through this action was also intended as a carrot in order to deter aggressive Chinese behavior. However, formal U.S. recognition of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would not happen until six years later with the issuance of the Second Communique.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese leader Xi Jinping virtually addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Sept. 21, 2021. (Spencer Platt/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

On Dec. 15, 1978, in an address to the nation, U.S. President Jimmy Carter announced the “Joint Communique on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the US and the PRC” (the “Second Communique”), which formally recognized the communist regime of the PRC as the “sole legal Government of China” while “maintaining[ing] cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan.” To many American veterans of World War II, especially those who fought in East Asia, this communique was considered a personal affront and an outright abandonment of their nationalist Chinese allies who fled to Taiwan after the CCP took control on the mainland in 1949. Taiwan became an afterthought among many U.S. elites eager to reap the economic benefits of normalization of relations and engagement with China.

The Third Communique—the “Joint Communique on Arms Sales to Taiwan”—was issued on Aug. 17, 1982, by the Reagan administration. A key Chinese objective was to reduce U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, paving the way for “winning without fighting” in the eventual future absorption of the island into the PRC. The United States essentially committed to that eventuality with this statement from the Communique: “The United States Government states that it does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan … and that it intends gradually to reduce its sale of arms to Taiwan, leading, over a period of time, to a final resolution.” The writing was on the wall.

After the Three Communiques were concluded, the multinationals launched an era of economic expansion in China—the likes of which the world had never before seen. Cheap labor, easy financing, bribery/corruption, and the lure of over a billion Chinese consumers were (and still are) choruses in the siren song that resulted in the United States and the West outsourcing much of its consumer goods (and other) production capabilities to China while turning the country into an economic powerhouse in the ensuing 40 years.

With the economic rise of China came increased CCP belligerence and aggressive behavior on the world stage—in fact, the opposite of what the advocates of China engagement had promised. The CCP’s aggressive behaviors include the following:

  • The crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
  • Genocide in Xinjiang/East Turkestan and Tibet.
  • Border skirmishes with India.
  • The persecution of Falun Gong adherents.
  • The expansion of CCP debt trap diplomacy financed by the gargantuan trade surpluses with the United States.
  • Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy belligerence in contested areas in the South China Sea.
  • Withholding of key COVID-19 clinical and diagnostic information from the international community.
  • “Wolf warrior” diplomatic threats against Taiwan (and any nation providing support to the Republic of China government in Taipei).
  • Outright belligerence of Chinese diplomats at the “Anchorage meeting.
  • The enforcement of a new national security law in Hong Kong in violation of CCP promises of “autonomy for 50 years” in a “one country, two systems” arrangement.
  • A crescendo of violations of Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) by the PLA Air Force in recent weeks.
Epoch Times Photo
An H-6 bomber of the Chinese PLA Air Force flies near a Taiwan F-16 in this Feb. 10, 2020 handout photo provided by Taiwan Ministry of National Defense. (Taiwan Ministry of National Defense/Handout via Reuters)

It is time to reassess and revise the Three Communiques—unilaterally, if necessary. Because of U.S. domestic political resistance to the Carter administration’s apparent abandonment of Taiwan, the Taiwan Relations Act was passed in 1979 to codify U.S. commitments to Taiwan, including this very important provision: “[T]he United States shall make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capacity.”

It should be noted that none of the Three Communiques were ever approved by the U.S. Congress, as is required for all treaties. In fact, the Taiwan Relations Act is a legal document, unlike the Three Communiques, and should serve as the starting point for their revision (if not outright recision), as well as for the future defense of Taiwan against Chinese aggression.

The U.S. portion of the Shanghai Communique contains this very important conditional statement: “[The United States] will progressively reduce its forces and military installations on Taiwan as the tension in the area diminishes.” The conditions have definitely changed since that Communique was issued! The intimidation of Taiwan by the PLA Navy, PLA Air Force, and diplomatic corps has worsened since Xi Jinping came to power and has become acute in recent months. As the tension in the area is in fact increasing, so should U.S. support for Taiwan be increased—materially, legally, and psychologically.

The Second Communique contained this assumption: “Normalization—and the expanded commercial and cultural relations that it will bring—will contribute to the well-being of our own Nation, to our own national interest, and it will also enhance the stability of Asia.” This statement has proven to be the wishful thinking of the U.S. State Department that it always was. In addition to the above aggressive actions, the deleterious economic effects of Chinese engagement on the U.S.—and the world’s—economy are becoming increasingly obvious:

  • Supply chain dependencies and disruptions, as well as the accompanying inflationary pressures.
  • Chinese manipulation of strategic commodities, especially rare earth elements.
  • Chinese theft of intellectual property.
  • Civil-military fusion of all Chinese high-tech companies.
  • PLA exploitation of Chinese information technology (IT) companies for surveillance and data-gathering purposes.
  • Widespread Chinese economic espionage.
  • Corruption and bribery of Western elites.
Epoch Times Photo
A loader shifts soil containing rare earth minerals to be loaded at a port in Lianyungang, in China’s Jiangsu Province, for export to Japan, in this undated photo. China controls the world’s supply of rare earth minerals and the United States is seeking partnerships with allies to reduce its dependence on China. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

None of these “contribute to the well-being of our own Nation.” The above Chinese actions, especially the abrogation of their stated promise that Hong Kong would have autonomy for 50 years under a “one China, two systems” arrangement, comprise a remarkable breach of faith on the part of the CCP. With Hong Kong as a direct example, why would anyone believe in CCP commitments to a “peaceful resolution” of the Taiwan situation? The Chinese regime increasingly acts unilaterally in pursuit of its geopolitical and economic objectives, none of which warrant the U.S. commitments expressed in the moribund and toothless Three Communiques.


The Chinese regime has increasingly demonstrated belligerence to its own minority populations, its neighbors, the United States, and the rest of the world. The obfuscation of COVID-19 clinical and diagnostic data and the Chinese military’s intimidation of Taiwan are two examples, among many. The Three Communiques governing U.S.-China relations have thereby become inoperative and thus obsolete. Here is a recommended short course of action for the Biden administration:

  • Rescind the Three Communiques citing the aforementioned background information, with emphasis on the CCP’s breach of faith with respect to Hong Kong.
  • Increase tariffs on Chinese telecommunications and other advanced technology companies (for starters).
  • Direct the Department of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence to remove all Chinese components and content from U.S. military and intelligence systems and networks, replacing them with U.S.-controlled (and/or carefully selected allied) sources.
  • Invoke the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, which provides the legal foundation for vastly improving Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities, particularly with respect to theater area air defenses, advanced aircraft, and long-range hypersonic anti-ship cruise missiles.
  • Officially recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan’s official name), and open a U.S. embassy in Taipei and a ROC Embassy in Washington.
  • Formally commit to the defense of Taiwan in the event of a cross-strait attack by the Chinese military.
  • Facilitate a mutual defense treaty among Taiwan and other countries in the region.

The United States officially supported a divided Germany during the Cold War and still supports a divided Korea—all in the interests of preserving democracy, liberty, and freedom. It’s time for an official policy supporting a divided China, too. There is no reason to maintain the diplomatic exception (farce) agreed to under the Three Communiques.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Stu Cvrk
Stu Cvrk retired as a captain after serving 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a variety of active and reserve capacities, with considerable operational experience in the Middle East and the Western Pacific. Through education and experience as an oceanographer and systems analyst, Cvrk is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a classical liberal education that serves as the key foundation for his political commentary.