The Harmonious Dimension of the One-China Principle
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By Peter Kien-hong Yu

The Harmonious Dimension of the One-China Principle

Feb. 23, 2017  |     |  0 comments

At the outset, I would like to introduce my one-dot theory, because I will apply it to describe, explain, and infer the harmonious dimension of the One-China principle, which originated in July 1977 when the then-paramount leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Deng Xiaoping returned to the center stage for the third time, following the footsteps of Zhuangzi’s yu shi ju hua/yu shi ju jin (staying abreast of modern developments, by keeping up with the times).1

My one-dot theory is namely the Taiji Diagram (Diagram of Cosmological Scheme).

The Taiji model or everything in the square can be seen in the middle, which is the biggest diagram. It is a dot, if we look at it in the distance. It was Mencius, who first talked about nei fang wai yuan (square internally and round externally), and a person who has reached this level can be said as perfect when facing other people. We can parse this diagram in terms of four smaller models, each one of which is but a dot. The first one is on the upper left-hand side. We see a blank circle or a dot. The second model is on the upper right-hand side. Another way of saying it is yin and yang. It is derived from the first model. The third one is at the lower right-hand side, which can expand and contract. It is a version of the second model on the upper right-hand side. Its emphasis is on that small dot, meaning the Confucian zhong yong zhi dao (Middle Way), with he xie (harmony) in mind. And the last model is at the lower left-hand side. It is a version of the third model on the lower right-hand side.

The name for this model is called the crab and frog motion model. In other words, a dialectician would make side-way moves like a crab, and leap like a frog from this crab and frog motion model to that crab and frog motion model. 1 2 3 4 5 is the safe zone spectrum, whereas A B C D E is the danger zone spectrum. A dialectician may stand under 1, which refers to a concept and which is translated as 100%. 3 would be 50%, and 5, 1%. The same logic applies to E, which is 100%; C, 50%, and A, 1%. A dialectician would refrain from entering the latter zone. Creatively, the dialectician can build a new model out of 5 and A, treating 5 as 1 and A, still E.

If a reader already has a firm grasp of the previous paragraph, he or she would realize that a dialectical/crab and frog motion remark is just the opposite of a non-dialectical/crab and frog motion (usually deductive, linear, or cause and effect) remark, or, at best, they must meet half-way.

According to one account, the person who drew the Taiji diagram may well be Chen Tuan, who was regarded as a legendary Daoist sage. He was born around the end of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907-960 AD) and the start of the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD).

Just as my one-dot theory is derived from the Taiji model, Chen derived his diagram from well-known Chinese philosophers such as Laozi, Confucius, Mencius, Zhuangzi, Xunzi, Mozi, etc., by way of simplifying or compressing their writings. In other words, Chen integrated core concepts of these philosophers.

Facing the dilemma of having to handle “two Chinas,” “One China, One Taiwan” or “Taiwan independence,” Beijing’s dialectical One-China principle appeared a few months before the signing of a mutual defense treaty between Washington and Taipei in December 1954.

However, Chiang Kai-shek passed away in April 1975, while Mao Zedong died in September 1976. When they were around, we can first regard the circle on the upper left-hand side as the Republic of China (ROC), which was created in January 1912.

In October 1949, the PRC was established. Hence, we have to shift to the model in the upper right-hand side. Here, we must mention Xunzi.

Xunzi is noted for having uttered 1 and 2 or 1 evolves into to 2 and, later, 2 folds or collapses into 1 again. Differently put, Xunzi’s 1 (which is a version of the pure circle or either yin or yang) and 2 (which is a version of yin versus yang; yang versus yin; yin and yang; or yang and yin), can be reflected from the first and second small diagrams plus his wan bian bu li qi zong (many superficial changes but no departure from the original stand).

Applying Xunzi, from Chiang’s perspective, ROC is yin, and PRC, yang. And, from Mao’s perspective, PRC is yin, and ROC, yang. In short, they were struggling against each other, with no end in sight. At this juncture, Mozi’s writings become relevant.

The Book of Mozi (collected writings of those in the tradition of Mozi, some of which might have been written by Mozi himself) contains speculations in optics that are strikingly original, such as the straight-line propagation of light. Where can we find this discovery of light, which travels in a straight-line fashion in the Taiji model?

It is not difficult to pinpoint it. We just have to look at the crab and frog motion model in the lower left-hand side. Chiang is known for his staunch stance: han zei bu liang li (gentlemen and thieves cannot coexist under the Heaven, tian xia). Mao was equally stubborn; he vowed to liberate Taiwan by all ways and means. In other words, we can put, from Chiang’s perspective, Chiang at 1 from time/space (1) to the last time/space or (n); and Mao, E. The same logic applies to Mao: From Mao’s perspective, Mao was at 1 from time/space (1) to time/space (n), and Chiang, E. In short, none of them deviated from their original stance or shifted to 2, 3, 4, or 5, when China was politically divided in December 1949.

However, a qualitative and/or quantitative change can take place at a nodal point. Laozi is well known for what he said, that is, wu ji bi fan (when things reach an extreme, they can only move in the opposite direction).

Xi ominously warned of shan dong di yao (the earth will move and the mountains will shake) should the new president in Taiwan not accept the November 1992 consensus.

Indeed, at the Third Plenum of the 11th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), we began to see the emergence of the harmonious dimension of the One-China principle, similar to Confucius’ Middle Way. To reiterate, Deng stuck to Zhuangzi’s yu shi ju hua/yu shi ju jin (keep abreast of modern developments, by keeping up with the times), as reflected in the time/space component of the crab and frog motion model, thereby choosing the harmonious dimension of the One-China principle. Should dialectical 2, namely, ROC and PRC, become 1 again, Mencius’ ci yi shi ye/bi yi shi ye (this is now, and that was then) will be applicable to describe and explain the new development.

When Xi Jinping received Lien Chan, who was then honorary party chairman of the Kuomintang, in Beijing in February 2014, he said, “liang an yi jia qing (people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are all of one family).” This Chinese phrase is similar to what Confucius stressed, that is, the Middle Way, with he xie (harmony) in mind. Where can we see it? It is reflected in “yang in yin” and “yin in yang.” In others words, Beijing being at 5, in the crab and frog motion model, which refers to 1% of the PRC has begun to accept 99% of the ROC, at least ideologically. If Taipei is also at A, it would mean even greater harmony, because it is embracing 99% of the PRC. Such is the paradox.

Sadly, Tsai Ing-wen is not fully aware of that. She at the May 2016 presidential inaugural speech uttered the ROC four times, while Taiwan, 41 times. When she mentioned the ROC, she was basically referring to Ma Ying-jeou’s ROC (Taiwan), which is equivalent to her jargon, the status quo, and which is also positioned at 5 in Ma’s ROC versus PRC model. However, Taiwan is placed at 3 in Tsai’s crab and frog motion model: Republic of Taiwan at 1; Taiwan guo/Taiwan nation, country, or state, 2; Taiwan, 3; Chinese Taipei, 4; and the status quo or ROC (Taiwan), 5.

If readers still have not figured out Tsai’s logic, I can rephrase what I said: When she was standing at 5, she is, like Ma, equivalent to accepting 99% of the PRC, because 5 only stands for 1% of ROC. 99% of this China + 1% of that China = One China. However, when Tsai shifted to Taiwan or 3 in her ROT/Taiwan guo/Taiwan/Chinese Taipei/Status quo versus PRC model, her distance is farther away from the PRC, which is still positioned at E, and that is why Xi was very concerned, for example, in March 2015, when he ominously warned of shan dong di yao (the earth will move and the mountains will shake) should the new president in Taiwan not accept the November 1992 consensus.

To sum up, three observations are in order. First, if Chen, the ancient Daoist, were alive today, he should be able to receive numerous Nobel Prizes, in addition to the Tang Prize in Sinology. The taiji model definitely is more sophisticated and can be more rigorously tested than other theories developed in the West, such as game theory, rational (choice) theory, etc.

Second, the kind of harmony I am referring to is at the macro-level. It is usually not possible at the micro-level, especially at the individual level, whereby we often see debates, games and fights, among human beings.

Last but not least, does the American new president understand the One-China principle, as described, explained, and inferred above? It is very doubtful, although Donald J. Trump for the first time in the evening of February 9, 2017 had a lengthy telephone conversation with Xi Jinping, assuring the latter that he would honor the One-China policy.

What about Trump’s advisors, such as General “Mad Dog” James N. Mattis and Steve Bannon? The latter has been driven to think that his country is in the great Fourth Turning in American history, with the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II as the first three, and believes that the apocalypse is coming and war is inevitable? I doubt that very much, too. This calls for grave concern, because the distortion of your counterpart’s logic can be easily translated as an undesirable consequence.


1. Zhuangzi lived around 4th century BC during the Warring States Period. He used the phrase yu shi ju hua in his writings. The Communist Party of China changed the last Chinese character to read jin.

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