During the Cold War several former united states ended divided in two opposing polities, each one claiming to be the legitimate government of the whole former state. Although in the beginning most countries recognised just one of each pair of governments, in the long run a compromise was reached and both German states and both Korean states ended being recognised de facto by most countries and even gained UN membership.

However, the case of China was (and still is) different. UN, the US and other Western countries switched from recognising the ROC as the only legitimate Chinese government to recognising the PRC as the only legitimate Chinese government, instead of having reached a point of compromise where both Chinas could have some recognition and UN membership.

Why was China different from Germany or Korea? Did some stubbornness (for lack of a better word) of Taiwan and its allies delay the possible compromise until a time when the PRC was too powerful and compromise was no longer possible? Did the Security Council permanent membership of China set the stakes so higher that compromise was impossible? Was such a compromise still an unheard idea by 1970 and nobody considered it seriously until 1973 (Germany) or 1991 (Korea)? Was the withdraw of recognition of the ROC a concession to the PRC the US was willing to do to normalise relations with it in a moment the PRC was seen as a counterweight to the Soviet Union?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations#Membership, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Member_states_of_the_United_Nations#Republic_of_China, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_and_the_United_Nations and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China%E2%80%93United_States_relations give a lot of context on what and how happened, but not on why a different compromise wasn't adopted.

In summary, my question is: Why wasn't a compromise to internationally recognise both Chinas reached, as it was done in Germany and Korea?

  • 4
    I doubted if my question was better suited for Politics.SE or History.SE. Since it's political in nature and it's about a situation that is still current, I think that it's in scope (and better suited) here.
    – Pere
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 12:06
  • 7
    As long as it is still politically relevant, it is on topic Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 15:52
  • 3
    Wondering why this is not asked on HistorySE? Answers that do not include a discussion of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758 of 1971 including previous and later events and developments seem all rife with speculation and opinion, neglecting the actual historical development. 'China has nukes' seems irrelevant before 64 and the Sino-Soviet-split after 1956 left another window of big opportunity. 'Why' I see not answered on this page. Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 11:42
  • That moment in the Hobbit, where Bilbo is about to descend into a dark tunnel, and Balin says; "If you should happen to see a live dragon down there laddie, er, don't wake it".
    – RedSonja
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 6:31
  • China has a seat on the permanent security council. Germanies and both Koreas do not. Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 13:20

9 Answers 9


The difference between China, Germany and Korea is that the first had a decisive civil war and the other two did not

The Chinese Civil War between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang-led government forces of the Republic of China started in 1927, and continued until 1947, with a cease fire between 1937 and 1945 so that both sides could fight the Japanese in World War II. This civil war emerged as entirely within China, unlike the other two countries where the post-WWII superpowers carved up existing countries into their spheres of influence. The result of that the Communists winning control of all of mainland China, and the Kuomintang had to escape to what we now call Taiwan.

Nobody is interested in a compromise between two sides as if they are equals when one of them is clearly the winner and the other one is clearly the loser.

The superpowers were also more relevant in Germany and Korea, in that military conflicts between them were vastly more likely

The fact that Germany and Korea were both split by the superpowers is what lead to the possibility of compromises; international arrangements favoring one side over the other could have potentially resulted in military conflicts between the US and the USSR. Actually, we shouldn't say "potentially", there was very nearly a war over who should own Berlin and an actual war over who should control the Korean peninsula (that technically, still isn't resolved).

So there was a lot more incentive to cooperate in order to avoid future military conflicts that could have gotten quite deadly very quickly. If my capitalist vassal and your communist puppet regime both get membership in the UN, then the balance of power is maintained and we can both decide not to go to war over that today.

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    The first section is all well and good but the Republic of China held the Chinese seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council until 1971 -- decades after the end of the Civil War. (At the time, the ROC was also expelled from the UN and the PRC took its place.)
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 15:19
  • 3
    @pipe Indeed, it further proves the point; ROC and PRC were never equivalent; the world was just slow to admit that PRC = China.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 17:31
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    @StianYttervik divisive but not decisive; hostilities were suspended with the country divided rather than ceasing when one side collapsed, as with the end of the Chinese revolutionary war Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 10:58
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    I got a lot of interesting answers but I can accept just one. I chose this one because it addresses not just why the ROC can'b be recognised now - which the most upvoted answers does - but also why there wasn't a tipping point when both Chinas could have been recognised. Specially, I like the second part of the answer, and the poster's comment "the world was just slow to admit that PRC = China" is also illuminating.
    – Pere
    Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 15:52
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    @pipe the point is: if it were down to one side winning the Chinese Civil War, then why was the ROC seen as the sole legitimate representative of China until 1971? Why did the UN switch recognition in 1971? There has to be more detail behind that (probably something along the lines of red scare). Remember: the loser of the Chinese Civil War was seen as the one China by most of the world for two decades after their defeat!
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 7:45

Because the PRC ("People's Republic of China", aka "Mainland China") is powerful enough to make the international recognition of the ROC ("Republic of China", aka "Taiwan") a diplomatic issue and they are willing to use their power to force governments, companies and in some cases even specific celebrities to take the stance they want.

The Germanys and the Koreas were/are not nearly as powerful.

What makes the PRC so powerful? They:

  • Have veto power on the UN security council.
  • House 18% of the world population.
  • Produce 18% of the world GDP (nominal. Even more if calculated in purchase power parity).
  • Are a major market for various foreign media companies.
  • Are the main exporter of various goods which are crucial for the world economy, in some cases the only exporter. (I would take any bet that the device you are reading this on right now is "Made in China", and if it's not then most of its parts are).
  • Have one of the strongest armies in the world (#1 in manpower, #2 in budget), including nuclear weapons which they are currently increasing.
  • Have an authoritarian government which is able to commandeer all those resources as they see fit without much hindrance of any domestic opposition or judicial oversight.

For those reasons, few dare to antagonize the PRC by making statements regarding the status of the ROC they can avoid making without serious consequences.

  • 4
    This is a good answer but a better answer would point out that the ROC effectively lost the Chinese Civil War to the PRC, which is what lead to this outcome.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 14:36
  • 44
    While this is true today, was it also true from the 50's to the 70's, when the issue first arose? There would have been no need to 'switch recognition' had both sides been recognised back in the 50's ...
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 15:15
  • 35
    China's veto was held by the Republic of China and not the People's Republic of China until the 1970s.
    – Don Hosek
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 16:31
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    @joe At that time, the army of PRC was considered an illegitimate revolutionary force, a tyranny support by the former Soviet Union. ROC had been nominated to be a permanent member of the UN security council, but the seat was lost after the UN granted PRC the membership due to reasons stated above.
    – r13
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 18:38
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    Just note that China is uniquely a functional authoritarian government unlike anything else we have ever seen. Speaking from someone relatively "close" to China (Hong Kong, or PART of China, as China would like to say), it looks extremely stable and yet not... very hard to wrap my head around what's happening to China. I can foresee this to be stable until Xi's departure, but I can also see complete sh*tstorm after Xi.
    – Nelson
    Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 7:15

The East/West Germany and North/South Korea splits were the results of compromises between powerful external nations: the US/USSR in the first case, and the US/China in the second. In each of these cases there was an ideologically motivated conflict that resulted in a stalemated military confrontation. Dividing the nations in question allowed each larger participant to preserve its ideological 'dignity' while ending the overt conflict. A similar case might have occurred in Vietnam, except for war-weariness and deep political unrest in the US.

The split between the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China was mainly an internal battle. No external nation had invested an ideological interest in the RoC; no foreign troops (that I'm aware of) were involved in the conflict. Recognition of the Roc, thus, was more of a diplomatic concern, and diplomatically the PRoC was the larger player.

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    This answer also falls a little short, as it doesn't seem to consider the UN's switch of recognition from the ROC to the PRC in 1971 and it can be understood as if South Vietnam never was a recognised country.
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 15:25

Major difference: Taiwan as an independent state MEANS WAR, possibly involving 2 nuclear powers.

  • Koreas: the current status is after a war which resulted in this stalemate.

  • Germany: this has been resolved, but even in the Cold War both Warsaw Pact and NATO accepted the 2 separate states.

So the situation in both cases, while tense, was also stable.

PRC vs Taiwan

China (PRC) has repeatedly stated that, if Taiwan's people were to democratically decide their own fate, then this would be a casus belli (cause for war) and PRC would go to war.

So unlike the two cited examples where the existence of separate actual states, while not friendly, did not cause any new war, China is on the record, as a nuclear state, that it will go to war to coerce Taiwan into maintaining the current pretense that Taiwan is not a state.

Beijing gave a stern warning to the new Joe Biden administration and Taiwan that the pursuit of independence for the self-ruled island “means war”.

Or, again:

China toughened its language towards Taiwan on Thursday, warning after recent stepped-up military activities near the island that “independence means war” and that their armed forces were taking action to respond to provocation and foreign interference.

The current situation is entirely China's doing and there is no "compromise" to be had short of calling China's bluff which would be rather irresponsible - Taiwan itself cultivates ambiguity on the matter, for entirely understandable reasons.

China itself can't climb down, as it would be a major loss of face for the CCP whose legitimacy is strongly bolstered by nationalism. Taiwan, assuming it had any intent to rejoin China previously, will likely avoid doing so in the near to midterm future, from seeing China's behavior in Hong Kong (also a "beneficiary" of One country, two systems) and with the Uyghurs. With China's UN veto, the UN can't be the solution either.

Also, unlike the Koreas and Germanies, the division isn't affecting a mid-sized country, split into 2 pieces, which are part of bigger coalition that can help police the situation. China is a top tier country and is very much the dominant of the pair, giving it most of the cards.

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    It's nice how China is saying that the current status quo (which is Taiwan's people democratically deciding their own fate) is a casus belli.
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 7:52
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    The question, however, is not about current PRC, which is undoubtedly one of the major powers in the world, but rather whether PRC was a "top tier country" sometime around 1947 when mainland China actually became PRC.
    – Gnudiff
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 13:46
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    @Jan China was not so powerful at the end of the Chinese Civil War or else they would have invaded Taiwan. They tried to take islands controlled by the ROC just off the coast of China. However Truman moved the American fleet into the Taiwan Strait to prevent China from invading Taiwan. At the time though, Taiwan was ruled by a Chinese dictatorship that was just as stubborn as China is today about Taiwan being "an integral part of China".
    – Readin
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 2:07
  • @Readin Yes, that is not news to me. However, a lot of time has passed and by all accounts Taiwan is a democracy now.
    – Jan
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 12:26

No previous answer makes a note of the fact that Taiwan was a military dictatorship for the decades after the civil war and until it was "thrown out" of the UN. Had this one fact been different, and had Taiwan evolved into a well-functioning democracy earlier, one main argument of the UN when it switched its recognition of the "real China" to the PRC would have looked quite different.

The Wikipedia article has some info on how the martial law in Taiwan shaped its fate in international politics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan#Martial_law_era_(1949%E2%80%931987)


Because Chinese want it this way?

The "single China" concept has centuries of history and is recognized and supported by both the Beijing and Taipei governments alike. They differ at the point of who is the legitimate ruler of the single China, but this is considered a matter resolvable mostly by internal (for China) means. They both (in theory) prefer the other party ruling instead of China being separated.

Germany, on the other hand, didn't have much of a say when it was divided and the divide was pretty much explicit. Both sides pursued unification, meaning that they both recognized the other party. Germany as a single state, also, was less than a century old at the moment of division, so the divide was really just a reconfiguration in regard to the Bismarck unification.

I am not familiar with the history and the national doctrine of Korea, but it looks like the present state of affairs in Korea has more similarities to the German case. Both North and South recognize the divide, both want unification and both have institutions dedicated to the proposed unification.

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    On that level, the Korean situation is closer to China's. They both don't officially recognise each other and pretend they rule the whole territory (to the point that Seoul was the official capital of NK until the 70s). Yet on the "practical" level, despite all the rhetorics (and some sincere people), neither want unification in the near future.
    – Zeus
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 3:12
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    For at least the first twenty years, the ruling party in West Germany did not accept the existence of a second German government and even after that until reunification it was understood that the relations between the FRG and GDR were not akin to those of independent states (hence why there were no embassies but instead 'permanent missions').
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 7:58
  • "and is recognized and supported by both the Beijing and Taipei governments alike." Your answer would be better if it said "was" instead of "is". Now that Taiwan a democracy with freedom of speech the "one China" idea isn't very popular. However at the end of the Chinese Civil War Taipei was ruled by a Chinese dictatorship that was devoted to "one China".
    – Readin
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 2:10
  • @Readin There is such a thing as a "spirit of a state" or a "state doctrine" (in some languages) that can and sometimes pretty much does differ from the practical reality. The enforcement of this understanding may be suspended, esp. if the state has a moderate government and/or the state doesn't have the resources required for such enforcement, but it doesn't disappear for decades or even centuries. In my home Balkan penislua we do have few countries, all of them more or less democratic, all of them peaceful and moderate in their relations...
    – fraxinus
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 8:19
  • ... and all of them thinking (not officially, of course) that borders are not where they are naturally supposed to be - up to and including the idea that some other country existence is wrong in itself and only a matter of time to be "resolved".
    – fraxinus
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 8:21

In the context of this question, it is worth mentioning that there were also two Vietnams and two Yemens; in each case, one was socialist and aligned with the USSR or the PRC while the other was capitalist and aligned with the USA or its allies.

I think, beside the obvious similarity mentioned in the first paragraph, the individual cases are too different to be lumped together. That also means that little can be learnt from one case and then applied to another case.

The Yemens

(I will admit that I know least about the history of these two states.)

The partition came about essentially by historical accident. The entire area had been part of the Ottoman Empire but the British eventually secured what would later become South Yemen as their colony. The Ottomans withdrew after the First World War when their empire collapsed which led to an independent North Yemen. Decolonisation – aided greatly by a Marxist guerilla movement, the National Liberation Front – forced the British out and created the People's Republic of South Yemen which received support from the Soviet Union as a fellow socialist state. The two states were basically the continuation of the previous situation under different colours.

Two short wars later, a reunification plan and treaty was laid out and at the end of the cold war the countries reunited. I suspect that the economic demise of the Soviet Union in the late 80's played a large part.

The Germanies

Germany had been a single unified state (similar to the ones that are discussed further down in this answer) for around 70 years when a certain dictator started a war to conquer new territory in the East to satisfy his racist ideology. It turned out that the armies he was up against were ultimately stronger than his and since he did not believe in surrendering, military defeat had to be near-complete. This resulted in the entire territory of Germany being occupied by the victorious forces. Their alliance was fragile, however, and political difference resurfaced soon after the common cause they were fighting against was defeated. Thus, two German states were formed, either by secret order or unvoiced permission of the respective occupation forces; one capitalist in the West and one socialist in the East.
(In addition, other territories that had formed part of Germany prior to the war were ceded entirely to the Soviet Union, Poland and an independent country. The former two remained with the country they were ceded to, the Saar region would rejoin the rest of West Germany only a decade down the road in a largely ignored minor sidetrack.)

Both states initially claimed to be the rightful, only German state. The West German state (which continued to claim the ceded territories in the East for a couple of decades) saw itself as a direct successor to the pre-war state of Germany, while the East German state considered pre-war Germany to have been defeated and a new state to have been born from the ruins.

Each state was protected by one of the major alliances of the era: the NATO or the Warsaw Pact. Thus, each state was directly protected by one of the two global superpowers (including military bases on its territory) and thanks to various crises in Berlin it was clear that neither superpower was going to retreat in favour of the other – but also neither was going to directly attack the other any time soon.

After two decades of stalemate, the newly elected West German government decided to pursue a new strategy called Wandel durch Annäherung (change by means of approaching), part of which was admitting that it did not control all the territory that it claimed and that there was some other entity there while at the same time refusing to acknowledge that this other entity was, in fact, a state in its own right.

As they are currently on, it is worth looking at how Germany was represented in the Olympics: up until the 1968 Olympics there had been only one 'Team Germany'. Starting in 1968, two German teams competed in the Olympic Games. In football, the situation was slightly different with the national GDR team being admitted to FIFA in the 50's in spite of West German protest (the FRG team had been (re-)admitted before East Germany was).

Internationally, the West German government initially pursued the Hallstein Doctrine. In a nutshell, this meant that the FRG would not recognise or cease to recognise states that decided to recognise the GDR with the exception of the Soviet Union itself. In turn, this meant that essentially only socialist nations (those aligned with the Soviet Union) would recognise the GDR. Which states those were in 1970 can be seen in the map below (from Wikipedia).

States that recognised the GDR in 1970

As part of the New Eastern Policy (Neue Ostpolitik) mentioned above, this doctrine was dropped in the 1970's (although it hadn't been 100 % strict before) and gradually the GDR gained full international recognition – as did the FRG, which obviously had not been recognised by many socialist states. In the same vein, under the Hallstein Doctrine it was impossible for either German state to be admitted to the United Nations as the opposing superpower would have used its Security Council veto. Only after the doctrine had been dropped both countries could be admitted simultaneously in 1973. They key point is that both sides agreed and negotiated the result.

The most significant cause of reunification was probably the collapse of the USSR (and thus also GDR) economy in the late 80's coupled with the political changes in Moscow that led to the possibility of reunification talks and the 4+2 conference. A number of safeguards were implemented in an attempt to ensure that the reunified Germany would not remilitarise as it had done in the aftermath of the First World War despite the Treaty of Versailles which led directly to the Second World War.

The Vietnams

The entire country had been a (unified) French colony for many decades before the Second World War, when Japan invaded. I'm not sure I fully understand the political state of Vietnam during the war, but both the Japanese and the (Vichy) French acted as colonialists. Local guerillas fought against both colonial powers, aided by China (which, at the time, was also at war against Japan). The Chinese released a certain Ho Chi Minh from prison which ultimately resulted in the communist Viet Minh becoming the main liberation force of Vietnam; their 'home ground' was the North.

After the end of the Second World War, the French wanted their colony back but Vietnam had declared its independence and the Viet Minh were not going to just give it up. This pretty quickly led to the First Indochina war during which France fought to regain control; this war ended with the 1954 Geneva Conference which partitioned Vietnam along the 17th Parallel. Two Vietnamese states were created and France mostly withdrew from their former colony, leaving the United States as the major ally and guarantor of South Vietnam.

While the Geneva Conference had agreed to a ceasefire, communist guerillas began uprising in South Vietnam very shortly after the state had been declared. The United States – which did not see itself bound by the conference's accords as it had not signed – immediately started a campaign against the insurgents which led to the Vietnam War as it is known in the West.

Long story short, the North was aided by Chinese communists and their strategy proved superior to the US one; in addition, anti-war sentiment was gaining ground in the United States which caused them to slowly retreat from the battlefield. Once they had, the South Vietnamese army was doomed and North Vietnam quickly took over and reunited the country under its command.

I am not sure which countries recognised which Vietnamese state, if any, during the 30 years between World War Two and reunification. However, any previous recognition of South Vietnam was then rendered irrelevant.

The Koreas

This history has elements of both the Vietnamese and the German situation.

Korea, originally a unified territory for centuries had become a Japanese colony in the early 20th century. During the Second World War, it was understood that after the defeat of Japan, Korea would be reinstated as an independent nation. The original plan intended an international trusteeship and free elections; until this could be implemented, it was decided to divide Korea into two occupation zones along the 38th Parallel. However, as was the case in Germany as soon as the common enemy had been defeated it became increasingly difficult for the United States and the Soviet Union to reach an agreement, despite UN involvement calling for free elections and a unified Korea. Instead, elections were conducted in the South under US protection while the USSR helped install a socialist government in the North.

The situation was fragile and there had been a number of border skirmishes between both armies before the Korean War broke out in full force in 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea, conquering almost the entire country. The United Nations intervened with a US-led force which succeeded in pushing back North Korean forces almost to the other end. At this point, however, China became involved in support of North Korea and the front moved approximately to where the DMZ is now. Negotiations were slow but ultimately achieved a resolution with the front line becoming an armistice line.

Before and after the war, both governments claimed the entire Korean peninsula and outlying islands as their territory. As the Cold War continued, the two states started informal, then formal negotiations. They reached a joint statement that reunification must come from within (no involvement of foreign powers), that it must be peaceful and that it should transcend ideologies and instead instead promote Korea as one ethnic group.

The relationship between the two states has since been meandering from better to not so good. Part of the thawing relations was the use of a unified Korea flag at the opening ceremonies of many Olympic Games including competing as a unified Team Korea at some of these Games.

As was the case with the two Germanies, the two Koreas were admitted to the United Nations at the same time (in 1991) and since then both states have been almost universally recognised.

The Chinas

Unlike the Koreas (indeed, unlike any others from this list), the two Chinas were the result of an inner-Chinese conflict. At the end of the Chinese Empire, a short-lived unified Chinese Republic was established (without the island of Taiwan which remained a Japanese colony at the time). Initially, the ruling Kuomintang had both left-wing (CCP-sympathising or -supporters) and right-wing members. In the late 1920's and largely without any foreign interference, a civil war broke out between these two after the right-wing parts of the Kuomintang purged any and all CCP sympathisers.

This civil war was interrupted by the Japanese invasion as part of the Second World War. While the two sides of the civil war could not agree on a unified vision for China, they agreed that it would have to be one without Japanese involvement. However, calling them allies would give the wrong impression; it was more like 'we'll deal with you when we're done dealing with the Japanese.'

Thus, it was no surprise that shortly after the surrender of the Japanese the civil war broke out again. However, the tactics both sides had used against Japan had led to a very different situation in this 'second half': the communist guerilla tactics had proven popular and more effective and the size of the Red Army grew while the Kuomintang had attempted more traditional warfare with more limited success.

In a nutshell, the communist forces were more successful and almost decisively beat the Kuomintang forces on the mainland; the latter retreated to the island of Taiwan. The CCP proclaimed the People's Republic of China with its capital Beijing, claiming control over all of China. The Kuomintang still saw itself as the legitimate government of all of China (they called it the Republic of China) with its capital temporarily relocated to Taipei.

In the United Nations, the Republic of China had been a founding member and, as a 'victorious' party in the Second World War, was offered a seat as a permanent member in the Security Council. By all accounts after their victory in the Chinese Civil War, this seat should have gone to the PRC. However, the United States was allied with the ROC and the beginning Cold War combined with the Red Scare back at home prompted them to do whatever they could to prevent this inevitable occurrance from happening. In 1961, Resolution 1668 was passed which declared the question of Chinese representation an important question requiring a supermajority vote; this allowed the US to continue blocking the switch of recognition – a resolution introduced annually by (communist) Albania and its allies – for another decade. However, with the continued admission of new member states, the majority in the United Nations shifted away from the western nations (including the US) and in 1971 sufficient votes could be collected to pass Resolution 2751 which switched UN recognition from the ROC to the PRC.

It would not have been possible at the time to allow both states into the UN. Both Chinas saw themselves as the One and Only China. Indeed, the PRC government declared that it would firmly object to anything that even hinted at the existence of two separate independent states. If this reminds you of West Germany's Hallstein Doctrine, that is probably accurate. There is a timeline of diplomatic recognition of the ROC to be found on Wikipedia.


Unlike most of the other pairs of states, the ROC and the PRC never made it out of a Hallstein Doctrine phase. It is the PRC's expressed and practiced policy to cut diplomatic relations with any nation that should begin diplomatic relations with the ROC.

Both Chinas still officially embrace the One China doctrine.

However, both Chinas have been in a number of informal negotiations which are summarised as Cross-Strait relations.

Unlike the non-China cases, the origin of the Chinese situation is internal.
Unlike Vietnam, a mostly decisive civil war victory did not lead to one state ceasing to exist.
Unlike the other cases, one side of the dispute (first ROC then PRC) was seated in the United Nations and even holds veto power in the Security Council.
While the ROC is 'protected' by the US in a similar way as South Korea, South Vietnam and West Germany were, the side protecting the PRC is the PRC itself and not the USSR (or, in North Korea's case, the neighbouring superpower China).

Finally, unlike the other cases there is nobody who would be able to pressure the PRC into accepting any compromise. The PRC decides what it will and will not accept. This gives the ROC very little leverage. Thus, there is next to no chance of any compromise as per the question being reached.

  • I welcome comments on where I got the historical part wrong or was too inaccurate. I may not be able to incorporate suggestions immediately.
    – Jan
    Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 18:40
  • I think you did an excellent job on the Chinas, the only situation I know much about. The only change I would suggest is to add a bit to this statement, "Both Chinas still officially embrace the One China doctrine." While this is true on paper, it paints a misleading picture of the current situation. The Republic of China government no longer embraces that position in practice. In practice it continually tries to assert the fact that it is not China while avoiding provoking America's displeasure or a Chinese military action.
    – Readin
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 2:10
  • +1 but North Vietnam was mostly aided by the USSR rather than China, during the Vietnam war [with the US]. Something to do with their internal differences, IIRC. China even invaded North Vietnam in a "punishment war"... after the Vietnam War proper had ended. Something to do with NV invading Cambodia, a "proper" ally of China... Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 18:56
  • OTOH, in a much more obscure event, China did attack South Vietnam directly, in order to capature some islands en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Paracel_Islands Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 19:15

In addition to the above answers, Germany and Korea were both split down the middle due to international agreements. Germany was divided up in to control zones after the war and Korea had the armistice line.

China on the other hand is significantly larger than Taiwan.

  • 1
    Germany wasn't split anywhere close to the middle, neither by population nor by area or economic power. Except maybe if you consider the parts that were ceded to Poland/the USSR in 1945, but I don't think anybody counted those as only West Germany was keen on getting them back.
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 7:54
  • Replace split down the middle with - divided in two - the import part is that this was done externaly via means of a pre arranged treaty or agreement. Taiwan and China was an internal division.
    – user38958
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 8:25

Why wasn't a compromise to internationally recognise both Chinas reached, as it was done in Germany and Korea?

I would question whether North and South Korea could be said to recognize each other as both maintain that the other is illegimate and corrupt and that their own side is the only true Korea and seeks unification only on those absolutist terms. The war between them never actually ended - it's still just an armistice - i.e. a pause for talks. Talks are still continuing on the background with glacial slowness and many stops and retrograde steps.

Germany was split after the war as a straightforward "we're taking this bit, you can have that" and Germans never consented to being split. That's quite a different siuation from Korea. The fall of the Berlin wall shows what the reality was - a country divided by external forces.

The PRC and ROC are a result of one side winning and one side losing a civil war.

China (PRC) is a vast nation with enormous resources and manpower. I think the best analogy for the situation with Taiwan would be if, say, New Jersey had declared independence of the United States and claimed it was the true United States and that the rest of the "so-called US" was a vile impersonator. The claim by Taiwan to be the true China just doesn't make a lick of sense except (maybe) from a legalistic position that won't impress anyone living in the PRC.

Now whether the PRC has a legitimate claim on the ROC is a different matter entirely, but from the PRC's point of view (and any map) it's pretty black and white who is the true China and claims by Taiwan to the contrary are simply going to be as ridiculous and insulting as New Jersey claiming it's the real US. If anything they force the PRC into a conflict (politically at least) with Taiwan.

Those are not in any way reconcilable positions as they stand. You cannot reach a compromise when two sides have such ideologically opposed positions.

So the position at the moment is a legacy Cold War position on international recognition which is drifting into a new Cold War between the new economic force that is the PRC and the US - that's quite a different political, economic and military landscape, but it still means that a compromise agreed by both sides (the ROC and PRC) is a long way off (if even possible).

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    West Germany did not recognise East Germany being anything except its own land under foreign occupation until at least the early 70's. West Germany also never consented to being split -- in that way, the situations in Germany and Korea were actually extremely similar. The big difference was the (new) West German government in 1969 adopting the Wandel durch Annäherung (Change through proximity) doctrine which allowed far more room to manoeuvre than there had been previously.
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 8:02
  • Also, the Berlin Wall is a pretty bad example because it was definitely put in place by the East German government to prevent its people from emigrating ('fleeing the Republic'). While the GDR certainly had Moscow's consent in the matter they were also very happy with the Wall (and all their other border enforcements).
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 8:03
  • @Jan Not sure about that "GDR similiar to NK" argument. Let's remember that the people and government (P&G) of NK were in a civil war with the P&G of SK, whereas the East and West germans were definitely split against their will and had no internal dispute, ideological or political, justifying the split. I am not entirely convinced that the NK population (even now) wants to become part of SK, even though I am reasonably confident they mainly want rid of the NK regime (although even that might be a personal bias). Those situations seem quite different to me. Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 10:04
  • The Koreas were separated before the North attacked the South. I would be surprised if after only a brief period of only a couple of years the relevant people would have felt strongly about the other side. I would even go as far to imply that large parts of the North Korean army would not have cared much about communism as a doctrine (although the supporters of communism would probably have been overrepresented in the armed forces). After a couple of decades of indoctrination, things would have changed.
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 10:11
  • @Jan Before NK attacked SK there was a Korea-wide civil war as a result of two incompatible political ideologies becoming the dominant forces trying to construct a Korean nation state after the Japanese occupation and then the US-USSR picking sides. The conflict that followed was just an extension of that because no true compromise was agreed and the partition was nothing more than an armistice (to all sides). The initial political divisions were typical throughout the world at that time - socialist/communist vs. capitalist-leaning. Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 10:24

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