The PRC’s “One Family” Concept and Taiwanese Views of a Cross-Strait Familial Bond

Publication: China Brief Volume: 23 Issue: 15

(Image: KMT presidential candidate Hou You-ih referred to the "one family concept" in a speech in June, Source: Up Media)


The concept that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to “one family” (兩岸一家人 or 兩岸一家親), an idea promoted by China’s top leadership, has failed to gain popularity in Taiwan. Even members of the Kuomintang (KMT, 國民黨)—Taiwan’s main opposition party that supports greater engagement with China—have been reluctant to wholeheartedly endorse the concept (China Daily, November 7, 2015). Wary of the implications inherent in Beijing’s description of cross-Strait relations but open to meeting the Chinese leadership halfway, some Taiwanese politicians have put forward their own ideas about a familial relationship between Taiwan and China (Focus Taiwan, April 23). Politicians spanning various ideological backgrounds have alluded to their respective party’s interpretation of the “one family” concept. Notable individuals include the three frontrunners of Taiwan’s upcoming 2024 election: the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP, 民主進步黨) presidential nominee Lai Ching-te (賴淸德, William Lai), the KMT candidate Hou You-ih (侯友宜), and Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP, 台灣民眾黨). As no official consensus on how to view cross-Strait relations has formed in Taiwan, Taipei remains in a weak position to engage with Beijing on the basis of a “one family” framework.

Origin of the “One Family” Concept

China’s “one family” concept has been around for decades, but it has acquired much greater significance under the leadership of Xi Jinping (习近平) who has championed the idea since he came to power.

According to a 1993 Chinese white paper on Taiwan, the concept dates at least as far back as 1956 when the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) founding leader, Mao Zedong (毛泽东), speaking of cross-Strait relations, said “all patriots are of one family” and “it is never too late to join the rank of patriots” (, August 1993). Notably, a landmark policy statement on Taiwan adopted by the Standing Committee of China’s Fifth National People’s Congress in December 1978, claims that Beijing’s position “has always been that all patriots belong to one family” (, January 1, 1979).

During a historic trip to China in May 2005, James Soong (宋楚瑜), chairman of Taiwan’s People First Party ( 親民), declared that “brothers on both side of the [Taiwan] Strait belong to one family” (Taipei Times, May 7, 2005). Days later, Zeng Qinghong (曾庆红), a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, echoed Song’s remarks while meeting with the Taiwanese politician (China Daily, May 12, 2005). It was an early indication that the “one family” concept might evolve from a political platitude into a real framework for cross-Strait engagement similar to the so-called “1992 Consensus”( 九二共識) that was then being worked out between Beijing and the KMT (Taipei Times, April 30, 2005).

However, the “one family” concept never gained traction. Instead, when the KMT returned to power with the election of Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2008, rapprochement between Taipei and Beijing occurred solely on the basis of the “1992 Consensus.”

In 2013, not long after assuming the highest offices in the Chinese party-state system, Xi Jinping and his administration began signaling that they wanted to turn the idea of “one family” on both sides of the Taiwan Strait into something substantive (People’s Daily, April 8, 2013; Embassy of the PRC in the U.S. website, June 13, 2013). But Ma, his political party, and Taiwan’s political class at large were all hesitant to support it.

At the tail end of Ma’s presidency when he and Xi held an unprecedented face-to-face meeting in Singapore, Xi professed his belief in the “one family” concept, but Ma did not reciprocate (China Daily; Office of the President, November 7, 2015). Nor did Ma join his host Song Tao (宋涛), head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, in describing people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait as part of “one family” during his high-profile post-presidential trip to China this March (People’s Daily, March 31).

Implications of Beijing’s “One Family” Concept

To date, few Taiwanese politicians have signed on to Beijing’s “one family” concept. And there are good reasons why even those who support stronger cross-Strait ties might want to side-step the issue. For one, informed observers have pointed out that Beijing associates the idea of “one family” with its goals of eroding the sense of a separate identity in Taiwan and pushing the island towards unification with the PRC—objectives with vanishingly little support among the Taiwanese populace (Comparative Connections, May 2013; Election Study Center, National Chengchi University, July 12).

As a matter of fact, the “one family” concept has all the hallmarks of a United Front strategy whereby China allies itself with sympathetic elements of Taiwanese society to advance Beijing’s political agenda, irrespective of the preferences of Taiwan’s democratically elected leadership. Unlike the “1992 Consensus”—which is the product of negotiations between the KMT and the PRC created for the purpose of engagement between authorities on both sides of the Taiwan Strait—“one family” is Beijing’s own creation meant to serve the PRC’s interests; it is not dependent on buy-in from politicians in Taiwan. Beijing has been more than happy to use the concept to boost cross-Strait people-to-people exchanges while at the same time refusing to engage with Taipei since Taiwan’s current president, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the DPP, took office in 2016 (CGTN, February 5; New York Times, June 25, 2016).

From its earliest iterations to the present, the “one family” concept has been linked to Beijing’s plans for integrating Taiwan with China socially and economically, greasing the wheels for eventual political unification (Xinhua, August 10, 2022). Since 2018, the Chinese leadership has promoted a slew of preferential policies for Taiwanese citizens who study, work, or live in China, citing the “one family” framework (China Daily, June 7, 2018). Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council has warned that these policies pose a national security risk and are aimed at absorbing Taiwan economically (Taipei Times, September 7, 2018; Mainland Affairs Council, February 27, 2019). The government body has made similar assessments regarding the PRC’s cross-Strait youth exchanges that are publicized with the “one family” slogan. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council has labeled these exchange programs as politically motivated and “nothing but propaganda to poach talent to fill capability gaps in its economy” (Taipei Times, June 13, 2022).

Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials have shown that they intend for the “one family” concept to bolster Beijing’s One-China Principle (一个中国原则). The ultimate goal of Xi’s Taiwan policy, in the words of one China scholar, is to “box Taiwan in for eventual reunification.” [1]

Beijing’s vision of “one family” blurs the lines of Taiwan’s sovereignty even more so than the “1992 Consensus.” Although the “1992 Consensus” implicitly accepts Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of China, it tacitly allows the KMT and Beijing to agree to disagree on the definition of “China;” the KMT is thus able to maintain its position that “China” refers to the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan’s official name) and Beijing is able to insist that “China” refers to the PRC. [2]

In contrast, the “one family” concept reinforces Beijing’s claim that cross-Strait issues are unambiguously “domestic affairs,” which, therefore, “should naturally be discussed and resolved by family members” (Taiwan Work Office, April 12, 2019). Chinese officials are careful to mention that Taiwanese authorities would be treated as equal to their PRC counterparts in such family discussions. But Beijing makes clear that the ultimate aim of these talks would be to “resolve political antagonism” between the two sides so that Taiwan can finally be incorporated into the PRC (Taiwan Work Office, April 12, 2019).

China has indicated that its idea of “one family” implies certain obligations and constraints for Taiwan that Taipei does not accept. For example, Beijing has alluded to the “one family” concept while making the case that it would be wrong for anyone in Taiwan to impede economic integration with the PRC (Consulate General of the PRC in New York, April 17, 2014). When Xi Jinping was the vice president of China, he pushed for the conclusion of the monumental Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement between Beijing and Taipei by referencing the “one family” concept and arguing that the PRC’s economy and the ROC’s economy both belong to the “Chinese economy” (, April 11, 2010).

Chinese officials have likewise invoked the idea of “one family” to denounce Taipei for holding up a proposed project that would provide electricity to ROC-controlled offshore islands from the PRC’s nearby Fujian  province (福建省) (Taiwan Work Office, January 26, 2022), and for refusing COVID-19 vaccines from the PRC (Taiwan Work Office, May 26, 2021). In June 2022, Ma Xiaoguang (马晓光), spokesman of the PRC’s Taiwan Affairs Office, referred to “one family” to chastise KMT Chairman Eric Chu Li-luan (朱立倫) over comments he made about cross-Strait relations at a think tank event in Washington, D.C. (Taiwan Work Office, June 9, 2022). According to Chinese party-state media, Ma “noted that Taiwan is part of China, and cross-Strait affairs are family affairs, which should be negotiated within the family, not by outsiders” (Global Times, June 9, 2022).

“One Family” Concept in Taiwanese Politics

Taiwanese politicians have generally avoided rejecting outright a familial view of cross-Strait relations that might help ease tensions between Beijing and Taipei and benefit people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait (Taipei Times, June 22, 2016). A few figures, including Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the KMT’s 2020 presidential candidate, and Ko Wen-je, the TPP’s 2024 presidential candidate, have seemingly expressed support for Beijing’s “one family” concept (, December 1, 2019; Taipei Times, August 19, 2015). But Han has faded from the political scene since losing the 2020 presidential election and being removed from his post as mayor of Kaohsiung after losing a recall vote (Taipei Times, June 7, 2020). Ko has gone back and forth on the “one family” issue—he has even claimed that Han’s characterization of cross-Strait relations went too far (Taipei Times, May 10, 2018; Taipei Times, February 14, 2019).

The Tsai administration, along with other prominent DPP politicians, have argued that China’s use of economic coercion and military pressure against Taiwan are inconsistent with a harmonious familial bond (ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 26, 2018; Radio Taiwan International, July 2, 2018). Nevertheless, the DPP has a history of proposing its own iteration of the “one family” concept. Just prior to taking office in May 2000, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Taiwan’s first DPP president, described the people of Taiwan and China as being of “one family” and said that the cross-Strait relationship should be a “sibling relationship” (兄弟姐妹關係) not a “father-son relationship” (父子關係) (BBC; CTS News, May 17, 2000). Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏)—a former senior advisor to presidents Chen and Tsai—held that as long as Beijing recognized Taiwan’s national identity and assisted it in joining the United Nations, Taiwan and China could call each other “brother countries” (兄弟之邦) (Liberty Times, December 15, 2006; Taipei Times, November 12, 2012). Speaking at the memorial service for the recently deceased Koo on April 23, Vice President Lai Ching-te repeated Koo’s proposal that Taiwan and China could coexist as “a federation of brothers” if the PRC is willing to recognize Taiwanese autonomy (Focus Taiwan, April 23).


Over the years, President Tsai has called for forming a “Taiwan Consensus” on cross-Strait relations that reflects popular opinion in Taiwan prior to engaging Beijing to form a cross-Strait consensus (New York Times, January 5, 2012). The Taiwanese leader has pointed out that there is widespread agreement in Taiwan on such things as rejecting Beijing’s “one country, two systems” ( 一国两制) proposal, and maintaining the cross-Strait status quo—even if there are different understandings of precisely what the status quo is (ROC Office of the President, January 2, 2019; Taipei Times, August 24, 2011). Such a domestic consensus, proponents argue, would put Taiwan in a stronger position to negotiate with the PRC (Brookings, January 24, 2013).

Nonetheless, KMT presidential candidate Hou You-ih has recently been flirting with Beijing’s “one family” concept to appeal to the KMT’s “deep blue” base (United Daily News, May 10; United Daily News, June 23). As it stands, it appears that Taiwan’s leading presidential candidates appear more interested in differentiating themselves from their opponents on cross-Strait policy rather than reaching any consensus.

Editor’s Note: China Brief typically uses simplified characters for Chinese script. However, as this article largely uses sources from Taiwanese media, the traditional characters used in the original context have been retained.


[1] Jing Huang, “13. Xi Jinping’s Taiwan Policy: Boxing Taiwan In with the One-China Framework” In Taiwan and China: Fitful Embrace edited by Lowell Dittmer, 239-248, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017. Available at:

[2] Yu-Jie Chen, & Jerome A. Cohen, China-Taiwan Relations Re-examined: The “1992 Consensus” and Cross-Strait Agreements, 14 U. Pa. Asian L. Rev. (2019). Available at: