This article proposes to repostulate the sovereignty-statehood complex of the Republic of China (roc/Taiwan)—namely, the dynamism between its full-fledged sovereign capability and its indeterminate statehood—by using a critical-constructivist approach. To counter legal textualism and rigidity, a three-phase approach is developed to address the under-theorisation of this issue by analysing (1) the establishment of a modern nation-state governance system, (2) identifying the national of the nation-state polity, and (3) obtaining democratic authorisation of its sovereign practice. Therefore, a state should not be considered a static edifice but an ongoing process, fraught with re-instantiations of sovereign exercises via consistent practices, through which criteria of statehood can be re-contemplated and refined. The roc/Taiwan’s South China Sea claim thus effectively demonstrates that its re-sovereignisation remains unaccomplished and has produced a stalemate that substantially impacts the roc/Taiwan’s ongoing state-making efforts.
Statehood and sovereignty have been mutually implicating in the Westphalian international order. The spatially characteristic tenet of sovereignty has not been questioned, which collaterally fortifies the one-nation/one-state formula prescribed in modern sovereignty. However, fissures inhered in this nation-state formula are discernible, particularly when the conventional statist sovereignty has remained indefinite and inchoate. Taiwan’s statist sovereignty has been overshadowed by its undetermined statehood and indefinite territorial domain. Intriguingly, once the rigidity of statist sovereignty is lifted, the development of national sovereignty becomes irrepressible. Reinvention of national sovereignty is informed by both universal values and case-specific particularity. For the former, individualism, multiculturalism, and self-determination serve exemplary cases. For the latter, the particularity is mostly presented in the wrestling between statist and national sovereignty. Taiwan’s constitutional jurisprudence serves to verify the universal, as well as the particular development of Taiwan’s national sovereignty. However, dangers loom large, in that identity reconfiguration has been cultivated collaterally, which brings about not only a sophisticated Taiwanese consciousness, but also a more uncertain outlook for cross-Strait relations.
With the proposal of the 21st century Maritime Silk Road plan, China has demonstrated its willingness to connect with the rest of the world via cooperation, by sharing its development dividends. Yet, the soaring South China Sea issue possesses great potentials in dampening China’s ambitious efforts. The Maritime Silk Road plan is one example. The key is how China can conciliate its South China Sea position, which sees a territorialization trend of the dash-line claim, and the projected posture emphasizing on mutual cooperation and common prospects in the Maritime Silk Road plan. By operating the territorialized dash-line claim in an open-end manner along with subtle management tactics, the South China Sea tensions can be pacified, the Maritime Silk Road plane can also take a successful first step by delivering its words of cooperation and common prospects.