A multinational approach to recognition has been observable since the mid-1930s. The Declaration of the Principles of Inter-American Solidarity and Confederation (1936) proscribed both the recognition of territorial conquest through violence and the intervention by one state in the internal or external affairs of another. When it appeared that the Axis powers might seek to acquire the American possessions of European nations they had overrun, the Act of Havana (1940) stated that those possessions would be placed under the provisional administration of the American republics. In 1943 it was suggested that the countries of the Western Hemisphere that had declared war or broken relations with the Axis powers should not, for the duration of the war, recognize governments created by force in Latin America without prior consultation among themselves.
In the Atlantic Charter (August 1941) the United States and the United Kingdom declared their desire "to see no territorial changes that would not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned," and sought respect for "the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live." The Crimean Charter of the Yalta Conference suggested the admission of democratic procedures in the determination of governments in countries liberated from Axis control; those governments should then be recognized collectively following consultations by the Allied powers. The Charter of the United Nations states: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state" and bars from membership any state unwilling to carry out its international obligations. For example, Francisco Franco's Spain was barred. The United Nations has thus sought to substitute for unilateral recognition a collective decision whether a state seeking membership is a "peace-loving state" able and willing to carry out the obligations of the charter, hence deserving of recognition. The question of whether the nationhood of a people is better determined by the United Nations or by the several states nevertheless remains moot.
In a rare case, an international organization has practiced nonrecognition. Despite sympathy for Fidel Castro among left-wing Latin American groups, the Organization of American States condemned Castro's denial of popular liberty in Cuba, his attempts to make his island a launching pad for Soviet missiles, and his exporting of communism to neighboring nations. In 1964 it voted economic sanctions against him and barred official relations with Havana to all its members, thereby technically rescinding recognition. Since 1974, however, six major and several minor Latin American states have violated the ban, and in 1975 the United States relaxed its trade restrictions. Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and their secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, declined to recognize Castro on terms he proposed, but President Jimmy Carter sought a rapprochement. The United States in 2000 did not recognize Castro but permitted the sale to him of foods and medicines and a limited amount of American tourism to Cuba.
West Germany, strongly supported by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, tried for many years to avoid a "two-Germany" concept by threatening economic sanctions and breaking diplomatic relations with third states that recognized East Germany, which was fully recognized by the communist world but denied representation in most international organizations. It was not until September 1974 that the United States sent an ambassador, John Sherman Cooper, to East Germany. Both Taiwan and Beijing (capital of the People's Republic of China), under the Mao Doctrine of 1949, refuse to deal with any third power that has recognized the other as the government of all of China. Taiwan maintains that the communist government of Beijing does not enjoy the support of its people, while Beijing insists that Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory. The issue is confused because some states that recognize Beijing also recognize Taiwan as de facto. Although some states, like France, broke relations with Taiwan after recognizing Beijing, the long-held idea that both Chinas could not be represented in the same international organizations gave way when Beijing was admitted to the United Nations in 1972, and Taiwan was ejected as a member of its Security Council.
From 1 October 1949, when the People's Republic of China was formed, until 1972, the United States refused to recognize it and also tried to keep it out of the United Nations because it lacked the character of a "peace-loving" nation, proved unwilling to abide by international regulations, and might replace Taiwan on the UN Security Council. Other considerations included U.S. unwillingness to dishonor its commitments to Taiwan by rescinding recognition; fear that the "domino theory," starting with Taiwan, would work its way through Southeast Asia; Chinese intervention in Korea and support for North Vietnam; the bombing of the islands of Matsu and Quemoy (1958); Beijing's brutal takeover of Tibet (1959) and attack on India (1962); the seizure of American property without compensation, mistreatment of American citizens, and implementation of a "Hate America" campaign; and the repression of democratic reforms at home and denial of liberty to its people. Moreover, the dictatorship threatened to spread communist doctrine by war rather than follow methods of peaceful coexistence, and its recognition would increase its power and prestige.
Among the reasons for a change of decision were President Nixon's desire to achieve a historic diplomatic victory; the conclusion that Taiwan could never recover mainland China; the effective de facto character of a government controlling some 800 million people; its military, including atomic power; its serving as a buffer against the Soviets; the absence in its government of the bribery, graft, and corruption that had characterized the prerevolutionary Chiang Kai-shek regime; and its recognition not only by Britain, France, and West Germany but also by most of the nations of the Third World. With a large number of "developing" nations in the United Nations that favored Beijing over Taipei (Taiwan's capital) and were critical of America's role as the "world's policeman," it was clear that Beijing would be admitted to the United Nations. By a vote of 76 to 65 it was admitted on 25 October 1971.
The United States had begun to thaw the frigid Sino-American relations in 1969 by relaxing some trade and travel restrictions. In April 1971, Beijing invited American Ping-Pong players to visit China. Nixon then began to gradually abolish all trade restrictions and let it be known that Beijing would receive him. To this end, he secretly sent his adviser on national security affairs, Henry Kissinger, to speak with Premier Chou En-lai and others and arrange for an eight-day presidential visit in late February 1972. The joint communiqué issued stressed the national interests of the parties, but Nixon said he would remove his troops from Taiwan. Chou En-lai predicted that normalization of relations would follow enlarged contacts. With Sino-American diplomatic relations reestablished, other nations had to adjust to the new situation. Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and eventually other Southeast Asia states jumped on the bandwagon. While liaison offices were opened in Beijing and Washington, it was not until 15 December 1978 that, after several months of secret meetings, President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States and China had agreed to establish diplomatic relations on 1 January 1979 and that they would exchange ambassadors and establish embassies on 1 March. Further, the United States would maintain commercial and unofficial relations with Taiwan and sell it materials needed to keep its defenses operating but would terminate the mutual defense treaty of 1954. While some in Congress regarded the agreement as "selling Taiwan down the river" and others as a "historical inevitability," China said that returning Taiwan to mainland control would be an "internal" problem.