By Martin L. Lasater
The Taiwan issue in Sino-American relations remains one of the most complex policy dilemmas facing the United States in the post-Cold War period. On the one hand, there is the strategic necessity of the United States attempting to engage China in a meaningful and cooperative relationship; on the other hand, there are important values, interests, and laws requiring the United States to maintain friendly, supportive ties with the people of Taiwan. In an era of growing nationalism on both mainland China and Taiwan, tremendous strain is being placed on relations across the Taiwan Straight and on the U. S. "one-China" policy. Further, as demonstrated by the 1996 Taiwan missile crisis, conflict between the two Chinese sides is an ever-present possibility, with important implications for U. S. security interests in the Western Pacific. The Taiwan issue is made even more controversial because neither Washington nor Beijing have reached domestic consensus on whether the other is long-term friend or enemy. The Taiwan Conundrum examines the Taiwan issue in the context of evolving U. S. China policy and suggests ways in which the united States might manage the issue over the next several years. Issues examined in detail include the important role of American values in U. S. policy toward China and Taiwan; the unique and influential role played by Congress in U. S. policy toward both Chinas; cross-straight relations between China and Taipei; Chinese perceptions of the importance of Taiwan; and the genesis of the 1996 crisis in the Taiwan Straight and its implications for U. S. policy.