The Taiwan Issue in Us-China Relations

By Yang, Jian | New Zealand International Review, May 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Taiwan Issue in Us-China Relations

Yang, Jian, New Zealand International Review

Jian Yang discusses the implications for Sine-American relations of Chen Shui-bian's victory in Taiwan's presidential election.

On 18 March 2000, amid stern warnings from Beijing, Taiwan's voters elected Chen Shui-bian, the candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has favoured Taiwan independence, as Taiwan's next president. In a sharp contrast to its pre-election military threats, Beijing's reactions in the days after the election were `mild' and `polite'. It expressed its willingness to talk to Taiwan's new leader under the `one-China' principle. In Washington, while claiming that the election demonstrated clearly `the strength and vitality of Taiwan's democracy', President Clinton reaffirmed US support for `one China' policy. Encouraged by Chen's post-election conciliatory statements about cross-Strait relations, some US officials said the election of Chen might eventually defuse an explosive point in US relations with China.

Although the pre-election concern that Chen's victory might result in a crisis or disaster across the Taiwan Strait has not materialised, the situation is still extremely delicate, and the Taiwan issue remains one of the most sensitive issues in US-China relations. To understand the sensitivity and possible future development of the issue, we need to look back at the history.

In 1949 the Kuomintang (or the Nationalist Party) which had ruled the Republic of China was routed in China's civil war and retreated to Taiwan. The Chinese Communist Party established the People's Republic of China in October 1949 and has since claimed that it is the sole legal government of China and that Taiwan is a part of China. In June 1950, the Korean War broke out. The United States then sent forces to cover the Taiwan Strait in an attempt to contain the expansion of communism. It subsequently entered a security alliance with Taiwan and the alliance remained unchanged until the 1970s. In the early part of that decade, as a result of its dramatic strategic adjustments, the Nixon administration decided to improve US relations with the People's Republic and President Richard Nixon visited China in February 1972.

Ever since then the Taiwan issue has been consistently testing the political skills and will of leaders of both China and the United States. For Beijing, the issue should be dealt with according to the `three communiques' -- the Shanghai communique of 27 February 1972, the normalisation communique of 15 December 1978, and the joint communique of 17 August 1982. For Washington, however, another document is perhaps more important -- the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which was largely shaped by the US Congress.

The first two communiques defined the status of Taiwan vis-a-vis mainland China. In that of 27 February 1972, the United States `acknowledges' and `does not challenge' the position maintained by `all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait' that `there is but one China and Taiwan is a part of China'. The 1978 normalisation communique not only reaffirmed the principle but also stated that the United States `recognizes' the government of the People's Republic `as the sole legal Government of China'. Washington and Beijing, however, have different interpretations of the communiques.

Unilateral statements

On the same day that the normalisation communique was signed, Washington and Beijing each issued a unilateral statement. The Chinese statement made clear that `As for the way of bringing Taiwan back to the embrace of the motherland and reunifying the country, it is entirely China's internal affair'; whereas the US statement emphasised that the United States continues to have an interest in the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue and expects that the issue will be settled peacefully by the Chinese themselves. The US government indicated that it would continue sales of defensive arms to Taiwan despite the objection of the Chinese government.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Taiwan Issue in Us-China Relations


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?