U.S. Interests in the New Taiwan

U.S. Interests in the New Taiwan

U.S. Interests in the New Taiwan

U.S. Interests in the New Taiwan


"Moving into the 1990s, the United States is faced with a remarkably fluid international environment that poses significant challenges, risks, and opportunities. In Asia, one of the most intractable issues that continues to engage U. S. policymakers is the future of Taiwan. Since 1986 the scope of political, economic, and foreign-policy developments has been so substantial as to create, in essence, a "new" Taiwan. Most of these changes are in the U. S. interests. However, the new Taiwan also poses a major challenge to the Sino-American relationship, particularly in the climate of uncertainty and transformation that characterizes post-containment U. S. strategy toward East Asia in general. Martin L. Lasater analyzes the major areas of transformation in the new Taiwan and explores its future prospects. He considers the implications for U. S. relations and interests on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and offers concrete policy recommendations." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Called a pariah state by some because of its diplomatic isolation, Taiwan today may be more aptly described as a phoenix rising above its difficulties. Beginning in 1986 and continuing to the present, Taiwan--or, the Republic of China (ROC) as it is called officially--initiated a remarkable series of domestic and foreign policy reforms designed to transform the island-nation into a modern democratic state.

Within a short period of time, forty years of martial law were ended; Taiwan opened its doors for the first time to unofficial contact with its rival, the People's Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland; a major diplomatic offensive, termed "flexible," "pragmatic," or "elastic" diplomacy, was launched; substantial work on liberalizing and restructuring the economy was begun; and advanced locally produced weapons were added to the ROC arsenal, significantly enhancing the island's self-defense capabilities.

These profound changes in ROC policy have created a "new" Taiwan which is remarkably different from the "old" Taiwan of pre-1986. The new Taiwan is a pluralistic society evolving toward a parliamentary democracy. Its market economy, based increasingly on high-tech products rather than labor intensive industry, is largely open to foreign competition. Non-governmental contacts with mainland China are extensive. Effectively using its large financial resources, Taiwan is playing a much more active role in Asian Pacific affairs. Its foreign policy is far more pragmatic and less ideological than in the past, creating opportunities for vastly expanded participation in the international community. The ROC military is stronger than ever before and less dependent on U.S. arms sales.

The new Taiwan is having an important impact on U.S. interests in Asia, an impact which will likely grow in the future. Taiwan's rapid democratization is in U.S. political interests, and Taiwan's free market economy and trade policies follow models long advocated by the United States. Washington considers the increased contacts between Taiwan and mainland China to be in American interests, since the contacts tend to reduce tensions in the Taiwan Strait area. Moreover . . .

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