Taiwan, or the Republic of China, has always been a unique actor in international politics. During the Cold War, it was at center stage in the struggle between East and West, between communism and capitalism. For some years after 1949, its government was blamed for the "loss" of China and was subsequently criticized for its authoritarian rule of Taiwan. Yet it had the support of most Western governments and was admired for its courage and tenacity and its ability to survive against all odds. For twenty-two years, from 1949 to 1971, as the Republic of China, Taiwan represented China in the United Nations (including holding a permanent seat on the Security Council). Then it was expelled. Subsequently, it lost formal diplomatic ties with most nations of the world. In 1979, it suffered the loss of formal ties with its most important friend and ally, the United States. Since then, Taipei has been plagued by Beijing's efforts to isolate and delegitimize it. It has had to carry on diplomacy via cultural and commercial contacts. Nevertheless, it has adopted a democratic foreign policy to match domestic political change and has shed its pariah-nation image while adroitly adjusting to a new world order, even in the face of an increasing security threat.
Prior to the era of Western colonialism, Taiwan had what some might consider political communications with several neighboring countries, though one would certainly not equate these to formal diplomatic relations as were being practiced in the West at the time.1 The island's business communities also maintained trade and other contacts with various areas in East Asia, including China. In fact, these