Understanding USA-Taiwan Relations
The US President made a controversial statement by giving positive reply in response to a question about whether the US will provide military aid to Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. This has raised concerns about whether the US is abandoning its long-standing policy of strategic ambiguity regarding Taiwan.
What is the Taiwan Issue?
- The ruling Kuomintang (Nationalist) government of China fled to Taiwan after it got defeated by the communist forces of China in the civil war of 1945-1949.
- Following the split of China and Taiwan in the civil war, the Republic of China (ROC) government was relocated to Taiwan. The Communist Party of China (CPC), on the other hand, established the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the Chinese mainland.
- Since then, the PRC has seen Taiwan as a traitor province and awaits reintegration with Taiwan, if possible, by peaceful means.
- Simultaneously, the ROC continued the United Nations membership by maintaining its permanent seat at the UN Security Council (UNSC).
- During the cold war, the PRC allied with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the ROC with the US, further straining China-Taiwan relations.
- Because of the changing geopolitics of the Cold War, the US and China reconciled in the 1970s in order to counter the USSR’s growing influence.
- As a result, the PRC replaced the ROC as the UN’s official representative. The “One-China Principle” then entered the picture. This means that the nations who want to have diplomatic relations with the PRC have to recognize the PRC as China, breaking the ties with ROC.
The evolution of the US’s position on Taiwan
- The Shanghai Communique (1972), the Normalisation Communique (1979), and the 1982 Communique are the three documents that describe the US-China mutual understanding of the Taiwan issue.
- As per the 1979 communique, the US accepts the ‘one-China principle,’ considering Taiwan a part of China. However, the US started maintaining unofficial relations with Taiwan in the name of the people of both nations.
- China expressed concern in the 1982 communique about the possibility of the US continuing to supply arms to Taiwan.
- Till now, this is how the US has balanced its recognition of the PRC along with the concerns of Taiwan.
In Taiwan, the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) has become the most powerful political force catering to the pro-independence constituency in Taiwan. The DPP wishes to diversify its economic relations beyond China.
Many people view the parallels between what is happening in Ukraine and what could happen if China ever uses force to bring Taiwan under its control. Taiwan also hopes that the world will sanction China as it sanctions Russia for its war on Ukraine if Beijing invades the island.
However, another plausible interpretation of the United States president’s recently made controversial statement can be that the USA wants to elicit a response from China or test the waters to get a feel of China’s game plan for the Indo-Pacific.