Date: Aug 15, 2020
By: Erik Gartzke
For decades, the United States has maintained an ambiguous relationship concerning the defense of Taiwan. The intentional ambiguity of this bargain has outlived its usefulness, however, becoming a toxic threat to stability in the Eastern Pacific.
This was not always the case. Taiwan was the central sticking point in the negotiations that eventually re-established diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington. Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, insisted that Taiwan was a province of China, legally subject to mainland rule, and PRC authority. Washington, for its part, backed the Nationalist Kuomintang regime that retreated to Taiwan in 1949.
Decades later, in a brilliant bit of diplomatic finesse sponsored by then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the United States and China agreed to maintain that Taiwan was part of China, though they agreed to disagree about what this actually meant in geo-strategic terms. Beijing could maintain that it had the right to govern Taiwan, while Washington could continue to assist Taiwan in practicing effective autonomy, if not de facto independence. [FULL STORY]