March 19, 2015
Subject: What should US policy towards military assistance to Taiwan be?
Taiwan, otherwise known as the Republic of China (ROC), has a complicated political status on the world stage. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) lays territorial claims to Taiwan and most countries recognize China as the mainland as Taiwan as an autonomous region within it. However, Taiwan sees itself independent as the true government of China, but only a couple dozen countries recognize it as sovereign government and by technical definition of what constitutes as a sovereign state under the Montevideo Convention of 1933, Taiwan fits the criteria.1 Though before 1971, both countries laid claims to “China’s” seat on the UN and other international organizations, the PRC was given the seat due to its more powerful status and as a more strategic ally in combating the USSR’s (Soviet Union’s) influence as the PRC and the USSR were not on good terms by this point. Therefore, the ROC’s “seat” on international conferences is currently occupied by the PRC. This grants Taiwan virtually no presence on the world stage, and due to the PRC’s influence, also denied “observer status,” which would grant them presence without power to make decisions. Despite this, many countries continue to have official non-diplomatic relations with Taiwan, including economic relations. Taiwan greatly benefits from these economic relationships and has become a forerunner in the technological industry with a strong economy to match. This makes Taiwan a valuable trade partner to the US. To better assess Taiwan’s importance in American foreign policy in East Asia, understanding its history and current relations with the PRC and the US will help the US better shape its policy. The relationship between the PRC and the ROC is generally strained due to ideological differences. In the 1990s, Taiwan’s one-party system transitioned into a democratic multi-party system, much to the PRC’s displeasure, which prompts the issue of how Taiwan’s system will survive under Chinese oversight. Taiwan’s desire for independence, including being part of the UN and thus being recognized as a sovereign state, are a source of friction between both parties. One aspect of China’s control over Taiwan are its severe limits on foreign official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, as the PRC actively discourages countries having diplomatic relations with both countries simultaneously. Recently, cross-Strait relations are still strained but have significantly thawed, partly due to Taiwan’s Ma Ying-Jeou of the KMT (Kuomintang party or KMT) taking executive power in 2008. In 2010, both countries signed off a trade agreement for the first time in sixty years, something unprecedented in the history of cross-Strait relations. Unlike his predecessors, Ma’s opinion on Taiwanese sovereignty leans closer to the Chinese-proposed “One country, two systems” strategy, which implies a degree of autonomy, however still under PRC supervision.2 Still, under this solution to the Taiwanese problem, the PRC would hold the most power and keep Taiwan from being recognized as a sovereign state. The US, who currently has official diplomatic relations with the PRC, does not politically recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state, but nonetheless maintains official non-diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It also does not recognize the PRC’s claim on Taiwan as its territory, therefore remaining neutral in this endeavor and neither supports nor opposes any Taiwanese independence efforts.3 Despite limited US support in its desire for a more prominent role in international organizations and independence, Taiwan has benefited from US support in its transition from an authoritarian state, economic development, and acquisition of weapons for its security.4 On April 10th 1979, the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) was passed in the US congress which defined how the US would form...
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