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International Relations

US-Taiwan Relations

  • 27 May 2022
  • 6 min read

For Prelims: India and its Neighbourhood

For Mains: Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India's Interests

Why in News?

Ahead of the Quad summit in Japan, the US President made a controversial statement giving affirmative reply in response to a question with regards to providing military aid to Taiwan in case of China’s invasion.

  • This has raised questions about whether the US is shifting from its long-standing policy of strategic ambiguity over Taiwan to that of strategic clarity.
  • Quad grouping includes India, the US, Australia and Japan.

What is the Taiwan Issue?

  • China-Taiwan Relations:
    • Taiwan is an island territory across the Taiwan Strait, located off the coast of mainland China.
    • The ruling Kuomintang (Nationalist) government of China fled to Taiwan after being defeated by the communist forces in the Chinese 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. On the other hand, The Communist Party of China (CPC) established the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the mainland.
      • Since then, the PRC observes Taiwan as a traitor province and awaits reintegration with Taiwan, if possible, by peaceful means.
    • Simultaneously, the United Nations membership was continued by the ROC maintaining its permanent seat at the UN Security Council (UNSC).
    • PRC allied itself with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and ROC with the US in the cold war further straining the China-Taiwan relations.
    • Consequently, two Taiwan Strait crises of the 1950s happened.
  • Reconciliation of the US with China and the Subsequent Events:
    • The US and China reconciled in the 1970s due to the Cold War’s shifting geopolitics, so that the growing influence of the USSR could be countered.
    • This was followed by the visit of the then US President to the PRC in 1972.
    • Subsequently, ROC was displaced by the PRC as the official representative at the UN.
    • Then, “One-China Principle” came into picture.
  • One-China Principle and its impact:
    • This means that the nations who want to have diplomatic relations with the PRC have to recognize the PRC but not the ROC as China, breaking the relations with ROC.
    • Simultaneously, China evolved as a multi-party democracy alongside the reformation of its economic system.
    • Since then, the two countries became economically entangled and continuously competing.

How has the standpoint of the US on the Taiwan issue unfolded?

  • The evolution of the US’s stance:
    • The Shanghai Communique (1972), the Normalisation Communique (1979) and the 1982 Communique are the three documents outlining the US-China mutual understanding on the Taiwan question.
    • 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 people of both the nations.
    • In the 1982 communique, China expressed its concerns over the likelihood of continued supply of arms by the US to Taiwan as per the provisions of Taiwan Relations Act (TRA),1979.
    • In this way, the US has balanced its recognition of the PRC along with the concerns of Taiwan.
  • Impact on Taiwan:
    • In Taiwan, Democratic People’s Party (DPP) has become the most powerful political force in Taiwan catering to the pro-independence constituency in Taiwan.
    • The DPP wants to expand its economic relations away from China.
    • China considers Taiwan as a territory with high geopolitical significance as it is centrally located in the First Island Chain between Japan and the South China Sea.
    • Throughout this region, military outposts of the US are scattered. Therefore, it would be a significant breakthrough for China in case it takes Taiwan’s control.
    • But, the chances of a peaceful reunification are very slim.
    • Also, the tensions are happening in parallel with the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

Way Forward

  • Considering China’s wearing patience and Taiwan’s increasingly pro-independence slant, a strong message to the adversary becomes essential in the backdrop of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. It may have reached the point where strategic ambiguity may be losing its relevance to strategic clarity.
  • However, another plausible interpretation can be that this messaging is aimed by the US for eliciting responses and testing the waters to get a feel of China’s game plan for the Indo-Pacific.

Source: TH

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