US Policy Considerations – China, Taiwan, and the Pacific Rim

Rebecca Jimerson

Lawrence Cooper

Corinne Contant


US-Chinese Relations – Relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States have always been strained. In recent years, the two countries have become important trading partners, but their relationship nevertheless remains troubled. China objected to the US-led NATO campaign in Kosovo even before the bombing of the Chinese Embassy. The Chinese see the US stance on Taiwan, the NATO intervention in Kosovo, the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, and the possible deployment of either Theatre Missile Defense, or the proposed new US system of ballistic missile defense, as attempts to intimidate China. China has also objected strenuously to US surveillance and electronic intelligence gathering flights near the Chinese coast. Even trade relations have been far from harmonious. The United States has lodged frequent complaints about Chinese copyright violations, and the debate over granting China permanent preferred normal trade relations was long and controversial. Many Chinese have reached the conclusion that the United States plans to thwart Chinese aspirations of becoming a great power, believing that the United States plans to rob China of its rightful role, either by forcibly westernizing, or even by dismembering, the nation.[1]

The current US debate over the appropriate US relationship with China demonstrates the lack of unanimity within the United States about how to approach China. One school of thought holds that Communist China is an outright threat to US goals, especially in Asia, and believes that Chinese and US interests are fundamentally incompatible. Those in this camp believe that China wants hegemony, not only in Asia, but also throughout the world. For strategists in this camp, China has replaced the Soviet Union as a major adversary that the United States needs to contain. According to this view, the United States must, therefore, make every effort to thwart China’s global aspirations and prevent any expansion of Chinese influence.[2] Therefore, China should be prevented from reunifying with Taiwan, from joining the World Trade Organization, and from acquiring additional modern military and space technologies.

An opposing camp maintains that China is not now, and need not become, a serious international threat. These experts brush off concerns over China’s modernization attempts, noting that their economy cannot sustain its current high growth rates. Thus, China is unlikely to maintain its present military growth, and if it were to do so, 30 years from now it would still be a regional, rather than a major world, power. They steadfastly maintain that China is not, and does not intend to be, a major threat to the United States, despite the fact that China opposes many US polices in East Asia. This condition would change only if the United States proves itself to be a direct threat to China. This camp seeks to maintain and enhance relations with China, despite China’s human rights violations and its aggression towards Taiwan and the Spratly Islands. According to this point of view, engagement facilitates the democratization of China, by increasing contact and interaction with the outside world.[3] Further, a more democratic China is less likely to cause conflict and more likely to work out disputes within international structures.

The single most contentious issue between the United States and China is that of Taiwan’s status. In 1996, high levels of China-Taiwan tensions brought US forces to the Taiwan Strait. The situation was was dangerously close to a military confrontation. Chinese feelings about reunification with Taiwan rise quickly to the boiling point on this issue, and have produced anger and hostility towards the US. “Since the opening of Sino-US relations three decades ago, Taiwan has been ‘the crucial question obstructing the normalization of relations between the US and China.’”[4] While the US’s official recognition of the PRC, and the Clinton administration’s stated goal of forging a “strategic partnership” with China have facilitated relations between the two nations, Taiwan’s ambiguous status, and the ambiguous US relationship with Taiwan dominates US-Chinese relations.

The United States is faced with an exceedingly complex dilemma. Taiwan is a democratic nation with a freely elected government while China is still authoritarian and Communist. Although the United States does not officially recognize Taiwan, in many ways, it extends de facto recognition and support to the island. The United States has important economic ties to, and interests in, both the PRC and Taiwan. As well, many Members of Congress remain hawkish and tend to antagonize China through their embrace of Taiwan. The US position toward Taiwan remains multifaceted. While the United States agreed to a one China principle, it did not affirm the PRC contention that Taiwan belongs to the PRC.[5] Thus, “the US carefully “acknowledges,” but does not necessarily affirm, ‘the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan belongs to China.’”[6] The United States has worked to maximize its relationship with China and with Taiwan through a policy of ambiguity. This policy attempts to grant each governmental entity what it most needs from the United States and allow the United States to benefit from each in turn. The United States values its increasing economic ties to China’s potentially massive economy. As well, the United States has a profound interest in China’s becoming an influential and peaceful regional power. The United States has “praised China’s leadership in the aftermath of India’s and Pakistan’s tit-for-tat 1998 nuclear tests, and its “’behind the scenes’” role in encouraging North Korea to toe the line with regards to its nuclear ambitions.”[7] If, as seems likely, China will evolve into a major power, it is in the US interest for China to remain friendly to the United States.

 US-China relations are further complicated by Taiwanese purchases of weapons and military technology. The fact that, even after the termination of formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the United States has continued to arm Taiwan worries Beijing, and reinforces the contradictions in the US relationship with the two Chinas. The United States “reserves for itself the ability to sell defense arms to Taiwan and ‘to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan.’”[8] The US willingness to sell weapons to Taiwan is both political and economic, for Taiwan’s pursuit of more modern weaponry simultaneously feeds the profits of the US defense industry, and reinforces those who believe that the United States must support Taiwan given its grave risk from China. It is not yet clear which point of view, profound wariness or engagement, will dominate US policy toward China. It is also not clear whose view of China more accurately reflects China’s future position in world affairs.

 US-Chinese tensions have been exacerbated by US military strategies in recent years. China is strongly opposed to the US development and possible deployment of a new antiballistic missile system.[9] While the United States asserts that if adopted, this system would not be directed against China, but rather against “nations of concern,” China views it with suspicion. The Chinese nuclear arsenal is at present small enough that a US missile defense system could negate almost all of China’s nuclear deterrent. Both China and Russia have urged the United States not to proceed with building the system, and have warned of a new military build-up in the Asia-Pacific should the United States go ahead with it. China is not only concerned about the proposed US national missile defense system, but also about the potential regional deployment of Theatre Missile Defense. The possible deployment of Theatre Missile Defense in the Pacific Rim is a key element in US-China relations. Japan and South Korea would both welcome the deployment of TMD in the region, but have expressed concerns that the inclusion of Taiwan under US TMD could be a serious provocation to China.[10] As noted in the previous section, Taiwan would welcome the deployment of regional TMD in order to mitigate the threat posed by China’s shore-based missiles. According to current US planning, regional TMD would primarily be deployed in order to protect South Korea and Japan from North Korea missiles. However, “Washington has not ruled out giving Taiwan advanced capabilities to defend itself from Chinese missile attacks.”[11]

China is vehemently opposed to both Theatre Missile Defense and National Missile Defense, but for slightly different reasons. The proposed US national missile defense system will essentially negate Beijing’s limited nuclear deterrence, and diminish its claim to great power status. China views the US system as a US attempt to solidify its status as the world’s only superpower at the expense of other nations and extant treaties. The similarity of the Chinese and Russian stances against US Missile Defense underscores the strength of their opposition to the US National Missile Defense system. China feels directly threatened by US Theater Missile Defense system, for such a system would directly impede China’s ability to threaten Taiwan with its missiles. The PRC’s ability to pose a credible threat to Taiwan has been a major component of its strategy towards Taiwan over recent years. Thus, TMD would constitute a significant disturbance of the current cross-strait dynamic, through the intervention of US technology and military might. In sum, the United States and China both benefit from maintaining an ambiguity about US relations with Taiwan. Both countries are granted additional freedom to maneuver in the region because of carefully maintained ambiguities.

Recent events have highlighted the difficulty of maintaining the US strategy of “strategic ambiguity” (see US Policy Options section below). In April 2001 the collision of a US EP-3 electronic intelligence gathering plane with a Chinese F-8 plane over international waters in the South China Sea resulted in the loss of the Chinese plane and the emergency landing of the US plane on the Chinese Island of Hainan.  The plane’s landing led to a stand-off between the US and China over both the crew of the plane and the fate of the plane itself.  After eleven days of rising tensions and diplomatic maneuvers, the 24-person crew was returned unharmed and the aircraft only returned in July 2001.  This incident highlighted the increasing level of tensions between the United States and China. Experts believe that “as a result of the detention of Americans…, Bush is more likely to approve sales of advanced missile destroyers equipped with Aegis battle management system diesel submarines, Patriot PAC-3 missile systems” to Taiwan.[12]  Spring 2001 statements by President Bush to the effect that the United States reserves the right to defend and arm Taiwan have revealed the fragility of the policy of strategic ambiguity linking the US, Taiwan and China. As well, the centrality of the surveillance airplane to the latest US-China crisis highlights the increasing importance of advanced technology for all nations involved in the Pacific Rim.


China and the Asia-Pacific- A consideration of China’s behavior within the Pacific Rim must be based on the understanding that China believes its “Red” star is ascendant. China believes its influence in the region is increasing, and should, and must, continue to do so. The Spratly Islands and the South China Sea are one potential site of conflict in the Asia-Pacific. The Spratly Islands are highly contested and potentially volatile, with both economic and status-boosting value. The Spratly tension is distinctly multilateral, while most regional tensions involve only two or three nations. The slightly lower level of interests in, and importance of, the Spratly Islands means these islands are not likely to be the primary cause or site of a conflict. However, continued monitoring of the level of tensions in the South China is essential. Satellite remote sensing could potentially play a role in reducing tensions in the area by making the actions of all parties more transparent.[13]

Japan adds another level of complexity to the regional balance of power in East Asia. This complexity stems largely from the fact that US-Chinese-Japanese relations depend, to a large extent, on the course of events in the Koreas, and between Taiwan, China and the US. Any increase in Japanese defense spending and/or any addition of offensive capabilities to its Self-Defense Force, could easily antagonize Beijing. Further North Korean missile testing, or any confirmation of nuclear weapon development, would be a threat to all the nations in the area, and could easily increase Japanese and Taiwanese requests for US military aid, including TMD. This would threaten China, since any TMD in the area reduces the influence of Chinas nuclear and conventional missiles.


A US-centered missile defense network in East Asia, and national missile defense in the United States could lead China to either acquiesce to US hegemony or to devise strategies and capabilities to counteract it. It could prematurely cast an adversarial shadow across US-China relations and render ephemeral any hope of harmonious relations between China and the United States and Japan. Underlying Beijing’s vociferous objection to the specter of US-Japan missile defense cooperation is the fear that its modest nuclear arsenal may be neutralized and that the reinvigoration of the US-Japan alliance and the adoption of new defense guidelines which expand Japan’s defense cooperation may be applied to a Taiwan contingency.[14]


China has multiple interests in the resolution of the status of North and South Korea. China is not necessarily opposed to a Korean reunification, as long as a reunified Korea takes a shape that does not threaten China. China has no need to see a reunification occur in the near future. It continues to monitor events on the peninsula closely, and seeks to minimize United States influence. Beijing’s relationship with the DPRK, while far from warm, provides China with some leverage regarding Korea. China blames the United States for North Korea’s continued ballistic missile development efforts. Rightly or wrongly, Beijing links North Korea’s continued development of nuclear weapons to the US’s testing of anti-missile systems.[15] Thus, China has used its limited leverage with North Korea to remind the United States that it may have some ability to nudge North Korea in a direction that the United States favors; or, conversely, in a direction the United States fears.

China sees its future role as that of a military and economic superpower, and believes that it will be able to achieve military parity with the United States in the mid-term future. China bases this belief on its commitment to the revolution in military affairs, which it can develop and implement quicker than the United States could do with similar modernizations. In its analysis of US performance during the Gulf War, China believes United States was fortunate that Iraq allowed it time to transport and assemble its forces. China perceives US slowness, substantial US reliance on allies, and heavy US reliance on large amounts of high-tech equipment, especially satellite navigation and communication, as weaknesses to be exploited. China believes that Iraq, in the Gulf War, and the Serbs, in the Kosovo War, failed to exploit critical US weaknesses. In a conflict with the US, China does not intend to make the same mistake. By pressing ahead with its development of RMA technologies and tactics, China believes it can surpass the United States, relying on US arrogance, its over-reliance on complex technology, and the cumbersome and change-resistant nature of the US military industrial complex.

China is attempting to perform this RMA “miracle” through continuous upgrades of its military technology, and timely development of its space capabilities. To make RMA work, the PLA must internalize the technical skills and education required to fight with modern weaponry and tactics- especially space forces. China must learn to project its forces far into the South China Sea and to protect them. Without that capability, it cannot seize Taiwan, enforce its claims on the Spratly Islands, and or engage US forces on the high seas. China’s ability to field new equipment and doctrine tends to progress in fits and starts since it normally buys training only for the initial cadre of personnel (assuming they will train additional troops) and also pays for only minimal training, maintenance, and support personnel.[16]

Compounding these growing pains is China’s relative ignorance of the technological principles underlying the equipment. The Chinese have bought or adapted much of the technology and, because the country lost many skilled technicians during the Cultural Revolution, it does not have sufficient trained scientists and engineers with the background to understand the many nuances and challenges of high-technology equipment. The ability to use high-technology systems in battle requires systems integration, which means not only the ability to operate technology, but also the ability to adapt components to varying environmental, operational, and tactical requirements—an even more challenging task. Further, in its attempt to achieve parity with other major powers, Beijing must hit a moving target, because other regional powers and the United States are also engaged in force modernizations.

The reunification of Taiwan into the PRC is a high priority for China. However, a forcible military reunification would destroy much of the island's infrastructure, thus negating many of the potential economic benefits to be gained from reunification. If China must attack Taiwan it will not do so until it can attack rapidly, and with overwhelming force. “The military balance will likely continue to favor Taiwan until the latter part of this decade…[however] militarily, time is on Beijing’s side.”[17] Despite its current strategic disadvantage, if China is provoked or feels threatened, a Chinese attack on Taiwan in the near future remains a distinct possibility.


The US, Taiwan, and the Asia-Pacific- US-Taiwanese relations are defined, in large part, by US-Chinese relations. The US choice to remove diplomatic recognition from Taiwan means that the United States and Taiwan cannot have a “normal” relationship. The United States values its relationship with Taiwan because of the strong economic ties between the two parties and because of the symbolic value of the link. While Taiwan values its economic relations with the US, the most valuable role the United States can play is that of a protector of Taiwan. Taiwan also has other sources for advanced weapons. It has, for example, bought weapons from western European nations, and pursued its own military modernizations. Taiwan has also sought to tie itself more closely to other Asian nations, such as South Korea and Japan, and to participate within regional forums. Taiwan has also made several overtures to the PRC, expressing its willingness to engage in talks, and its desire to find a lasting peace. Even as it pursues these other measures to guarantee its security, Taiwan has continued to push the United States to authorize the sale of advanced military systems and technologies. While Taiwan would certainly prefer a return to pre-1970’s relations with the US, since diplomatic recognition is not returning to Taiwan any time soon, Taiwan has worked to maximize the benefits of its situation, and has attempted to reframe the US-China relationship as less important in the post-Cold War. Taiwanese officials have pointed out that the conditions under which “China is geo-politically important while Taiwan is but a nuisance” no longer exist.[18] Taiwan’s attempts to ensure its security, and its relationship with the United States, have been based on the understanding that the United States will neither abandon Taiwan, nor support Taiwan if it seeks official independence.

Taiwan’s focus on its economic growth is based, not only on the natural desire for a strong economy, but also on the realization that: (1) a strong economy ties Taiwan closer to the United States and other Western countries; and (2) China would lose more if it attacked and ruined that economy than if it remained weak. Taiwan wants to enhance its relations with China and, in doing so, make dealing with Taiwan so valuable that China is loath to risk those benefits through violent reunification.

Subtlety is an essential characteristic of Taiwanese international politics and security posturing. Rather than stress its own desire for US Theatre Missile Defense as protection against China, Taiwan has stressed the general volatility of the region, and the risk that Japan and South Korea face from adversaries. Taiwan is a strong supporter of the deployment of US TMD to the region, for TMD intended to protect Japan would also protect Taiwan. Taiwan’s claims on the Spratly Islands are just vigorous enough make it a participant in the dispute, but not so vigorous as to add significantly to China-Taiwanese tensions, raise overall regional tensions, or to antagonize the United States and other western powers, who would prefer to see tensions in the South China Sea dissipate peacefully. In recent years, Taiwan has increasingly attempted to move beyond its global isolation and create its own legitimate political space. Taiwan is seeking membership in several international organizations, including the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and IAEA. Taiwanese officials are quick to note that granting Taiwan such memberships would not imply a recognition of Taiwan, for “there are legal precedents such as Ukraine and Belorussian UN membership while they were part of the Soviet Union.”[19] Taiwan’s pursuit of membership (or at least observer status) in various multilateral organizations is part of its ongoing attempt to achieve de facto global recognition of its right to exist.      

Taiwan’s transformation from an authoritarian and economically depressed island state into a vibrant democracy with a robust economy has been impressive indeed. Taiwan has developed into a highly advanced nation, whose advanced military and civilian technologies and integration into the world economy make it more powerful than its small size would suggest. Despite all this, Taiwan inhabits a very unsettled international space and must adapt its domestic politics, international affairs, and policies toward outer space around this uncertainty.


US Policy Options and Considerations

The current US policy towards China and Taiwan is characterized as “strategic ambiguity.” Effectively, this means that “if Taiwan declares independence, don’t count on us; if the PRC invades Taiwan, don‘t count us out.”[20] Strategic ambiguity is the US attempt to mute cross-strait tensions without being put in the middle, or drawn into a conflict. It is a strategy of dual deterrence, and depends on the fact that neither Taiwan nor China can predict the US reaction to a disruption of the unstable status quo. US policymakers hope that “the uncertainty brought about by the United States will...preempt either the PRC or the ROC from making a move that would upset the status quo.”[21] The United States “has for decades sought to balance competing US interests in both China and Taiwan, and, at the same time, maintain credibility, peace and stability in the region.”[22] The current US policy has generally been effective, but has rarely been comfortable to US policymakers who prefer greater clarity in international affairs. The end of the Cold War, and thus, the potential fading of China’s geopolitical significance as a counterweight to the USSR, Taiwan’s democratization, the economic value presented by China’s emerging market, the importance of Taiwan as a trading partner, and increasing tensions in the Asia-Pacific have all led many US scholars and officials to wonder if it is not time to craft a new policy for dealing with China and Taiwan. The newly emergent geopolitical realities, coupled with rapid technological advances in space, information, and electronics, make it likely that the US policy is due for a careful re-examination. As became clear in the April 2001 loss of a Chinese fighter aircraft off the coast of China, and damage to a US surveillance aircraft, US policy of balancing Taiwan and China is volatile and increasingly difficult to continue. US policymakers and defense planners must develop plans and strategies to deal with any new developments in US-Chinese, Taiwanese-Chinese, or Taiwanese-US relations, or other developments in the Pacific Rim. Given the importance of space technologies to US security plans, US plans must take into account not only US posture toward outer space and dependence on space assets, but also the space policies and capabilities of the other nations in the region.

While new US policies in the Asia-Pacific must address both China and Taiwan, the current realities of power continue to mean that minimizing the threat posed by China takes precedence over maximizing the benefits gained from Taiwan. The US adoption of a policy of either pure containment, or pure engagement toward China would be inadvisable. Containment would imply the creation of a new Cold War, with China put in the position of the Soviet Union. Given China’s perceptions of a malevolent United States, selfishly trying to keep resources and prestige from China, such a containment policy would probably further alienate China, and act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. As well, effective containment would necessitate a unified effort among the US allies. This is unlikely to occur, since Europe does not perceive any Chinese threat to their interests.[23] The European states and other nations have gladly filled the gaps left by US reluctance to trade with China, and have worked to establish economic ties with China.

Engagement alone is not a viable policy either. Engagement provides no punishment for violating norms of conduct and human rights. There can be no negative consequences, only more engagement. Engagement ignores very real conflicts between US and Chinese interests, and does not provide the United States with leverage to bargain with China. As well, if engagement fails, the United States faces a China that will have gained considerable economic and military benefits. Thus, the failure of engagement would create a China that poses a greater threat to US interests.

The United States has focused considerable efforts on preventing China from achieving hegemony. China has a military that, at the minimum, has the capability to act as a spoiler. If necessary, China can, either alone, or in concert with Russia or other nations, field forces to threaten and offset US interests. It is actively upgrading its forces, and plans on fielding space weapons and developing advanced tactics to counter the massive technological edge of the United States.

China is actively promoting economic growth and military modernization at a rapid pace. These advances potentially threaten US influence in Southeast Asia, and possibly even on a global scale. US policy makers must attempt to understand whether China seeks regional hegemony, or a more global power. While these developments give United States cause for caution, excessive caution is itself a grave risk. The United States could, through an overly aggressive stance, cause a new Cold War, for, as Joseph Nye once pointed out: “If we define China as an enemy, it will become an enemy.”

China is in the process of solidifying its space power. It already has mastered space launch technology and provides commercial services from low to high earth orbits. It has some satellite communications and reconnaissance capability, and is actively developing more sophisticated satellites. Through development or exploitation of space technology, China will attempt to facilitate its own Revolution in Military Affairs. China may be able to use these developments to increase its influence in the Pacific Rim area through increased ability to apply military force, and through increased prestige and leadership.

The most effective strategy for the United States to follow likely falls between containment and engagement. Under this strategy, the United States would engage in trade, but would also attempt to impose sanctions that exact costs for Chinese companies that violate export control laws, proliferation regimes, and other treaties. At the same time, the United States must strengthen its ties to the countries of Southeast Asia and ASEAN, in order to influence the direction and extent of Chinese influence. A strong, but explicitly non-aggressive and non-expansionist US presence in the region could help entice China to explore some measures of democratization. Chinese liberalizations would, in turn, alleviate both US and Taiwanese reservations regarding a possible reunification.[24] A more democratic China might be able to attract Taiwan’s interest in reunification.

The policy challenge for the United States is to find effective ways to engage China while also containing China’s more aggressive tendencies in order to strengthen and stabilize other nations in the region, and support future liberalizations in China. The most effective approach would be to pursue a policy of constructive engagement, that, for the near future maintains elements of strategic ambiguity, but also encourages China to continue on a course of liberalization. Such a policy will only be successful if the United States does not appear to be trying to dictate to China. Optimal US policy toward the Asia Pacific requires careful consideration of the effects of US actions such as the deployment of missile defense. The United States has a window of opportunity in which to redefine its role in the region in keeping with new risks and new opportunities in the Asia-Pacific.

Any new US policy towards China and Taiwan must certainly take into account the changing role of space technologies in the region. The Asia-Pacific is an unusual region because several of the latent conflicts there would involve nations with considerable access to advanced space-based technologies, either through indigenous development or from commercial sources. Advancements in space and other key technologies change the security situation in the Pacific Rim in two ways. First, more and more nations have access to advanced military technologies, from guided missiles, to military radar, to advanced command and control capabilities. The proliferation of military technologies even in impoverished Asian nations makes the region inherently volatile. Second, new satellite technologies have dramatically increased the level of transparency in the Asia-Pacific. Access to commercial remote sensing, development of indigenous satellite technology, and improvements in the gathering and distribution of information have made it far easier for nations to monitor each others’ behavior and status.

While transparency may, indeed, prove beneficial to the overall security environment in the Asia-Pacific, it may also pose certain risks, both to regional stability and to the continued utility of the US policy of strategic ambiguity towards China and Taiwan. Strategic ambiguity has allowed the United States simultaneously to deter aggression or rash actions by either the Chinese or the Taiwanese, in large part because neither party knew exactly what the US response to PRC action would be. As well, a measure of uncertainty as to the other party’s force structure, deployment, and military capability tended to inhibit hasty actions. Now, both China and Taiwan have a greatly enhanced ability to monitor each others’ behavior and capabilities. Given the already high level of cross-strait distrust, rapid confirmation of military advancements might increase tensions. This new transparency has the capacity to increase trust, but where trust does not exist transparency poses at least as many risks as uncertainty.


Conclusion- A new US policy towards China, Taiwan, and the balance of the Asia-Pacific, is, indeed, necessary. The United States must remain engaged in the South China Sea. It is becoming clear that, for good or ill, China intends to maintain or expand its presence in the region. The United States does not necessarily need to counter or oppose Chinese influence, but must maintain a strong and peaceful influence of its own. The United States should work to maintain freedom of navigation, and to prevent any of the disputants from resorting to the use of force. The United States must develop a comprehensive policy towards China that, simultaneously, acknowledges China’s interests in the region and encourages China to see its ideal role as a strong, but non-aggressive and non-expansionist regional power. China has expressed its interest in peaceful resolution of the tensions it is involved in, and should be encouraged to work within the context of ASEAN, an organization with the authority to settle disputes in the region. The US policy must address China’s growing space and military power, and must mitigate the regional risks posed by advances in Chinese technology.

 At the same time, US policy must acknowledge and address new changes in Taiwan, from Taiwanese democratization to Taiwan’s significant military capabilities, to Taiwan’s global economic power. While Taiwan’s democratization is, in many ways, a positive development, it may actually introduce some additional risks. Under the former Nationalist government, the population was strictly controlled, and was not permitted to make statements advocating Taiwanese independence. With free speech comes the ability to advocate numerous views – a freedom that could increase Chinese fears about Taiwanese goals, and possibly provoke aggression. US policy must also address the fact that continued Taiwanese defense enhancements could feed cross-strait tensions. At the same time, the United States should encourage the creation of some sort of international, quasi-independent status for Taiwan. The United States must make it clear to Taiwan that countering China’s military buildup or posturing in the Spratlies on a tit-for-tat basis is not the best way to gain US support. The United States must solidify its commitment to Taiwan’s defense and freedom, for a failure to do so will lead to Taiwanese attempts to do so without US aid or approval.

   While the United States does not have the ability or responsibility to resolve the China-Taiwan issue, the United States does have the ability to act as a stabilizing- or destabilizing- force in the Pacific Rim. The United States must find a way to adapt the stabilizing influences of strategic ambiguity to the new, post-Cold War, technologically advanced era, an era where ambiguity is being transformed by transparency. New technologies- space-based technologies, information technologies, and dual-use systems- are acting as catalysts for the rapid and unpredictable shifts in Asian geopolitics. The United States must, therefore, strive for international policies that allow new technological developments to enhance, not damage, security, in Asia and worldwide.

[1] Jaime A. Floecruz

[2] Khalilzad, pg. 69.

[3] Khalilzad, pp. 64-69.

[4] Manning, p. 2

[5] Benson and Niou, p. 14

[6] Benson and Niou, p. 14

[7] Agence France Presse, June 8, 2000

[8] Benson and Niou, p. 15, quote from Taiwan Relations Act

[9] This system underwent and failed its third major test in the summer of 2000.

[10] Anderson, pp. 20-23.

[11] “US Agrees Sale Of Arms…” FAS

[12]Congress More Likely to Support Taiwan Weapons Sales.” US Defense News

[13] Baker, John C. and David G. Wiencek

[14] Manning, p. 9

[15] “China Blames US for North Korea Missile Threat,”

[16] Khalilzad, pg. 52.

[17] Manning, p. 6

[18] Lin, Chong-Pin

[19] Manning, p. 12

[20] Benson and Niou, p. 16

[21] Benson and Niou, p. 3

[22] Benson and Niuo, p. 2

[23] Ibid., pg. 71.

[24] Ibid., pp. 72-74.