What Kind of Policy Has the USA Followed in Taiwan from Past to Present?

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Connecting the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea, Taiwan is a prominent place with its geopolitical position. Taiwan, which was colonized by the Dutch between 1624 and 1668, came under the rule of the Qing Dynasty in China after this date. However, after the Sino-Japanese War in 1894 and 1895, Taiwan began to be dominated by Japan. In 1945, Japan, which was defeated in the Second World War, withdrew from Taiwan and left Taiwan for China.[1]

Taiwan, which has been under the influence of various countries throughout history, has not been able to get rid of various problems even though it is connected to mainland of China. Between 1927 and 1949, the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) engaged in a civil war. The CCP left this civil war with a victory and came to power, and the members of the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan and started to continue their activities there. Since this date, the Taiwan Issue has not fallen from the agenda of the international community.

Taiwan’s political situation is one of the ambiguous issues in international politics. Today’s debates are around the question of whether Taiwan, which continues its political activities under the name of the Republic of China, is an independent state or a province of China. Although not a party to this problem, the United States of America (USA) has been closely interested in Taiwan and the Taiwan Issue for a long time.[2]

The US’s interest in Taiwan emerged after the Second World War. Prior to this war, Taiwan was not the focus of US decision-makers.[3] Even though the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan and China’s attacks on Taiwan, the Washington administration did not take any action to stop Mao Zedong or to hinder China’s Taiwan policy.[4] However, the attitude of the US changed after the Korean War. With China’s involvement in the Korean War in 1950, the US turned to provide military and diplomatic support to Taipei.[5] In 1954, the “Mutual Defense Treaty” was signed between the US and Taiwan, and the military aid of the US to Taiwan was carried to an official dimension.[6]

US support for Taiwan continued steadily until the 1970s. But, since that date, then US President Richard M. Nixon and then US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger built the country’s foreign policy on a sensitivity that took care to establish close relations with China.[7] The US, which did not recognize the Beijing administration and did not establish diplomatic relations with China from 1949 to the 1970s, gave up this policy with the Vietnam War.[8] Ultimately, the Washington administration moved away from diplomatic relations with Taipei to establish official relations with Beijing. As a result of this policy, while Taipei represented China at the United Nations until 1971, it was decided that the Beijing Government would represent it from this date on.

Between the 1970s and 1980s, the US maintained its relations with Taiwan at a lower level than in the past. It also tried to create channels of dialogue between the parties by bringing Taiwan and China together for a solution to the Taiwan Issue.[9] In the 1980s, it was seen that the US intensified its relations with Taiwan again. In 1980, the US President of the time Ronald Reagan emphasized that Taiwan’s defence needs should be met and stated that they would support the island administration.[10] Especially after the Tiananmen Square Protests that took place in China in 1989, Western states, mainly the US, reacted against China and imposed some sanctions. Therefore, the decline of the US’s relations with China has led to the development of relations with Taiwan.

As of the 21st century, it is possible to say that the relations between the US and Taiwan are progressing strongly. The support of the Washington administration to the island, especially under the previous US President Donald Trump, reached its highest level since 1971.[11] US President Joe Biden, who came to power after Trump, similarly continues the support given by the US to Taiwan. As a matter of fact, according to the statement made by the US Department of State on December 29, 2022, Washington approved the sale of the Volcano anti-tank mine laying system worth 180 million dollars to Taiwan.[12] Subsequently, Taiwan’s Ambassador to the US, Hsiao Bi-khim, emphasized that relations with the US have deepened and will further develop in 2023, and drew attention to the closeness between the parties.[13]

US support for Taiwan initially emerged with ideological motives. However, the Taiwan policy of the US started to be based on geopolitical and hegemonic reasons later. First of all, the US wishes to establish hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region through Taiwan.[14] Secondly, the US, which is the superpower, and Japan, one of the powerful countries of the region, have focused on balancing China through Taiwan, as they perceive the rising power of China as a threat.[15] Third, American geopoliticians see Taiwan as a strategic key point in East Asia and believe they should be in Taiwan in order to gain military superiority over China.[16] Fourth, Taiwan is important for Beijing in critical issues such as China’s opening to the sea, increasing its economic development and protecting the mainland, and the US, aware of these, continues to increase its support for Taiwan in order to weaken its rival China.

[1] Robert D. Blackwill-Philip Zelikow, “The United States, China, and Taiwan: A Strategy to Prevent War”, Council Special Report, 90, 2021, p. 14.

[2] Kartal Batuhan Olkan, “Çin-ABD İlişkilerinde Güvenlik İkilemi: Tayvan Sorunu”, Journal of Business Innovation and Governance, 4(1), 2021, p. 31.

[3] Ryan Hass, “An American Perspective on the Role of Taiwan in US-China Relations”, Foreign Policy, 2022, p. 2.

[4] C. Fred Bergsten et. al., China’s Rise: Challenges and Opportunities, Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington 2009, p. 172.

[5] Olkan, op. cit., p. 33.

[6] Blackwill-Zelikow, op. cit., p. 14.

[7] Hass, op. cit., p. 2.

[8] Olkan, op. cit, p. 33.

[9] Blackwill-Zelikow, op. cit., p. 15.

[10] Olkan, op. cit., p. 34.

[11] “Donald Trump Is the Most Pro-Taiwan President in U.S. History,” Washington Post,, (Date of Accession: 03.01.2023).

[12] “US Clears Sale of $180m Anti-tank Systems to Taiwan”, Aljazeera,, (Date of Accession: 03.01.2023).

[13] “Taiwan Envoy to US Seeks Deeper Bilateral Ties in New Year”, Taiwan News,, (Date of Accession: 03.01.2023).

[14] Olkan, op. cit., p. 38.

[15] İshak Turan, “ABD-Çin İlişkileri Bağlamında Tayvan Sorunu”, Düzce Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Dergisi, 6(1), 2016, p. 81.

[16] Hass, op. cit., p. 2.

Neslihan TOPCU
Neslihan Topcu, 2017 yılında Adnan Menderes Üniversitesi Siyaset Bilimi ve Kamu Yönetimi bölümünden mezun olmuş ve ardından aynı üniversitenin Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda yüksek lisans eğitimine başlamıştır. Yüksek lisans derecesini elde ettiği “Çin’in Enerji Güvenliği Politikaları” başlıklı tezi, 2020 yılında kitap olarak da yayınlanmıştır. 2016 senesinde Litvanya’daki Kazimieras Simonavičius Üniversitesi’nde ve 2019 yılında da Portekiz’deki Minho Üniversitesi’nde eğitim alan Topçu, halihazırda Selçuk Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. Asya Pasifik, enerji güvenliği ve devletlerin uzay politikalarıyla ilgili çalışmaları çeşitli dergilerde ve kitaplarda yayınlanmış olan Topçu, iyi derecede İngilizce ve orta seviyede İspanyolca bilmektedir.