The Taiwan Factor in U.S.—China Relations



When George W. Bush campaigned for the presidency in 2000, he and Republican Party leaders promised to treat Taiwan better, citing, among other things, its longstanding friendship with the United States and its geostrategic importance. They also praised its successful democratization and spoke highly of Taiwan’s new president, Chen Shui-bian.


Foreign Policy Democratic Progressive Party Legislative Election China Policy Nationalist Party 
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  1. 1.
    See, for example, articles written by Condoleezza Rice and Robert Zeollick in Foreign Affairs, published during the campaign. Even before this, conservative Republicans issued a public statement to the effect that the United States should come to Taiwan’s rescue in the event of a Chinese attack or blockade. See James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (New York: Penguin, 2004), 243.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Jean A. Garrison, Making China Policy: From Nixon to G. W Bush (Boulder, CO: Lynn Rienner, 2005), 165.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Project for the New American Century, “Statement on the Defense of Taiwan,” August 20, 1999, Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Richard C. Bush, At Cross Purposes: U.S. Taiwan Relations Since1942 (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2004), 239.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Steven Mufson and Philip P. Pan, “Spy Plane Delays Irk President,” Washington Post, April 3, 2001, p. A01. It was reported that Bush “sternly demanded” the return of the twenty-four crewmembers. Members of Congress suggested the crewmembers were hostages and that strategic partnership was dead.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    See Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, “Strategic Ambiguity or Strategic Clarity?” in Dangerous Strait: The U.S.-China-Taiwan Crisis, ed. Nancy Bernkopf Tucker (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    President Bush issued a statement of regret that many, both in the United States and China, considered an apology. The United States had pointed out that, under international law, the smaller plane should move to avoid a collision. Also, U.S. officials said the Chinese pilot was known for harassing U.S. planes by flying too close. See “Whose Fault is It?” Straits Times, April 15, 2001, p. 14.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    See James Mann, About Face: A History of America’s Curious Relationship with China, from Nixon to Clinton (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), 175.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, 284. It may also be worth noting that Bush’s uncle, Prescott Bush, Jr., had had extensive business ties with China. See James Mann, The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression (New York: Viking, 2007), 85.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    See Bates Gill, Rising Star: China’s New Security Diplomacy (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2007), 129.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, “Balancing Act: Bush, Beijing and Taipei,” in George W. Bush and East Asia: A First Term Assessment, ed. Robert M. Hathaway and Wilson Lee (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2005), 132. The author notes that China provided the United States with intelligence, helped track financial networks, sealed borders, and helped Pakistan fight al Qaeda.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    “Bush to Focus on Terror, Security, Economy in Asia Trip,” transcript of Condoleezza Rice briefing to the press, February 14, 2002, cited in Jean A. Garrison, Making China Policy: From Nixon to G. W. Bush (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2005), 184.Google Scholar
  13. 18.
    Colin L. Powell “Remarks at Conference on China-U.S. Relations,” November 5, 2003, Scholar
  14. 20.
    John J. Tkacik, Jr., “Strategy Deficit: U.S. Security in the Pacific and the Future of Taiwan,” in Reshaping the Taiwan Strait, ed. John J. Tkacik, Jr. (Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation, 2007), 15–18.Google Scholar
  15. 22.
    Ching Chong, Will Taiwan Break Away? (Singapore: World Scientific, 2000), 79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. For an interpretation of the significance of this, see John F. Copper, “Taiwan in Gridlock: Thoughts on the Chen Shui-bian Administration’s First Eighteen Months,” in Taiwan in Troubled Times: Essays on the Chen Shui-bian Presidency, ed. John F. Copper (Singapore: World Scientific, 2002), 24–25.Google Scholar
  17. 23.
    Alan D. Romberg, Rein In at the Brink of the Precipice: American Policy toward Taiwan and U.S.-PRC Relations (Washington, DC: Henry L. Simpson Center, 2003), 199.Google Scholar
  18. 24.
    Ibid., 206–7. The author, however, characterizes Wolfowitz’s statement as a slip.Google Scholar
  19. 25.
    Clearly, the Bush administration was angry. According to one writer, Republicans at this juncture had become as annoyed with Chen as Democrats. See Richard C. Bush and Michael E. O’Hanlon, A War Like No Other: The Truth about China’s Challenge to America (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2007), 79.Google Scholar
  20. 26.
    Richard C. Bush, Untying the Knot: Making Peace in the Taiwan Strait (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2005), 2.Google Scholar
  21. 27.
    See John F. Copper, Taiwan’s 2004 Presidential and Vice Presidential Election: Democracy’s Consolidation or Devolution? (Baltimore: University of Maryland School of Law, 2004), 20–21.Google Scholar
  22. 28.
    For details on the aftermath of the election and the interview, see John F. Copper, Taiwan’s 2004 Legislative Election: Putting it in Perspective (Baltimore: University of Maryland School of Law, 2004), 22.Google Scholar
  23. 30.
    Ching Cheong, “U.S. Needed to Jolt Taipei Awake,” Straits Times, October 24, 2004. Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Mark Chen called it a “severe blow.”Google Scholar
  24. 31.
    For details, see John F. Copper, Taiwan’s 2004 Legislative Election: Putting it in Perspective (Baltimore: University of Maryland School of Law, 2005); and John F. Copper, “A Referendum on President Chen,” Far Eastern Economic Review, December 2005.Google Scholar
  25. and John F. Copper, “A Referendum on President Chen,” Far Eastern Economic Review, December 2005.Google Scholar
  26. 37.
    For information on the suicide rate, see “Suicide Rate Rises Further,” Taipei Times, July 2, 2006, p. 3. For unemployment, see “Youth Unemployment at All Time High,” International Labor Organization, August 11, 2004, The annual yearbooks on Taiwan published by the Government Information Office, controlled by the presidential office, publishes data on these things, but left crime out of the recent issue.Google Scholar
  27. 38.
    It is projected that the number of first graders will decline by one-third in the next five years and, according to polls, 85 percent attribute the reason for not having children to the economy. See “Lowering Birth Rate Reflects Economic Woes,” China Post, January 11, 2007, p. 2.Google Scholar
  28. 41.
    See Kathrin Hille, “Taiwan’s Ruling Party Promises to Span Political and Ethnic Divide,” Financial Times, September 27, 2004. The DPP, in this instance, responded to public demonstrations against President Chen’s policies of accentuating ethnic divisions.Google Scholar
  29. 46.
    See John F. Copper, Taiwan’s 2006 Metropolitan Mayoral and City Council Elections and the Politics of Corruption (Baltimore: University of Maryland School of Law, 2007), 12–34.Google Scholar
  30. 49.
    See Carol Lee Hamrin and Zhang Wang, “The Floating Island: Change of Paradigm on the Taiwan Question,” Journal of Contemporary China (May 2004): 346–47.Google Scholar
  31. 50.
    See “Ma Ying-jeou Scores a Landslide,” Politics from Taiwan, July 16, 2006, Scholar
  32. 51.
    See Ellen Bork, “One China, One Taiwan,” Weekly Standard, December 15, 2005. Weekly Standard is a noted Neocon publication.Google Scholar
  33. 52.
    See Kathrin Hille, “Cultivated Charisma in the Spotlight Ma Ying-jeou,” Financial Times, March 13, 2007, Scholar
  34. 53.
    Lawrence Chung, “KMT Leader to Raise Arms Deal during U.S. Trip,” South China Morning Post, March 20, 2006, Scholar
  35. 54.
    Goh Sui Noi, “KMT Chief to Explain Party Policy to U.S.,” Straits Times, March 18, 2006, Scholar
  36. 55.
    “Cross-strait Issues and a Vision for Taiwan,” Straits Times, March 18, 2006, Scholar
  37. 56.
    Lawrence Chung, “KMT Chief ‘has Secured U.S. Backing,’” South China Morning Post, March 29, 2006, Scholar
  38. 57.
    “Ma ‘agrees’ with Chen on weapons purchase from U.S.,” China Post, November 3, 2006, p. 4. Ma’s assistants told American officials that when they talked to Ma (since he speaks impeccable English), nothing will be lost in the translation and that Ma was known for keeping his word (two matters that made many U.S. officials dislike President Chen).Google Scholar
  39. 58.
    See Dennis Van Vranken Hickey, “Continuity and Change: The Administration of George W. Bush and U.S. Policy toward Taiwan,” Journal of Contemporary China (August 2004): 474.Google Scholar

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© Suisheng Zhao 2008

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