March 01, 2006

The Role of Taiwan in Shaping US–China Relations(1)

The Role of Taiwan in Shaping US-China Relations

Abstract: The purpose of this article is to analyze the two-faces role of Taiwan in shaping the US-China relationship during different periods form 1950s to nowadays. One role is a passive one as ?Taiwan card? played By China and US, while the other one is more active. Since the interaction between ROC-PRC-US triangle is a typical ?security complex?, it??s always in the process of being constructed. Thus whether Taiwan can take a role in shaping US-China relations depends on some conditions. So can we understand why the wake of Taiwan??s state identity will turn Taiwan to be a more active role rather than a passive card and tend to cause more troubles. The article have three parts, the first part will explain what??s the ROC-PRC-US security and why Taiwan as a small power matters. The second part will analyze the Taiwan??s role both passive and active in 1950, in Taiwan Straight crisis 1954 and 1958, in 1970s when US-China relationship was normalized, in the 1996 crisis again, and specially analyze the arms sale to Taiwan alone. The third part is conclusion, and will discuss for some common interests as great economic interdependence and peace environment in favor of development, there are still much can do to prevent the future crisis.

Key word: US-China relationship; security complex; state identity; Taiwan card; Taiwan??s active role

The Taiwan issue is the cause of repeated crises in East Asia for more than 50 years. Since the Taiwan??s domestic political transformation has called the status quo into question, the temporary stable relationship between the triangles may be broken and even cause a war that will benefit none in Pacific-Asia. Considering the importance of this issue, many scholars argued it from different point of views.
Some scholars described the political and economic achievements especially the success of democratization in Taiwan (Myers,1996;Clough,1996), and discussed why Taiwan should gain more international status(Munro,1994; Yahuda,1996), or why Taiwan??s people have rights to ask for their sovereignty and why the mainland??s solution as ?one country-two system? may not suitable for Taiwan (Charney and Prescott,2000) [1]. While others analyzed the China??s security strategy and its implication of US (Denoon and Friedman, 1996), such as why should US carefully keep the cross-strait military balance (O??Hanlon, 2000), and why the arm sale to Taiwan would become the biggest obstacle to the US-China relation (McClaran, 2000) [2].
While this article just try to analyze the two-faces role of Taiwan in shaping the US-China relationship during different periods form 1950s to nowadays, and explain why the changing of the triangular security complex and the wake of Taiwan??s state identity will turn Taiwan to be a more active role rather than a passive card played by the other two big powers.

The ROC-PRC-US security complex: a small power matters
The interaction among ROC-PRC-US triangle is a typical ?security complex?. According to the definition given by (Buzan, 1983: 106), ?A security complex is defined as a group of states whose primary security concerns link together sufficiently closely that their national securities cannot realistically be considered apart from one another.?
The significance of the ROC-PRC-US security complex lies in the significance status of each side in world order, and has attracted the interest of many intelligent scholars who work on international relations. So far these researches can be divided into two categories:
1 research on three levels of security complex
In terms of (Buzan, 1983), there are three levels of security research: state-international system, state-state, state-individual.
Many research on the cold war period focus on the state-international system level and state-state level. After the end of cold war, in response to the interdependence of world economy and ?the third wave? of democratization, more and more have been done on the state-individual level(Copper 1990; Ross (eds) 1998; Clough 1999), while realism and neo-realism remain the mainstream(Kapstein and Mastanduno 1999).
2 research on interaction between ideas and security policies
As a challenge to rational choice and material interests which realist theories and liberal theories emphasis on, critical theories introduce ideational factors into international relations researches. In the eyes of critical and constructivist scholars, national interests ?are constructed through a process of social interaction?, which remain to be defined rather than to be defended. When it comes to the security interests, there are two ideational determinations of state policies: (a) the cultural-institutional context; (b) the constructed identity of states, governments, and the other political actors (Katzenstein 1996:2).
In terms of (Buzan, 1983:173–5), these ideational factors bring ?power-security dilemma? to security policy-making. He argues that when realists prefer idea of power, idealists seek for security through peace, thus leads to ?clashes over policy along appeasement versus containment lines?.
This Realist vs liberalist idea clashes reflect on the ROC-PRC-US security complex. For example, the shift of American??s China policy from containment to engagement, the arguments on whether China is a status quo power or revisionist power, etc. (Copper 1990;Garver 1997; Alagappa(eds) 1998; Solomon in Lamarr and Kang 2000; Johnston, 1999; Yahuda 2004; Buzan 2004).
From this point of view, the ROC-PRC-US security complex is always in the process of being constructed. Whether Taiwan can take a role in shaping US-China relations depends on three determinants:
(a)USA??s will and capacity to conflict with China over Taiwan issue
(b)PRC??s will and capacity to conflict with US over Taiwan issue
(c)the ROC??s will and capacity to manipulate US-China relations to obtain its own benefits.
There is not always a ROC-PRC-US security complex. However, once a ROC-PRC-US security complex comes into being, and power competition becomes the dominant policy, a stage for Taiwan to play a role in shaping US-China relations appears.
There are two faces of this role:
(a) Taiwan issue can be used as a passive ?Taiwan card? played by PRC and US as a method to obtain the China-American relationship which the two states want respectively.
(b) Taiwan actively maneuvers the security complex between China and US in order to obtain survival space from big powers conflicts.
The 1996 Crisis not only revealed the potential severe tension between China and US, but also indicated that even a small power had the ability to maneuver and shape big powers relations to obtain its own benefit. Moreover, it was not the first time that such maneuvers had led to the brink of war that neither PRC nor US wishes to see.
This article will try to analyze the two faces of Taiwan??s role and will pay a little more attention to the active side, for (a)being under the protection umbrella of US and under the military attack shadow of PRC, the active side of Taiwan is so easy to be neglected; (b) after cold war, when big powers are more willing to restrain themselves, small power is less bond to such norms(Garver 1997:3–12;157–166).

The role of Taiwan in shaping China-American relationship

1 The formation of POC??PRC??US security complex in 1950

From 1949 to 1950, Taiwan played one active and the other two passive roles:
(i) Taiwan contributed to shaping the security complex between PRC and US. After fleeing to Taiwan, the KMT leader Chiang actively promoted his anti-communist foreign policy and took every opportunity to volunteer to take part in American??s military intervention in Asia then Truman accepted Taiwan as a membership of the West bloc (Hsieh 1985). So the ROC contributed to the de facto separation of China and the long-term disputes even since.
(ii) In early 1950s, US played ?Taiwan card? in order to decrease the hostility of PRC, thus to balance the power of Soviet. According to (Yahuda, 2004:24–7), the U.S. showed little interest in further military intervention in Asia before the outbreak of Korean War, but instead of showing some interests to approach PRC in hope to separate China mainland from its communist ally. The U.S. was ready to sacrifice Taiwan in short-term and Truman even claimed that US would not defend Taiwan.
(iii) After the breakout of Korean War, the American played ?Taiwan card? again, and Taiwan was set on the frontier of a strategic doctrine to contain the expansion of communist bloc. Truman immediately announced an economic embargo on China and the Seven Fleet was sent to Taiwan Strait. The Chinese and the American did held different views on this military intervention. [3]

2 The Taiwan Strait crisis in 1954 and 1958 and US-Taiwan treaty in 1955

At the first glance, the crisis in 1954 and 1958 was a story that PRC initiated the wars but later ceased fire under the threat of nuclear attack from US. However, Taiwan was the final winner. (Garver, 1997:3) thought what had happened showed ?that a smaller power can affect, even manipulate, to its own advantage relations between greater powers.?
(i) The Taiwan Strait crisis in 1954
From 1954 to 1955, PRC tried to play ?Taiwan card? in order to start diplomatic dialogue with US to break out economic embargo. Since there were some negotiations between PRC and US after China??s shell offshore islands, to some extent, the ?Taiwan card? strategy worked (Yahuda 2004:49–53).
However, the most important side of the story was that the maneuvers of Taiwan had led to the brink of military confrontation between PRC and US, which neither side wished, then Taiwan became the biggest winner in the first Crises.
Since the CCP??s expectation was to open dialogues with US, they did not want to start a war with US [4]. And US had no intention to attack the Chinese mainland either [5]. Thus, after PRC started to shell, US had no choice but to defend these islands and threat to use nuclear weapons (Eisenhower: 476–7). In the letter in February 1955, Eisenhower explained to Churchill why he felt obliged to save Chiang??s army [6]. It was obvious that Chiang was not innocent in creating the military confrontation between the two countries [7].
(ii) The Taiwan Strait Crises in 1958
In August 1958, when the talk between PRC and US on ending economic embargo was suspended by US, the CCP leader Mao decided to shell Quemoy and Matsu again.
The 1958 Crisis seemed to be a copy of that in 1954. PRC played the ?Taiwan card? again in order to bring US back to the negotiating table.[8] Eisenhower and Dulles publicly warned Beijing a nuclear attack in September. Two days later Zhou announced that PRC would accept an American offer to resume talks (Eisenhower: 477). Taiwan also played an active role, because again Chiang located heavy forces on Quemoy and Matsu, and US had no choice but to defend these islands if they didn??t want to see the heavy lost of Chiang??s army.
Then here came the most interesting part of the 1958 Crisis. Why Eisenhower was still willing to protect these offshore islands that he believed to be unimportant four years ago? The answer would be the changing of security complex [9].

3. 1969–1979 the normalization of US-China relations and the Taiwan Relations Act

Fairly speaking, in shaping US-China relations, Chiang had contributed to adding bids to PRC side, although it was not of his intention. [10]
Nevertheless, Chiang was quite aware that he could benefit from the conflicts in Asia [11], especially clashes between the two big powers (Hsieh 1985). And ROC had actively tried to delay the normalization of US-China relations [12].
To Chiang??s disappointment, due to the ?Nixon doctrine? of reducing American forces in Asia and the American ?global equilibrium? policy toward Soviet, there was less and less chance for him to maneuver between the US-China relation.(Yahuda 2004:14,125; Copper 1990:95–106)
In my opinion, from 1969 to 1979, there are two turning points in US-China relations:
By making limited concessions over Taiwan issue, PRC and US governments normalized their relations and paved the way for cooperation to balance the power of Soviet;
By passing the TRA, there is a great transformation of the way of US containing China in Asia??from state-state level to the combination of state-state and state-individual levels.
(i) The ?Taiwan card ? played by the American governments
From 1969 to 1972, Nixon and Kissinger were willing to make some concession over Taiwan issue. However, due to the 21-years ally between US and the ROC in containing Soviet and China, such concession was limited (Clough 1999:18).
The American??s decision of making concession based on their shifted ideas of security, especially on world level. In the term of Kissinger, the new ?international order? was a global equilibrium between the two superpowers??US and USSR. (Yahuda 2004:125) In a world of ?global equilibrium?, there was no fixed frontier. Thus, the significance of Taiwan??s status was largely undermined. [13]
It was against this context that US agreed with China that ??there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China ??.
Meanwhile, the concession over Taiwan issue was limited. Such limitation was reflected on the following perspectives:
(a) US acknowledged ?Taiwan as a part rather than a province of China, thus eliminating a suggestion of subordination.? (Kissinger 1979:1079)
(b) Both the Nixon and the Carter??s administrations noted that US hold the position of a ?peaceful resolution? of the Taiwan issue, moreover, Kissinger and Nixon insisted a principle that the total withdrawal of military forces from Taiwan ?would depend on a reduction of tensions in the area.? (Buckley 2002: 162–3; Kissinger 1979:1080)
(c) Washington insisted that it would continue with arms sale to Taipei. (Buckley 2002: 162–3)
(ii) The ?Taiwan card ? played by the Chinese governments
In 1971, Taiwan??s significance to PRC reduced due to the change of world order, thus pave the way for making concessions in order to gain rapprochement with US.
The ?Nixon doctrine? of reducing military intervention in Asia, combined with the expansion of USSR, convinced PRC leader Mao a new world order of ?aggressive Russia and passive America?(Su Gong Mei Shou). If there was less intention for US to invade Asia, it would be less dangerous to make concession over the Taiwan issue. [14]
Meanwhile, concessions over Taiwan issue were limited. In response to the Taiwan Relation Act (TRA), which was passed by US Congress in 1979, PRC leader Deng xiaoping soon claimed that he would not renounce USe of force against Taiwan, which is still China??s policy today (Copper 1990:31).
(iii) The ?Taiwan card? played by the American Congress
The clash between the American government and the congress over the 1979 TRA reflected a clash between ideas of security among the American people. When the government, through rational calculations, was willing to ally a former opponent to deal with their common enemy, the Congress representatives, reflecting the ?anti-communism? ideology among American people (Cliff 1998:312), made up their mind to contain China.
By passing the TRA, there is a great transformation of the way of US containing China in Asia??from state-state level to the combination of state-state and state-individual levels. US recognized PRC??s sovereignty claim on state/government level, in the meantime, US congress claimed American sovereignty over ?life? on Taiwan on individual level.
The TRA promises to ?provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character? to ensure that Taipei enjoyed a sufficient self-defense capability, and that the United States would maintain the capacity to resist any use of force or coercion that would threaten Taiwan??s security (TRA part 5; Buckley 2002: 166); it affords defense guarantees (Copper 1990:31,107) in name of ?to help maintain peace, security, and stability in the Western Pacific?(Solomon 2000:241).
However, US-Taiwan relation must keep balance with US-China relation. As a consequence, American??s commitments to Taiwan in the TRA were ambiguous. Some scholars agree that whether US will come to the rescue in future crisis will depend on ?the geo-strategic circumstances?, ?public opinion? and ?who is in the white house?(Cliff 1998:292; Copper 1990: 122)
To Copper??s opinion, in most respects, the TRA treats Taiwan as a sovereign nation (Copper 1990:107, 121). On the contrary, Solomon points out that the TRA ?does not recognize a Taiwanese nation? (Solomon 2000:241-2). He argues that, as a domestic law of US, the purpose of passing the TRA was to incorporate the ?life? on Taiwan into a US-led empire, and such a management of State identity in the TRA ?reminds us of the relation between the Federal Government and local States within the U.S. States?.

4, The wake of Taiwan identity and the 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis

Most of the 1980s was the honeymoon of US-China relations (Yahuda 2004). In the meantime, since 1979, the Beijing??s policy towards Taiwan was described in a much milder phrase of ?re-unification? rather than ?liberation?, and mutual negotiations started (Yahuda 2004:78; Alagappa 1998:101; Goldstein 2003:66). Despite a short period of deterioration of US-China relations due to Tiananmen issue, US soon adopted an engaging China policy and US-China relations began to recover (Garver 1997:7; Berger 2003:401).
However, the 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis threw shadow on US-China relations (Garver 1997; Yahuda 2004 258–9; Clough 1999:7–8). In May 1995 US congress announced that the Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui would be given a visa as private visitor to visit America, which American Secretary of State had just assured China that would not happen. During his stay in American, Lee gave a highly political speech in his Alma mater, Cornell University, which contrary to what he had promised to US government. Beijing responded to Lee??s visiting America with military exercises and missile launches on its side of the Strait, which few memberships in American Congress could understand. US sent two carrier battle groups to the water near the Strait and halted the Crisis, which shocked and enraged the Chinese. During the crisis, both China and US recalled their ambassadors, which was the first time since 1979. US-China military exchanges also suspended for a period. Last but not least, Lee won handsomely in the 1996 Taiwan leader election, some local analysts believed that intimidation from Beijing helped Lee won some votes.
Even the pass of the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979, which provided defense protection to Taiwan, had not led to strong such objections from Beijing (largely due to the China-Vietnam war at that time)(Copper 1990:31). The ability of a small power to initiate conflicts between big powers worries scholars like Garver (1997).
(i) US played ?Taiwan Card? to serve its global strategy
First, Some scholars argue that US played ?Taiwan Card? to serve promotion of global democracy system. Since supporting Taiwan looked very likely to break ?one China? promise, such a lack of credit will do harm to US-China relations.
After abandoning martial law in 1978, Taiwan started democratization in response to ?the third wave?(Garver 1997:3–12; Yahuda 2004:210). The shared ideology between Taiwan and US used to be based on anti-communism, now it is based on democracy (Cliff 1998:312). Garver(1997:157–166) argues that it was American??s national interests to promote global democracy that underpinned American??s military intervention in the 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis.
However, when emotions prevailed in US Congress and led to the decision of issuing visa to the leader of Taiwan, US government faced the embarrassment of eating words. [15] Here US faced a dilemma of how to balance defending Taiwan with ?cultivating relations with PRC as a major market and as a rising power whose domestic political evolution US sought to influence? (Yahuda 2004:220).
Second, some scholars argue that US played ?Taiwan Card? to contain a rising China and to protect US hegemony.
Apart from moral factors, some scholars argue from a realist perspective that as a status quo power, the American intervened in 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis in order to contain unstable factors in Asia-Pacific region. (Yahuda 2004:258) and (Prestowitz 2003) find that scholars in Beijing strongly suspect the intension of Washington to keep a separated China and to prevent a rising China. (Christensen 2003) points out that the defense guidelines for US-Japan alliance revised in 1997, and covering areas ?situational? rather than ?geographic?. He furthers his arguments that given such revision announced in April 1996, Beijing elites and scholars started to fear about an American containment policy towards Taiwan Strait.
However, intentions of US to play ?Taiwan Card? remain ambiguous.
Some scholars emphasize on the uncertainty and ambiguity side of American??s China policy. In term of Mastanduno(1999:156), it was American??s ?strategic ambiguity?. Yahuda argues that despite pressures from the Congress, US responded with care in order not to damage the US-China relations [16]. Unfortunately, some unanticipated factors contributed to the deterioration of US-China relations in 1996 [17]. As a consequence, the combination of misunderstandings and miscalculations on the part of Taipei, Washington and Beijing led to the 1995–1996 Crisis (Clough 1999:7–8).
Many researches have been done on the uncertainty and ambiguity of American??s China policy. For example, Buzan(2004:122–5) and Mastanduno(1999:151,169) argue that there have been long-term intelligent debates over whether China is a ?status quo? power caring more about economic development or a ?revisionist? power challenging American in hope to rebuild a ?Chinese world order? in Pacific Asia. In accord with these academic debates, Ikenberry and Mastanduno(2003:432-5) point out that there has been long-term debates among American policy-makers whether to contain a rising China in response to military and economic ?China threat? or to engage China in hope that economic interdependence will incorporate China into a global system led by US.
(ii) PRC played ?Taiwan Card? to serve its national security interest
Will Taiwan issue deteriorate US-China relations? Many scholars (Berger 2003:400;Yahuda 2004:258–9; Garver 1990:47 ) argue that, due to the ideology of nationalism, Taiwan issue is very likely to poison the US-China relations because China had no choice but stand firmly against American??s intervention towards the Taiwan Strait. These scholars think that since economic reform in 1978, socialist or Marxism-Leninism ideology is no longer strong enough to integrate the big country together. So, the Chinese leaders turn to the ideology of nationalism in seek of ruling legitimacy. In the central of this nationalism appeal lies unification of Taiwan in order to get rid of ?a century??s humiliation? of being intervened by external forces. Some scholar radically argues that Chinese leaders ?gain political benefits from depicting the country??s security environment as threatening and hostile?, and take resisting US pressure as national pride, thus they are willing to ?prompts confrontation with the United States? over Taiwan issue (Masanduno and Kapstein 1999:6, Masanduno 1999:169).
Apart from ideology factors, Clough (1999:13) argues that due to the strategic significance of Taiwan, Taiwan will be a strategic threat in the hand of unfriendly powers, which makes the unification necessary.
However, some scholars think China has no intention to challenge American hegemony. Yahuda(2004:306) points out that despite the CCP leaders dislike American??s intervention in the Taiwan Strait, they are ?comfortable? with American global hegemony and to some extent welcome American??s intervention in Asia. The logic is that according to the hegemony stability theory, the existence of hegemony contributes to a stable world order, which benefits the development of China a lot. Johnston (1999: 261–301) believes that the increase in China??s military ability may only reflect the China??s hope to raise its international status and to settle regional disputes, which means it does not necessarily lead to balance the American??s power and challenge US global interests. Furthermore, even China feels constrained by American hegemony and has the potential capacity of a regional power to balance US (Ross 2004:267–304), Wu(1998:115–156) believes that China prefers building bilateral relations with American??s rivals rather than direct military confrontation with US. These views can find evidence in the final concession of China in the 1995–1996 Crisis. And some external factors may also have an effect to constrain the conflicts between China and US over Taiwan issue.[18]

(iii) The active role of Taiwan in shaping US-China relations
The Taiwan lobby has been famous for its capacity to challenge American??s ?one China? policy. And it is expected to continuously play an important role in shaping US-China relations in the future.
(Clough 1999:7–23) reveals that the near 100 percent vote in favor of Lee??s visit in 1996 is the fruit of a $ 4.5 million lobby program, and Lee??s visit is also the consequence of the long-term plan of ?selling Taiwan to Americans?. After 1971, Taiwan ?tried to compensate for their lack of access to top executive branch officials by cultivating members of Congress and their staff, governors and members of state legislatures, officials of important U.S. cities, and key media decision makers?. [19]
Furthermore, the democratization in Taiwan adds to Taiwan??s capacity and will in shaping US-China relations [20]. The democratization in Taiwan reflects the wake of ?Taiwan identity? and adds to Taiwan??s will to challenge American??s ?one China? policy. (Clough 1999:8) reminds Chinese leaders that pressures from a democracy society underpinned Lee??s seek for more international recognition. Some evidences of the wake of Taiwan identity are obviously [21]. In the meantime, Yahuda(2004:258-9) believes that despite the unpleasant challenges from Taiwan, PRC may felt constrained from intervening Taiwan issue, the logic here is that the legitimacy of Taiwan??s leader is now ?derived from the people of Taiwan?. However, such an obstacle has somewhat been overcome after PRC??s top legislator passing the ?Anti state-separation Law? in 2005, which authorized using arm force to prevent Taiwan from independence in name of 1.3 billion Chinese people.
There are also some views that the US-China relation may benefit from Taiwan??s democratization. Buzan(2004:184) argue that the democratization of Taiwan from an authoritarian regime many have influence on the long-term debates over whether or not a rising China will be American??s enemy or rival. Christensen (2002) thinks that Taiwan's Chinese democracy will add belief for US to assure China.
Last but not least, Taiwan lobby is not without limitation. The activity of Taiwan lobby in American Congress has disgusted some American officials and scholars [22].

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  • well done! carry on by on this entry

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