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The United States and Taiwan, 1895-Present

IWP 710
4 credits

Sixty-five years ago, in 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower deployed U.S. Air Force strategic forces to bases in Taiwan and the Western Pacific in a successful strategy in arguably the first use of the American “extended nuclear deterrent” for allies in Asia.  For the next fifteen years, until 1974, the U.S. maintained a substantial nuclear force on Taiwan.  This was drawn down beginning in 1972 with President Richard M. Nixon’s new China Policy and America’s strategic rebalance that culminated in collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992.  Washington’s misreading of post-Cold War dynamics and the Chinese Communist Party’s reassessment of the threat posed to it by the United States (vis-à-vis Russia and the former Soviet states) spurred Beijing’s drive to modernize its “comprehensive state power.”  The result is the new Chinese superpower.

Today, in 2023, Taiwan is again the world’s nuclear flashpoint.

United States’ policy toward Taiwan is “longstanding” but complex.  It is rooted in America’s post-World War I and II peace treaties, the intricacies of international legal doctrines of sovereignty and self-determination, and America’s strategic posture in the Western Pacific. Yet, even the most senior officials of the United States Government do not understand its origins, its history, or the relevance of Taiwan to America’s global posture in the twenty-first century.

Chinese diplomats, warriors, and Communist Party cadres, by contrast, are keenly aware of their own version of history.

This class will trace the American relationship with Taiwan and China since 1895, through the first and second world wars and the position Taiwan held in U.S. strategic planning during the Cold War, the Nixon Opening to China through the 1970s and 1980s until China’s Tiananmen Demonstrations of 1989 turned Beijing totally against Washington as China’s main adversary.  The class will then examine Chinese propaganda against the so-called “our One China policy” in Washington and contrast it with Beijing’s “One China Principle.”

The observed dynamics of China’s three thousand years of diplomacy – archaic, dynastic, and modern — and China’s perceptions of its continental and maritime threat environments over the centuries, will offer effective forecasting tools for practical policy and strategic planning to students who have or seek careers in international relations.