Refunctionalizing a Frayed American China-Taiwan Policy: Incrementalism or Paradigmatic Shift?

Vincent Wei-cheng Wang, University of Richmond


This paper is interested in exploring whether it is possible for the US. to pursue parallel relationships with Taiwan and China, that is, whether US.-Taiwan relations can be "decoupled" from the Washington-Beijing relationship? This paper uses a spatial model to review how US-Taiwan relations have evolved since 1949, when the reality of two Chinas set in with the founding of the PRC. It discusses the increasingly unbalanced "dual track" framework of current US. policy toward China and Taiwan and contrasts the changing contexts between the SCP's time and the present post-Cold War era. It examines those most important new parameters that were absent or different in the SCP. Based on this contrast, the paper questions the policy's continued validity and calls for a new paradigm to replace the SCP. Based on these new parameters, the final section sketches out a new paradigm for US. policy toward Taiwan in the post-Cold War era and weighs the pros and cons of three distinct policy choices - disengagement, decoupling, and improved status quo-for the shape and direction of future US.-Taiwan relations. By bringing developments up to date (President Bush's December 9, 2003 comments regarding Taiwan's referendum), this paper argues that although the Bush Administration seems content to refunctionalize a frayed framework, it has abandoned "strategic ambiguity" and has added preference for the status quo.