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Future of Taiwan

May 26, 1972

Report Outline
Island's Role in U.S.–Asian Relations
Long Struggle for Control of Taiwan
Alternatives for the Future of Taiwan
Special Focus

Island's Role in U.S.–Asian Relations

Who owns taiwan? the question has agitated East Asia for more than three-quarters of a century, and it does so even today. Since 1894, the island has been a province of China, a colony of Japan and the seat of an exile government claiming to represent the vast, Communist-ruled mainland. One thing Taiwan never has been is an independent nation. After more than two decades of Nationalist Chinese rule and American assistance, however, the island has developed the economic and military strength to qualify as a viable, self-governing state.

Taiwan's status is more ambiguous than ever in the aftermath of President Nixon's visit to Peking. It was recognized well in advance of the President's trip that the Taiwan question was the major barrier to improved relations between China and the United States. Thus, the portions of the Shanghai communique that dealt with this issue received close scrutiny from outside observers. In that communique issued at the close of the Nixon visit, Feb. 29, the Communists asserted: “The government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government of China; Taiwan is a province of China…; the liberation of Taiwan is China's internal affair in which no other country has the right to interfere; and all U.S. forces must be withdrawn from Taiwan.” To underscore these points, the Chinese added that they rejected such formulas as “one China, one Taiwan,” “one China, two governments,” “two Chinas” and “independent Taiwan.”

The Chinese position on Taiwan, as expressed in the communique, amounted to a restatement of a policy of many years' standing. On the other hand, the American position appeared to represent a sharp break with past policy. “The United States acknowledges,” the communique stated, “that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military installations from Taiwan. In the meantime, it will progressively reduce its forces and military installations on Taiwan as the tension in the area diminishes.”

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