Shirley A. Kan
Specialist in Asian Security Affairs
Wayne M. Morrison
Specialist in Asian Trade and Finance
The purpose and scope of this CRS report is to provide a succinct overview with analysis of the major issues in the U.S. policy on Taiwan. This report will be updated as warranted. Taiwan formally calls itself the sovereign Republic of China (ROC), tracing its political lineage to the ROC set up after the revolution in 1911 in China. The ROC government retreated to Taipei in 1949. The United States recognized the ROC until the end of 1978 and has maintained a nondiplomatic relationship with Taiwan after recognition of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing in 1979. The State Department claims an “unofficial” U.S. relationship with Taiwan, despite official contacts that include arms sales. The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979, P.L. 96-8, has governed policy in the absence of a diplomatic relationship or a defense treaty. Other key statements that guide policy are the three U.S.-PRC Joint Communiqués of 1972, 1979, and 1982; as well as the “Six Assurances” of 1982. (See also CRS Report RL30341, China/Taiwan: Evolution of the “One China” Policy—Key Statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei.)
For decades, Taiwan has been of significant security, economic, and political interest to the United States. In 2012, Taiwan was the 11th-largest U.S. trading partner. Taiwan is a major innovator and producer of information technology (IT) products, many of which are assembled in the PRC by Taiwan-invested firms there. Ties or tension across the Taiwan Strait affect international security (with potential U.S. intervention), the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, and U.S.- PRC cooperation. While the United States does not diplomatically recognize Taiwan, it is in reality an important autonomous actor. Today, 22 countries have diplomatic relations with Taiwan as the ROC. Taiwan’s 23 million people enjoy self-governance with democratic elections. After Taiwan’s presidential election in 2008, the United States congratulated Taiwan as a “beacon of democracy.” Democracy has offered Taiwan’s people a greater say in their status, given competing politics about Taiwan’s national identity and priorities. Taiwan held presidential and legislative elections in January 2012. Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party, President Ma Ying-jeou won re-election against the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP’s) candidate.
Since Taiwan and the PRC resumed their quasi-official dialogue in 2008 under President Ma and cross-strait tension decreased, some have stressed the need to take steps by the United States and by Taiwan to strengthen their relationship to advance U.S. interests. Another approach has viewed closer cross-strait engagement as allowing U.S. attention to shift to expand cooperation with a rising China, which opposes U.S. arms sales and other dealings with Taiwan. In any case, Washington and Taipei have put more efforts into their respective relations with Beijing, while contending that they have pursued a positive, parallel U.S.-Taiwan relationship.
President Ma has sought U.S. support, including for Taiwan’s inclusion in the U.S. strategic “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific, international organizations, talks on maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Other policy issues are whether and when to approve arms sales, whether to restart U.S. Cabinet-level visits, and how to bolster trade relations and resolve disputes, such as through the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks (resumed in March 2013). The United States has been concerned about Taiwan’s restrictions on U.S. beef and pork, even as Taiwan has claimed attention to international organizations and standards. Since March 2013, Chairmen Ed Royce and Robert Menendez of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, and other Members, have supported a bilateral investment agreement (BIA). Legislation in the 113th Congress includes H.R. 419, H.R. 772, H.R. 1151 (P.L. 113-17), H.R. 1960, H.R. 3470, H.Con.Res. 29, H.Con.Res. 46, H.Con.Res. 55, H.Res. 185, S. 12, S. 579, S. 1197, S. 1683, and S.Res. 167. (See also CRS Report RL30957, Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990.)
Date of Report: November 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 49
Order Number: R41952
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