Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Lessons from the Taiwan Relations Act

Lessons from the Taiwan Relations Act

Twenty years ago the United States severed its diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (ROC). The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) was then enacted in 1979 to preserve and promote commercial, cultural, and other relations between the United States and Taiwan, and has been instrumental in maintaining peace, security, and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Joseph S. Nye, Jr., former assistant secretary for international security affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense, observed that the rise and fall of great powers has historically been accompanied by severe instability in international state systems. The power structure in East Asia today is marked by just such a rise and fall of great powers. The Soviet Union has collapsed, North Korea is dangerously volatile, Japan’s role is evolving, and China’s power is rapidly rising. Moreover, the Taiwan Strait crises of 1995–96 demonstrate that peace and stability in the region can no longer be taken for granted. According to a Pentagon report, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) now has 150–200 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, and the island has a dangerously limited capacity to defend against missile attacks and threats.

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