Party Politics and Taiwan’s External Relations

Taiwan’s most controversial political issue is external relations. With barely two dozen diplomatic partners and no seat in the UN, Taiwan’s 23 million people have almost no formal international representation. Paradoxically, the island’s cramped participation in the international community amplifies the importance of external ties in domestic politics.1 However, lively partisan debate over Taiwan’s international strategy has altered only marginally the direction set in the early 1990s, near the beginning of Lee Teng-hui’s presidency. Because Taiwan’s foreign policy options are exceedingly limited, significant changes in its external orientation and behavior are unlikely, no matter which party is in power.

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