After US President George W. Bush's successful re-election, Taiwan-US relations are likely to further prosper in light of his friendly attitude in the past. Washington will continue the unified and consistent cross-strait policy within the basic framework of "structural realism" adopted by 11 Republican and Democratic presidents over more than half a century: Maintaining security in the Taiwan Strait while pushing for a peaceful resolution to the cross-strait issue.
In fact, the US decided to give up Taiwan in early 1950. But it dramatically changed its stance and started to protect Taiwan after the Korean War broke out in June of the same year. On June 27, two days after the Korean War began, then-president Harry Truman officially announced that the US would prevent a Chinese attack on Taiwan, and also told Taiwan not to attack China. This established the policy of "peaceful resolution."
During the 823 Artillery Bombardment in August 1958 through Octber 1958, the US sent a total of six aircraft carriers from Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines and the Mediterranean Sea to the Taiwan Strait in an effort to demonstrate its determination to protect Taiwan. But Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's (
The US later switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China on Jan. 1, 1979, and terminated the mutual defense treaty between the US and Taiwan on Dec. 31 of the same year, instead establishing the Taiwan Relations Act in the same year to continue its protection of Taiwan. During the missile crisis right before Taiwan's 1996 presidential election, Washington immediately sent two aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait to back Taipei, and quickly resolved the crisis.
Today, the Taiwan issue is no longer about the military problem of returning to China. Rather, it is about the political problem of departing from China triggered by Taiwan's growing democratization. For example, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) proposed the "special state-to-state relationship" during his presidency, and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) announced that there is "one country on each side [of the Taiwan Strait]." I believe that the US is willing to protect Taiwan, as it did during the missile crisis. But just as it did before, the US tries not to become involved in a war with China. As a result, US officials take action whenever Taiwan makes them feel uneasy.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the US had to deal with an authoritarian Taiwanese government. It was able to control the main direction through its control of a few leaders. Besides, since the US request of not using force tallied with mankind's longing for peace, Washington did not contradict its fundamental principles. But since the 1990s, the US is facing a democratic Taiwan. Because of their democratic development, the Taiwanese people's demand for the right to decide their own future has constantly grown, while the US is trapped in a dilemma of realism and idealism. After Taiwan successfully realized the core value promoted by the US across the world, the US is ironically restricting Taiwan from upholding this value.
Democracy endows people with the right to decide their own future. However, in reality, the US is worried that once Taiwan really chooses to declare de jure independence, there is risk of China taking extreme action, which might implicate the US. Compared to the 1950s and 1960s, when Washington requested that Taiwan control itself militarily, the US is now, after the 1990s, requesting Taiwan to restrict itself politically in order to achieve a peaceful resolution.