The Brookings Institution and Taiwan-China Relations


Editor’s Note: In a speech delivered at “Between Power and Knowledge: Think Tanks in Transition” at National Chengchi University on April 11, 2013, Richard Bush discusses the Brookings Institution’s long history of conducting research on Taiwan-China relations. A portion of the speech is below; the complete speech can be found here.

A couple of years ago, I chanced upon an aging copy of the January 1945 issue of National Geographic magazine. To my surprise, there was an article about Taiwan (called “Formosa” in the article). As was common with National Geographic at that time, there were many pictures of the island’s aboriginal peoples (in this case, they were all fully clothed). But there were also pictures of U.S. bomb damage during World War II, and a not-bad description of Taiwan’s history, society, and 20th century circumstances. The author was Joseph Ballantine, who had served in the American Consulate in Taihoku from 1912 to 1914. I had never heard of Ballantine, so I resorted to my default source of information – Wikipedia. Imagine my even greater surprise when I discovered that he had actually been a scholar at Brookings, and that through the Institution’s Press, he had published a book about Taiwan in 1952: Formosa: A Problem for United States Foreign Policy.[1] I had no idea that my own organization’s coverage of the Taiwan Strait issue had such a long history. So I was pleased when Arthur Ding invited me to write about how Brookings had treated the subject over the last six decades. I do so in a basically chronological way and draw on the books that a series of Brookings scholars have written that addressed cross-Strait relations to one degree or another.

[1] Joseph W. Ballantine, Formosa: A Problem for United States Foreign Policy (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Press, 1952).