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On the Record

United States-China Relations Looking Forward

For more than five decades, Taiwan’s fate has been a function of United States policy toward and relations with China. President Harry Truman’s decision in January 1950 not to intervene to stop a communist invasion seemed to doom the KMT and the island’s population. Then five months later, at the beginning of the Korean War, Truman reversed policy and Washington built up its defense relationship with the ROC military in order to deter the PRC. In the 1970s, the American calculus changed. China had become a useful strategic asset against the Soviet Union, and the Nixon and Carter Administrations were prepared to downgrade relations with Taipei in order to achieve that asset. Ronald Reagan provided some corrective and balance, and China’s strategic value was in some question after Tiananmen and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now China it becoming an economic and diplomatic power, and it is worth asking the question how U.S. relations with Beijing will develop and what affect this will have on Taiwan.

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