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“‘Taiwan Expendable?’ Reconsidered”

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In 2005, noted historian Nancy Bernkopf Tucker advanced the thesis that President Richard M. Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger viewed Taiwan as an expendable asset in their rush to promote Sino-American normalization, resulting in the administration conceding more than necessary in disregard for Taiwan’s future or status. This article examines documents declassified since Tucker’s study to argue that this interpretation is no longer tenable. Nixon and Kissinger applied to their Taiwan policy a set of principles remarkably consistent with their broader views on foreign policy, namely an emphasis on peoples directly involved in conflicts undertaking gradual, peaceful changes, while maintaining in the interim some form of security arrangement to maintain peace. Moreover, both Nixon and Kissinger understood the myriad benefits of the U.S. relationship with the Republic of China in advancing American interests and maintaining credibility in a volatile world, and, in fact, did consider the future status of Taiwan and its government. This culminated in the Kissinger-Zhou Enlai discussions in 1971 where the former deftly defended, to the extent possible, a principled commitment to Taiwan. Ultimately, the administration’s insistence on establishing rapprochement with Beijing did not mean that Washington simply would cave to every Chinese demand. Taiwan was not expendable.

Affiliations: 1: Scott Community College, bphilton@eicc.edu

10.1163/18765610-02503004
/content/journals/10.1163/18765610-02503004
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/content/journals/10.1163/18765610-02503004
2018-09-03
2018-11-20

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