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Decoding US policy on arms sales to Taiwan


Source: Global Times    Published: 2017-6-20


Last Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the Donald Trump administration would adhere to the one-China policy as it reviewed US policy toward China for the next 50 years. However, he also announced that the US would keep all of its commitments to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). What does Tillerson`s conflicting statement mean? How will it affect the Sino-US relations? How should China deal with the Taiwan question? Global Times reporter Yang Chuchu interviewed two scholars on these issues.

Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs and senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China


Before Trump came to power, he had been trying to maneuver over the one-China policy. US policies on Taiwan involve not only the three Sino-US joint Communiqués but also the TRA which includes protection of Taiwan`s security and arms sales to Taiwan.

There are several reasons for the US insisting on arms sales to Taiwan.

First, the "America first"-focused Trump administration has close relations with arms and oil groups. For example, during Trump`s recent trip to Saudi Arabia, he was busy with promoting arms sales to the country. The US arms sales to Taiwan help its arms dealers.

Second, the present cross-Straits relationship is not going smoothly, providing more excuses for US arms sales.

Third, by taking advantage of arms sales, the US can coerce China as well as appease Taiwan and its other allies. However, US arms sales to Taiwan not only hurt the feelings of the mainland but also shake the foundation of Sino-US relations.

Although the Taiwan question is China`s internal affairs, China needs to properly handle the international factors behind the question, which mainly involve the US. Besides, with the growing appeal of the mainland market, it is impossible that the US will sacrifice its interests in the Chinese mainland for Taiwan. As China has more countermeasures against the US on the Taiwan question, the US will restrain itself.

Zhang Tengjun, assistant research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies

It is worthy of recognition and appreciation that the US now considers its relations with China in a 50-year framework. In the past, the US government simply focused on short-term interests.

Tillerson`s contradictory statement on the Taiwan question highlights the dual personality of the US policies on Taiwan. On the one hand, the US said it would stick to the one-China policy. On the other hand, it used the TRA as a reason for its arms sales to Taiwan.

That the US will continue arms sales is completely contrary to the content of the three Sino-US joint Communiqués, in which the US has declared its commitment to gradually decrease its sale of arms to Taiwan. This kind of vague and contradictory policy on Taiwan is a reflection of the US pragmatic diplomatic style which looks on diplomatic issues from a utilitarian perspective.

There are several points China needs to pay attention to on the Taiwan question. First of all, solving the Taiwan question mainly depends on negotiations between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. The US and China should ensure that the Taiwan question will not become an issue that affects Sino-US relations.

What`s more, China and the US should form a more strategic consensus on the Taiwan question so as to reduce possible friction on the question.

Last but not least, the two countries should strengthen communication and coordination when friction occurs on the question.

The one-China policy is the political foundation of Sino-US relations. The US selling weapons to Taiwan will only cause damage and instability on the bilateral relations. It is hoped that the US will not use Taiwan as a bargaining chip and make efforts toward a better relationship with China.

Key Words: US   Taiwan   arm sales  

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