Accession Number:



Trouble in the Taiwan Strait: A Catalyst That the United States Cannot Control?

Descriptive Note:

Research paper

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



The Taiwan Strait crises of 1958 and 1996 provide a basis for analyzing the changing nature of U.S.-China relations. The recent 1996 Strait of Taiwan crisis demonstrated U.S. resolve to protect its vital interests in Asia and support the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. The author argues that, if the Peoples Liberation Army continues to modernize, the United States will be militarily powerless to prevent Chinese plans to regain sovereignty of Taiwan after 2020. The Gulf War demonstrated the superiority of American military equipment and was instrumental in initiating a military modernization drive in the Peoples Republic of China PRC. Another development that supports the changing nature of U.S.-China relations is the current U.S. foreign policy towards the PRC and Taiwan. The current administration is cool towards Taiwan, yet it seeks to expand the scope and depth of political and military contacts with Chinas armed forces. There is potential danger in these relations in that the PRC may interpret them as an indicator that U.S. support for Taiwan is waning. The implications of Chinas military modernization and a misinterpreted U.S. foreign policy 20 years in the future are serious. They present a serious threat of military action by the PRC to reunite Taiwan with the mainland. Avoiding direct conflict with China is in the United States interests as it is questionable whether in 20 years time the United States could prevent a Chinese military attack to regain Taiwan. A U.S. show of force in this time frame will no longer scare China because of the array of military forces it is acquiring. It can be argued that the potential casualties resulting from direct conventional conflict or threat of nuclear exchange with China are so enormous that the American people would never countenance them. The solution to this quandary is to create an environment within which it is simply not in the interests of China to clash militarily with the United States.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement: