Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images

The Looming Taiwan Crisis

For many years, US policymakers worried that Taiwan would upset the apple cart: not content with the mere trappings of independence, it would opt for the real thing – an unacceptable outcome for the mainland. Now, however, the balancing act is threatened by both China and the US.

NEW YORK – Much of lasting significance happened in 1979. There was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Iran’s Islamic Revolution, which brought to power a regime set on remaking not just Iranian society but also much of the Middle East.

Just as important was the United States’ decision to recognize, effective January 1 that year, the government of the People’s Republic of China – then, as today, run by the Communist Party – as China’s sole legal government. The change paved the way for expansion of trade and investment between the world’s largest economy and the world’s most populous country, and enabled closer collaboration against the Soviet Union.

Diplomacy was based on an intricate choreography. In three communiqués (in 1972, 1978, and 1982), the US acknowledged “the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.” It agreed to downgrade its ties with Taiwan and maintain only unofficial relations with the island.

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