Today marks the 100 year anniversary of the Republic of China, known to most of the western world as Taiwan. October 10th, 1911 marked the end of traditional imperial rule in China, and the first attempt at democracy. Below is a promotional video from the event (Chinese), primarily discussing the history of the ROC and associating past figures and events with the freedom and prosperity seen in Taiwan today.
Prior to the 1970’s, the US recognized the Republic of China as the legitimate government of China, and actively worked to prevent the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from claiming a seat in the United Nations. At the height of the Cold War, the PRC were active combatants in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Nonetheless, in 1972, just 2 years after the end of the Vietnam War, President Nixon made a famous trip to China to normalize relations with the PRC.
PRC-US relationship normalization culminated in the Joint Communique on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations in 1979, beginning US recognition of the PRC as the legitimate government of China in lieu of the ROC. At the same time, the US passed the Taiwan Relations Act, allowing for de facto diplomatic relations to continue with Taiwan.
While the Taiwanese economy far outpaced the PRC’s from the 60’s to the 90’s, the shift of PRC policy to the socialist market economy in 1978 has allowed the PRC to excel in recent years. With World Trade Organization acceptance of China in 2001, offshoring of American jobs to China have propelled the Chinese economy.
With the recent US economic struggles, many Americans have become increasing frustrated with perceived trade imbalances between the US and China. While have speculated about the resurgence of a red scare in response to economic pressures, others have been more vocal about denouncing China. However, the use of patriotism as thinly veiled racism is nothing new. Nonetheless, American policymakers have begun to combat aggressive Chinese economic policies with constructs like the recent China currency bill. At the same time, many US companies like Merck continue to move jobs overseas to China.
While relationships between the US, China, and Taiwan continue to be rocky, American corporations have tied the US to the hip with China. As the largest US bondholder, China has expressed concerns in US economic performance. Ultimately, US foreign and economic policy are supporting the continued shifting of jobs from the US to China. Measures like the China currency bill are too little, too late in the struggle to maintain US economic dominance. The wheels were set in motion when Nixon first visited China nearly 40 years ago.
While obviously, it is not beneficial for the US to normalize relations with Taiwan at this point in time, this is a stunning reminder of how US political rhetoric is often markedly different from US policy.