Taiwan's Political Status: Historical Background and Ongoing Implications

Publication Date: May 2009

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Government


Coverage: Taiwan


In 1979, official U.S. relations with Taiwan (the Republic of China) became a casualty of the American decision to recognize the communist government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) as China's sole legitimate government. Since then, U.S. unofficial relations with Taiwan have been built on the framework of the Taiwan Relations Act (P.L. 96-8) and shaped by three U.S.-China communiques. Under these agreements, the United States maintains its official relations with the PRC while selling Taiwan military weapons and having extensive economic, political, and security interests there. But continuing transformations in both the PRC and Taiwan political systems mean U.S. officials are facing new and more difficult policy choices. This report, intended as a background overview, briefly summarizes U.S. political history with Taiwan and discusses the complications it has for current U.S. policy and for congressional actions. For analysis of current developments in Taiwan and their implications for U.S. policy, see CRS Issue Brief IB98034, Taiwan: Recent Developments and U.S. Policy Choices, by Kerry B. Dumbaugh.