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The Thaw: Taiwan and China's Changing Relationship - Part 2

Part 2 of the USC U.S.-China Institute documentary on cross-strait relations focuses on security issues, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and the upcoming 2012 election.
October 31, 2011

“[The Taiwan-China relationship is] the one place where, if something goes seriously wrong, the U.S. could get involved in a shooting war with China.” 
              - Raymond Burghardt, President of the American Institute in Taiwan

China’s leaders have long asserted that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China and it is a matter of justice and national honor to restore control over the island and its people. Meanwhile a large majority of Taiwan’s people are not in favor of becoming part of China. The U.S. takes no formal position on how the standoff is to be resolved, but asserts that it should be resolved through peaceful means. While the U.S. ended its defense treaty relationship with Taiwan when it formally recognized the People’s Republic in 1979, severing formal ties with Taipei, the U.S. is still bound by the Taiwan Relations Act to sell Taiwan weapons of a defensive nature. Further, the U.S. asserts that maintaining peace and stability in the region is in America’s national interest. Taiwan remains a central issue, and as Burghardt’s statement above notes, it is the one issue where the interests of the U.S. and China are so great and the commitments so deep, that military conflict could erupt – if the situation is not handled carefully by leaders in Beijing, Taipei, and Washington.

This new USC U.S.-China Institute documentary looks at the security dimensions of the Taiwan-China relationship. It is reported by Mike Chinoy, USCI senior fellow, with principal videography and editing by USCI’s Craig Stubing. A generous grant by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation along with the financial support of a number of other agencies and individuals made the documentary possible.


The documentary features news footage and exclusive interviews with:


Raymond Burghardt, President of the American Institute in Taiwan (which carries out U.S. diplomatic functions)

Bonnie Glaser, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Ho Szu-yin 何思因, former Deputy Taiwan National Security Advisor

Hsiao Bi-khim 蕭美琴, spokesperson Democratic Progressive Party

David Lampton, Director of the China Studies Program, Johns Hopkins University

Kenneth Lieberthal, Director of the John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution

James McGregor, China Analyst, APCO Worldwide

William Owens, retired admiral, former Vice Chairman U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff

Shelley Rigger, Professor of Political Science, Davidson College

Randall Shriver, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State

Shen Dingli 沈丁立, Director of the Fudan University Center for American Studies

Joseph Wu 吳釗燮, former Taiwan Representative to the United States

Xie Tao 谢韬 , Beijing Foreign Studies University

Andrew Yang 楊念祖 , Deputy Taiwan Defense Minister

A high definition version of this documentary is available at the USC U.S.-China Institute’s YouTube channel.


Part 1 of The Thaw (focusing mainly on expanding economic ties) is available at the USC U.S.-China Institute website and our YouTube channel.

Additional resources:

USCI documents on U.S.-Taiwan relations (laws, treaties, speeches, reports)

Video: Shelley Rigger presentation on "Why Taiwan Matters," September 2012 (USCI website and YouTube channel)

Video: Huang Kwei-bo lecture on Taiwan foreign policy, Feb. 24, 2010

Talking Points, Feb. 24, 2010

Video: Taiwan and China’s military buildup – part 4 of Election ’08 and the Challenge of China ( USCI website and YouTube channel)

Dan Lynch, “Mr. Ma’s Taiwanese Identity,” Far Eastern Economic Review op-ed

USCI Symposium on the 2008 Taiwan Election 

USCI Symposium on the 2012 Taiwan Election