U.S. policy toward Taiwan has always generated two opposite perspectives from American scholars: U.S. support for Taiwan is too costly in terms of the strategic goal of maintaining stable Sino-American relations; and U.S. support for Taiwan should be strengthened to serve American interests vis-a-vis a potentially hostile PRC. Both sides of the issue have sought to serve U.S. interests, but their definition of what those interests are and how they might best be served have diverged dramatically. The same debate continues today over how the U.S. pivot to Asia should be played out with respect to Taiwan.
It is fair to predict that American support to Taiwan will -- at minimum -- remain pretty much as it is now if three conditions are met:
1. China is widely perceived as a growing threat to U.S. interests;
2. The United States maintains its capability to intervene effectively on Taiwan's behalf in a cross-Strait conflict; and
3. Taipei continues to insistent that it does not wish to unify politically with the mainland.
These conditions are variables, subject to change, but they are three pillars providing continuity to existing U.S. policy toward Taiwan. In all likelihood, therefore, the U.S. pivot to Asia will not significantly change American policy -- although debates over the issue might well intensify.
April 28, 2012