Taiwan: Small but Hardly Insignificant

Time to focus on one of the Asia pivot's biggest fans.

Even Taiwan’s protesters seem distinctly Taiwanese. According to one government official not otherwise sympathetic to the protests, the group that occupied the parliament for more than three weeks cleaned up after themselves before departing.

Last month, Washington and Taipei celebrated the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), the U.S. law that provides the legal underpinning for American ties with Taiwan. While this legislation is little known in this country, Taiwan rightly regards it as one of the bedrock guarantees of its future. While continuing to encourage rapprochement between Taiwan and China, the United States should also regularly remind Beijing that the TRA stipulates that any coercive attempt to determine Taiwan’s future would be considered a matter of grave concern to the United States.

A senior Taiwanese politician warned a visiting American delegation a few days ago not to underestimate Taiwan. “We may be small,” he conceded, “but we are not insignificant.” These are words worth recalling, as the United States continues to look for friends in the world.

Robert M. Hathaway is director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center. His latest book is New Security Challenges in Asia.

Image: Flickr/tylerdurden1/CC by 2.0