Although ties between the United States and the People’s Republic of China were strengthened by the recent summit meeting between U.S. President Bill Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Clinton’s statements concerning Taiwan sparked a great deal of controversy.
Clinton met with Jiang as well as other Chinese leaders and progress was made towards broadening cooperation between the U.S. and China on a wide range of issues, including weapons nonproliferation, economic and technical cooperation, and the environment. The two leaders also agreed to widen dialogue on a variety of topics and talked of building a “strategic partnership” between the two nations. The president’s China trip thus helped to establish a framework for better cooperation and stronger bilateral ties.
Before the summit, rumors were rife, especially in the Taiwanese press, that there would be a change in U.S.-China policy in the form of a fourth communiqué. The United States assured Taiwan that this would not be the case. However, Clinton did make a statement regarding current U.S. policy toward Taiwan.
While participating in an informal roundtable discussion at the Shanghai Municipal Library, President Clinton for the first time publicly articulated the “Three Nos” policy regarding Taiwan—the U.S. does not support independence for Taiwan, or “one China, one Taiwan” or “two Chinas” or membership for Taiwan in any international body for which statehood is a requirement. Although the White House insisted that this has been the consistent policy of the U.S. government, its public utterance by the president elicited comment and criticism in the United States as well as in Taiwan.
As a new U.S.-China relationship develops, Taipei feels that its interests may be slighted and the many pro-Taiwan supporters in Congress have been vocal in their protest. Majority Leader Trent Lott hinted that it might be necessary for Congress to act “to repair the damage that has been done.”
The summit appears to have widened the gap between the China policy preferred by Congress and that advocated by the White House.