Princeton University Library Catalog

Does Washington Care about Democracy? Democratization and American Foreign Policy Towards Taiwan and Mainland China

Leibenhaut, Jeffrey H. [Browse]
Senior thesis
Christensen, Thomas [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
101 pages
Summary note:
This thesis asks an overlooked question in the current literature on cross-Strait relations: How did Taiwanese democratization affect American foreign policy towards Taiwan and Mainland China during the Lee Teng-hui era? Instead of investigating how democratization changed the cross-Strait strategic landscape, I assess the relative role of democratization as a factor among other variables in American foreign policymaking. Through four case studies – President Bush authorizing the sale of 150 F-16s to Taiwan in 1992, President Clinton granting President Lee a visa to visit the United States in 1995, President Clinton responding to PLA military exercises during the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, and President Clinton stating the “three noes” in 1998 – I reach three findings and suggest that democratization was a significant, but not dominant, variable in American decision-making. I find that democratization in Taiwan: 1) created goodwill among American leaders and policymakers, which afforded Taiwan the benefit of the doubt when Washington’s strategic calculus did not clearly prefer one course of action to another; 2) provided a reason for the United States to undertake symbolic actions that pleased Taipei, especially when decisions were the product of open, drawn out processes; 3) had an insignificant effect on US policy when Taiwan’s security was threatened. Finally, I synthesize these three points to develop a framework for interpreting democratization’s relative impact on US policy throughout Lee Teng-hui’s presidency.