The Balancing Act: Nixon, Taiwan, and the Tactics of Detente Public Deposited

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  • February 26, 2019
  • Herwig, Meghan
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • This thesis argues that Taiwan policymaking involved both process and product. Although Gaddis criticizes Nixon and Kissinger for cutting the State Department out of policymaking to the point that the White House’s lack of specific expertise when making policy became detrimental and made détente ineffective beyond relations with the USSR and PRC,15 the evidence in this thesis demonstrates that the State Department, and the Defense Department, played a significant role in Taiwan policymaking even though final decision-making authority was centralized in the White House. In terms of the product, Nixon and Kissinger consistently sought to balance relations with Beijing and Taipei, and there is little evidence that their motivation for doing so was limited to domestic politics or the necessity of keeping their initiatives toward Beijing a secret. What that balancing act did allow them, however, was the opportunity to open relations with Beijing while not violating the Nixon Doctrine. The problem was that they did not know where the proper balancing point was, and during the first three years of the Nixon presidency, the White House, State Department, and Pentagon worked to find the proper balance. There were three pivotal moments in U.S.-ROC relations during the first Nixon administration. In 1969, the U.S. Navy ended its patrol of the Taiwan Strait, touching off a chain reaction that set the stage for the 1971-72 breakthrough to Beijing. In 1971, the United Nations General Assembly considered whether the ROC or PRC should represent China in the world body just as Nixon and Kissinger were starting to make progress with Beijing. Finally, in 1972, Nixon visited the mainland and tried to set the United States on a path to normalized relations with the People’s Republic of China. This thesis looks at how the Nixon administration made Taiwan policy in each instance by examining the intersection of process and product: what were the options, how did the administration weigh the pros and cons of each, and what policies resulted from that process?
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  • In Copyright
  • Funding: None
  • Waterhouse, Benjamin
  • Bachelor of Arts
Honors level
  • Highest Honors
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 82

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