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Gerrit van der Wees: The Past and Present State of U.S. Taiwan Relations Ep 199

By Felicia Lin

A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

In June I spoke with Gerrit van der Wees about an article that he wrote about U.S. President Biden’s remarks about U.S. Taiwan relations when he was in Tokyo in May.

Just last week, Gerrit wrote a very timely article about the controversy over the U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans to visit Taiwan.  In April Pelosi had planned to visit Taiwan as part of a tour to the Indo Pacific region but had to cancel because she contracted COVID-19.

Last week Pelosi left with a delegation for Asia, but made no mention of visiting Taiwan. There had been speculation that the Chinese would attack if U.S. fighter jets escorted Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan, and in a phone conversation with U.S. president Joe Biden, Chinese president Xi Jinping warned Biden against “playing with fire” over Taiwan.

In his piece for the Taipei Times, Gerrit stated that it is essential that Pelosi stands her ground and pushes through with her plan to visit Taiwan. We’ll share Gerrit’s Taipei Times article and a few others about this situation on our website for this episode.

In my interview with Gerrit I asked him to explain in detail what the Taiwan Relations Act is, and what it tells us about the relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan. We also talked about the so-called U.S. policy of strategic ambiguity, how his work on the Taiwan Communique evolved from 1980 to 2016, and his thoughts on the war in Ukraine, and how it relates to China and Taiwan.


About Gerrit van der Wees



Gerrit van der Wees is a former Dutch diplomat. From 1980 through 2016, he served as chief-editor of “Taiwan Communiqué.” Also, from 2005 through 2016 he was liaison for the Senate and the State Department at FAPA-HQ.  He currently teaches the History of Taiwan at George Mason University and Current issues in East Asia at George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs.


This episode of Talking Taiwan has been sponsored by NATWA, the North America Taiwanese Women’s Association.



NATWA was founded in 1988, and its mission is:


  1. to evoke a sense of self-esteem and enhance women’s dignity,
  2. to oppose gender discrimination and promote gender equality,
  3. to fully develop women’s potential and encourage their participation in public affairs,
  4. to contribute to the advancement of human rights and democratic development in Taiwan,
  5. to reach out and work with women’s organizations worldwide to promote peace for all.


To learn more about NATWA visit their website:


Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • U.S. President Joe Biden’s remarks on the U.S.’s willingness to help defend Taiwan
  • The Taiwan Relations Act, the document that contains US commitments to (help) defend Taiwan, and its first two clauses
  • How U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken referred to the second clause of the Taiwan Relations Act in a speech he made at the end of May
  • What the second clause of the Taiwan Relations Act says and means
  • The background of the Taiwan Relations Act
  • How Harvey Feldman of the East Asia Pacific desk of the U.S. State Department was involved in initially drafting the Taiwan Policy Act
  • How in 1979 the U.S. Congress started drafting the Taiwan Relations Act which had security clauses and a human rights clause embedded within it
  • How Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Claiborne Pell, and Congressman Jim Leach were instrumental in drafting the Taiwan Relations Act and getting it passed in April 1979
  • The establishment of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) in January 1979
  • Mark Chen’s (陳唐山) work with Senators and Congressmen to ensure that the Taiwan Relations Act took into consideration the native Taiwanese perspective
  • The Taiwan Communique and why it was established
  • How news from and about Taiwan while under martial law was obtained, communicated and printed in the Taiwan Communique
  • How dangwai (outside party) magazines: Měilì dǎo aka Formosa Magazine (美麗島) and Bāshí niándài aka 1980s (8十年代) were sources of information for the Taiwan Communique
  • How the George Washington University library has a complete collection of dangwai magazines from Taiwan
  • The censorship of postal mail that was received in and sent out from Taiwan during the martial law era
  • After the Taiwan democratized in the early 1990s the focus of the Taiwan Communique shifted to working to gain more international recognition for Taiwan
  • What the “One China Policy” means from the perspective of the U.S. and China
  • How the “One China Policy” which was based on the 1970s, a time in which Beijing and Taipei that claimed to be the government of China
  • How things have changed since the 1970s, which requires an adjustment in policy to reflect current times
  • What makes the Taiwan Relations Act so unique
  • How Taiwan meets all the requirements of a nation state according to the Montevideo Convention of 1933
  • How Montevideo Convention states that the existence of an independent state does not depend on the recognition of other states
  • When the United States of America declared independence in 1776 there were no other countries that recognized the new government in Washington D.C. for two years
  • For the first 25 years of the United States of America it was only recognized by seven countries
  • The Taiwan Travel Act
  • Why the U.S. policy of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan is not a policy
  • How the term “strategic ambiguity” dates back to the mid-1990s
  • Robert Suettinger’s 2003 book, Beyond Tiananmen
  • Gerrit’s thoughts on the war in Ukraine and what China is taking away from the situation
  • Gerrit’s observations on how the war in Ukraine has impacted the people of Taiwan
  • Things that Taiwan need to reconsider about its military strategy


Related Links:


Gerrit van der Wees’s on LinkedIn:


Gerrit van der Wees’s article, “Three Times Is a Charm President Biden’s Taiwan Remarks in Tokyo” (an article from Taiwan Insight):


Gerrit van der Wees’s article, “Pelosi visit would be best support” (an article from the Taipei Times):


Possible Pelosi visit elicits shrugs in Taiwan, long the focal point of geopolitical standoff (an article from the LA Times):


Why Taiwan is the biggest flashpoint in the increasingly fraught US-China relationship (an article from USA Today):


U.S. President Joe Biden:


Chinese President: Xi Jinping:


Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives:


Pelosi to Lead Congressional Delegation to Indo-Pacific Region (press release):


U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken:


One China Policy:


Senator Ted Kennedy:


Senator Claiborne Pell:


Congressman Jim Leach:


Taiwan Relations Act:


Xi Jinping tells Joe Biden not to ‘play with fire’ over Taiwan in two-hour call(an article from The Guardian):


In a banned tweet, a top state-media commentator reportedly said China could ‘forcibly dispel Pelosi’s plane’ and shoot it down if it flies to Taiwan (an article from the Business Insider):


American Institute in Taiwan (AIT):


Mark Chen (陳唐山):


The Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA):


Taiwan Communique:


Taiwan’s martial law era:


Taiwan’s “outside the party” magazines on the road to democratization

(Three generations of ‘dangwai’ magazines played a crucial role in calling for democracy, freedom of speech and mobilizing the public to fight against martial law):


The Montevideo Convention of 1933:


Taiwan Travel Act:


Robert Suettinger:


Robert Suettinger’s 2003 book, Beyond Tiananmen


Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy:


Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Twitter:


Why US Lawmakers Introduce Bill After Bill to Help Taiwan (an article from Voice of America):


Taiwan Communique: Revealing the Truth of Taiwan’s White Terror Era (Episode 63):


Will China Attack Taiwan? Kuan-Ting Chen Discusses Ramifications of the War in Ukraine on Taiwan (Episode 175):

About the Host

Felicia Lin is the Host and Producer of Talking Taiwan, a podcast which seeks to introduce you to interesting stories connected to Taiwan and the diverse individuals who make up Taiwan’s global community.

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