Maintaining Status Quo across the Taiwan Strait: A Constructivist/ Institutionalist Perspective

Der-Yuan Wu
March 2008
Issues & Studies;Mar2008, Vol. 44 Issue 1, p33
Academic Journal
This paper examines the role the United States has played in the maintenance of the status quo across the Taiwan Strait from a constructivist/institutionalist perspective. My research questions are: In what way has the United States helped preserve peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait? And in the process, how has the United States reproduced the status quo arrangement to shape the interests of Beijing and Taipei? It is maintained that a status quo arrangement has developed across the Strait which the United States has helped to construct and which is supported to varying degrees by Beijing and Taipei. This status quo institution has been created and reinforced through direct codification as well through an indirect process of structuration. The three Washington-Beijing joint communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) form the first stage of institutional development through formal codification which emphasizes the use of peaceful means on both sides for the final resolution of the situation. Since the late 1990s, the construction and reproduction of the status quo arrangement, which generally follows a pattern of "neither use of force nor de jure independence," has been undertaken primarily through policy statements or actions. These policy statements normally uphold such supreme values as "prosperity," "stability," or "peace." They also help sustain the regulative, normative, or cognitive pillars of the status quo institution through the strategies of stigmatization, role conferment, or internalization. The main purpose of the status quo institution, instantiated by repeated policy statements or actions, is to shape the policy discourses, preferences, and interests of Beijing and Taipei. Although Beijing and Taipei are not merely passive and sometimes seek to test the rules or promote alternative norms, this behavior has not been sustained. If they have taken action, it has often been rationalized to ensure that the core values were not directly challenged. As such, it is concluded that the construction and reproduction of the status quo institution has been considerably effective so far, if not completely successful.


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