The United States and China have found it challenging in recent years to interpret one another’s foreign policy signals vis-à-vis Taiwan. Misinterpretation of the signaling may contribute to a cycle of actions and reactions that can inadvertently elevate bilateral tensions to the point of crisis or even war in the Taiwan Strait. This report, co-authored by three USIP experts and three experts from China’s Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, examines the challenges to clear and unambiguous US-China communications over Taiwan and provides preliminary recommendations for overcoming them.

US and Chinese delegations led by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second from right, and Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, second from left, met for talks in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18, 2021. (Pool photo by Frederic J. Brown/Reuters)
US and Chinese delegations led by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, met for talks in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18, 2021. (Pool photo by Frederic J. Brown/Reuters)

About the Report

This report presents the findings of a joint research project conducted by experts at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS). The project examined signaling and action-reaction dynamics between the United States and China, with a focus on Taiwan, during the first ten weeks of the Biden administration. The findings, analyses, and insights are based on not-for-attribution interviews with policymakers and analysts in the United States and China. The first section, “Introduction,” was written jointly by all six authors; subsequent sections were written separately by the USIP or SIIS author teams, as indicated in the title of each section. 

About the Authors

Dr. Andrew Scobell is a distinguished fellow with the China program at USIP. Dr. Carla Freeman is a senior expert in the program, and Ms. Alison McFarland is a research analyst. Dr. Shao Yuqun is the director of the Institute for Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau Studies at SIIS. Dr. Wu Chunsi is the director of the Institute for International Strategic Studies at SIIS. Ms. Ji Yixin is a research fellow in the Institute for Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau Studies at SIIS. 
 

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