On December 9, 2003, in the presence of visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, President George W. Bush broke significant new ground in U.S. relations with China and Taiwan. Having pledged in April 2001 to do "whatever it takes" to help Taiwan defend itself, Bush changed tack, reaffirming U.S. support for maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. Of even greater significance, he rebuked Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, stating that "the comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally to change the status quo, which we oppose."
Bush's volte-face was prompted by moves by Chen in the run-up to Taiwan's March 2004 presidential election. Chen is pushing for an unprecedented public referendum that would condemn China's growing missile threat and its refusal to renounce the use of force against Taiwan. He has also proposed a new constitution to replace
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