In This Review
Uncertain Friendships: Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United States, 1945-1992

Uncertain Friendships: Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United States, 1945-1992

By Nancy Bernkopf Tucker

Twayne Publishers, 1994, 337 pp.

This book has been properly hailed as the most balanced, detailed, and comprehensive history of U.S. relations with Taiwan and Hong Kong in the postwar era. However, it is disappointing in that it is almost completely descriptive, lacks any large ideas or organizing framework, and has a slim conclusion. One important insight that does come through, although it is never developed, is the ease with which weak players such as Taiwan and Israel have penetrated the U.S. government, rallying interest groups and U.S. public opinion on their behalf, and getting the United States to do things that are frequently not in the national interest. Thus, the Nationalist government of Taiwan proved adept at manipulating the U.S. government on a series of foreign policy issues where the interests of Taipei and Washington diverged. The United States signed a mutual defense treaty in 1954 even though American policymakers were divided on the wisdom of this policy. The United States continued to support Taiwan in the United Nations long after it became politically deleterious to do so. And Taipei proved able to delay U.S. recognition of the People's Republic of China through the astute deployment of allies in the U.S. government, Congress, the media, and the business community.

Moreover, the Nationalist government, like the governments of some other weak players, was successful in infiltrating the U.S. government. A high-ranking State Department official complained that documents presented to a State Department meeting on Thursday would turn up in Taipei on Friday and the Taiwanese foreign ministry staff just couldn't resist bragging about their access.