The U.S. State Department attracted widespread attention after changing the wording on its U.S.-Taiwan relations webpage last week. The website erased the reference to Taiwan as part of China and deleted a statement denying Taiwan independence.

As of May 3, the webpage stated that the U.S. recognized the “Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.” This is in line with the 1972 Shanghai Communique, whereby the U.S. cut ties with Taiwan to establish an official relationship with China. The fact sheet was dated 2018 during the previous administration.

Moreover, the webpage noted that the U.S. “does not support Taiwan independence.” Last July, Kurt Campbell, President Biden’s top Asia national security official, announced that the U.S. upholds a strong “unofficial relationship” with Taiwan but that “we do not support Taiwan independence.”

However, last Thursday, May 5, the State Department updated a new version of the U.S.-Taiwan relations fact sheet. Taiwan News noted that in this version, reference to the 1972 Shanghai Communique had been greatly reduced compared to the prior one. It simply states that the U.S. “one China” policy is “guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three U.S.-China Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances.”

The sentence stating that Washington “does not support Taiwan independence” has been removed. In addition, the fact sheet adds a new sentence stating that although the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, “we have a robust unofficial relationship as well as an abiding interest in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

Questions have been raised about whether these changes show a shift in the U.S. “one China” policy and stance on Taiwan’s sovereignty.

The U.S. has long adopted a so-called “strategic ambiguity” in its dealing with the Taiwan issue. On the one hand, this policy means that the U.S. acknowledges that there is only one China. While on the other hand, Washington leaves open the question of whether it would send forces to defend Taiwan in case of a Chinese attack.

The policy is meant to prevent Taiwan from declaring independence and, at the same time, deter China from attacking the island.

Sign up to receive our latest news!

By submitting this form, I agree to the terms.