Skip to main content

The Taiwan Relations Act at 40: Retrospect and Prospect

April 30, 2019

Update: the panel recap is now available to read.

  • When: April 30, 2019
    • 5:30PM: Reception with food and beverages, sponsored by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office of Seattle.
    • 6:30PM to 8PM: Roundtable Discussion
  • Where: 214 Husky Union Building (HUB)

In 1979, the US Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). In the aftermath of establishing a diplomatic relationship with the People’s Republic of China instead of the Republic of China (ROC), Congress via the TRA provided the legal framework for the United States’ relationship with Taiwan. Since then, the TRA has shaped US defense, security, economic, and political commitments to Taiwan, engendering the “strategic ambiguity” that arguably maintains the delicate status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

In a roundtable conversation, Shirley Kan joins Steve Li and David Bachman to discuss how forty years of the TRA have affected the US-Taiwan partnership. Topics of discussion include how the TRA has affected US arms sales to Taiwan, Taiwan’s self-defense and security cooperation policies, and cross-strait relations. Bringing a range of practitioner, policymaking, and academic perspectives, the panelists will conclude with thoughts on the future changes and prospects of the TRA for Taiwan and the US.


Shirley Kan is an Independent Specialist in Asian Security Affairs, who retired from working for the U.S. Congress at the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) from 1990 to 2015. Ms. Kan has been an original Member of the Advisory Board of the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI), a think tank in Washington, DC, since its founding in 2016. She participates in conferences and is cited in the media as an independent specialist.

Lt. Colonel Steve Li is a US Air Force sponsored PhD student. He spent half of his 20-year career in the United States Indo-Pacific Command’s area of responsibility serving as a special operation pilot and foreign area officer. As a foreign area officer, he was posted at the American Institute in Taiwan as a security cooperation specialist and supported the TRA’s intent by facilitating U.S. security assistance to Taiwan.

David Bachman is a Henry M. Jackson Professor of International Studies. He was chair of the China Studies Program from 1992-2003 and Associate Director of the Jackson School from 2000-2001 and 2003-2010. His research and teaching interests are Chinese Domestic and Foreign Policy, International Political Economy, Asian Politics, International Relations, and US-China Relations.