April 10: The Taiwan Relations Act at 45

April 10: The Taiwan Relations Act at 45

Wednesday, April 10, 2024 from 12:45 PM – 2:15 PM (ET)

In-Person and Webcast

About this event

The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA)—passed by the US Congress in 1979—has provided an enduring legal framework and policy guidance for US-Taiwan relations that has lasted for 45 years. This remarkable legislation mandated special American obligations and commitments to Taiwan that have helped to preserve peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. 

While the TRA is uniquely designed to protect and promote US interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic relations, it does not operate in a policy vacuum. Throughout its existence, the TRA has been tied to the 1979 normalization agreement between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which is also commemorating its 45th anniversary. This accord—alongside the TRA, the Six Assurances, and the Three Communiqués—as well as subsequent legislation and review have formed the foundation of a relatively stable trilateral relationship between the United States, Taiwan, and the PRC. 

However, with China unceasingly and aggressively seeking to intimidate and coerce Taiwan through both military and non-military means, its unilateral abolition of the international treaty on Hong Kong, simply maintaining the “status quo” may be increasingly unrealistic in the long term. Indeed, the massive military buildup across the Taiwan Strait by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese leadership’s continued refusal to renounce the use of force against Taiwan, and the Chinese Communist Party’s gray zone pressure are destabilizing the Strait and threatening the peace and security of the Indo-Pacific area and beyond.

As Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated: “China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it. Beijing’s vision would move us away from the universal values that have sustained so much of the world’s progress over the past 75 years.” Just as strategic changes necessitated adjustments in US policy during the Cold War, fundamental changes in the circumstances of the 21st century warrant, at the very least, an evaluation of whether the TRA is properly calibrated, and to the extent that the existing legal and policy framework can endure.

Accordingly, GTI will be convening a high-level panel to discuss the longevity and elasticity of the Taiwan Relations Act in an increasingly volatile strategic environment. The event will begin with virtual keynote remarks from Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI), followed by a panel discussion featuring David Stilwell (US Air Force Academy), Josh Cartin (Atlantic Council), and Ryan Hass (Brookings Institution). The event will be moderated by GTI Executive Director Russell Hsiao.

The event will be held at the GTI office located at 1836 Jefferson Place NW in Washington DC (approximately one block from the Dupont Circle Metro). Doors will open at 12:15 PM, and the event will begin at 12:45 PM. If you plan on attending in-person, please RSVP by April 8, as seating is limited. Light refreshments will be provided. Please direct questions or concerns to Program Manager Marshall Reid at mreid@globaltaiwan.org.

**Media: Please contact Marshall Reid at mreid@globaltaiwan.org if you would like to bring additional crew members or equipment, so that we can be sure to accommodate you.


Congressman Mike Gallagher
 has represented Wisconsin’s 8th District in the US House of Representatives since 2017. Gallagher served for seven years on active duty in the United States Marine Corps, including two deployments to Iraq. He also served as the lead Republican staffer for the Middle East and Counterterrorism on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and worked in the private sector at an energy and supply chain management company in Green Bay. Gallagher earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, a master’s degree in security studies from Georgetown University, a second in strategic intelligence from National Intelligence University, and a PhD in international relations from Georgetown. In the 118th Congress, Representative Gallagher serves as chairman of the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, as chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Information Technologies, and Innovation, and on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. From 2019-2021 he served as co-chairman of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission.  


David R. Stilwell recently completed a term as assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Prior to his appointment as assistant secretary on June 20, 2019, he served in the Air Force for 35 years, beginning as an enlisted Korean linguist in 1980, and retiring in 2015 in the rank of brigadier general as the Asia advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He served multiple tours of duty in Japan and Korea as a linguist, a fighter pilot, and a commander. He also served as the defense attaché at the US Embassy in Beijing, People’s Republic of China, 2011-2013. Most recently, Stilwell served as the director of the China Strategic Focus Group at US Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii 2017- 2019 and an adjunct senior fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu from 2016-2019. He earned a BS in history from the US Air Force Academy (1987), a master’s degree in Asian studies and Chinese language from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (1988), and is a 2009 graduate of the Executive Leadership program at the Darden School, University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was awarded the Department of Defense Superior Service Award in 2015. He speaks Korean, Chinese, and limited Japanese.

Josh Cartin is a partner at TD International (TDI) where he is focused on helping clients navigate complex transactional and operational challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. Cartin joined TDI in 2023 after 20 years of US federal government service, occupying senior policy positions in Washington and overseas. He served in the National Security Council’s East Asia Directorate under two different presidential administrations, finishing as deputy senior director for Asia in 2017-2020. Cartin played a key role in drafting the US Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, coordinating the US government’s shift to a competitive China strategy, and working with US allies and partners to improve economic competitiveness and resilience through concerted action on global investment and secure technology supply chains. Mr. Cartin was detailed to the Pentagon in 2021-2022, where he served as foreign policy advisor to the joint staff director for strategy, plans, and policy. Cartin served as chief of the Economic Section at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) in 2013-2016, strengthening the US-Taiwan economic and technology partnership through launching innovative programs such as the Global Cooperation & Training Framework and Digital Economy Forum, and improving the market  environment for US exporters and investors through the US-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Cartin speaks Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and Indonesian with proficiency. He is an adjunct professor of Asian studies at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, and a member of the US Export-Import Bank’s Advisory Subcommittee on Strategic Competition with the People’s Republic of China. Cartin earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a master of strategic studies at the United States Army War College.

Ryan Hass is director of the John L. Thornton China Center and the Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies at Brookings. He is also a senior fellow in the Center for Asia Policy Studies. He was part of the inaugural class of David M. Rubenstein fellows at Brookings, and is a nonresident affiliated fellow in the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School. Hass focuses his research and analysis on enhancing policy development on the pressing political, economic, and security challenges facing the United States in East Asia. From 2013 to 2017, Hass served as the director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia at the National Security Council (NSC) staff. In that role, he advised President Obama and senior White House officials on all aspects of US policy toward China, Taiwan, and Mongolia, and coordinated the implementation of US policy toward this region among US government departments and agencies. He joined President Obama’s state visit delegations in Beijing and Washington respectively in 2014 and 2015, and the president’s delegation to Hangzhou, China, for the G-20 in 2016, and to Lima, Peru, for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meetings in 2016. Hass is the author of Stronger: Adapting America’s China Strategy in an Age of Competitive Interdependence, a co-editor of Global China: Assessing China’s Growing Role in the World, of the monograph, The Future of US Policy Toward China: Recommendations for the Biden administration, and a co-author of US-Taiwan Relations: Will China’s Challenge Lead to a Crisis?. He also leads the Democracy in Asia project at the Brookings Institution and is co-chair of the international task force on Taiwan convened by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).


Russell Hsiao is the executive director of GTI, senior fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, and adjunct fellow at Pacific Forum. He is a former Penn Kemble fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia. He previously served as a senior research fellow at The Project 2049 Institute and national security fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Prior to those positions he was the editor of China Brief at The Jamestown Foundation from October 2007 to July 2011 and a special associate in the International Cooperation Department at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. While in law school, he clerked within the Office of the Chairman at the Federal Communications Commission and the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center at the Office of the US Trade Representative. Hsiao received his JD and certificate from the Law and Technology Institute at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law where he served as the editor-in-chief of the Catholic University’s Journal of Law and Technology. He received a BA in international studies from the American University’s School of International Service and the University Honors Program.

Event Summary

On April 10, 2024, the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) hosted a public seminar titled “The Taiwan Relations Act at 45.” The panel was moderated by GTI Executive Director Russell Hsiao, and included David R. Stilwell (US Air Force Academy), Josh Cartin (Atlantic Council), and Ryan Hass (Brookings Institution). The event began with a pre-recorded keynote address from Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI), the chairman of the US House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. The panel conducted a lengthy and insightful discussion on the enduring legacy of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and its potential to drive US commitments to Taiwan and maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. 

In his keynote address, Congressman Gallagher stressed the importance of the TRA to ensure peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and the democratic rights of the Taiwanese people, in the face of intensifying pressure from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He highlighted the flexibility and foresight that have allowed the TRA to remain a crucial pillar of US policy for over four decades, even as pressure from the PRC has escalated dramatically. Nevertheless, he noted that both the United States and Taiwan cannot afford to be complacent, as rising military, economic, and diplomatic challenges will necessitate urgent, proactive responses. 

In their opening remarks, each of the panelists discussed the impact of the TRA on US-Taiwan relations as well as its future potential. Ryan Hass began by emphasizing the role of the TRA in shaping current US-Taiwan relations, pointing to the strengths of the act in building joint cooperation and consultation in a wide range of areas. While expressing skepticism regarding possible future changes to the act, Hass also stressed the Act’s flexibility, which has allowed the United States to adapt to changes in cross-Strait relations and regional dynamics while simultaneously contributing to US interests and stability in the region. When looking to the future of US-Taiwan relations, Hass remained positive about the TRA as a vehicle for continuing to deepen US-Taiwan relations, protect peace in the Taiwan Strait, and support Taiwan’s autonomy. 

Stilwell then provided a different point of view on the TRA, focusing on its potential for countering the PRC’s non-kinetic warfare efforts, such as in the information and economic spaces. He also discussed the necessity of increasing multinational cooperation and jointness in the Taiwan Strait. When talking about possibly updating the TRA, Stilwell proposed an expansion similar to that of the 2019 expansion of the Hong Kong Policy Act, which became the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Stilwell emphasized focusing on expanding the TRA in a way that would give the US government additional authorities while sending a clear deterrent message to Beijing. 

Josh Cartin concluded this section of the panel by focusing on the ways in which the TRA has been a successful vehicle for American principles and strategic interests in the Western Pacific. Cartin posited that the TRA, while undeniably flexible, does include a consistent current of restraint, which has likely limited the United States’ ability to engage with the region. Cartin noted that the TRA was created with a unique maneuverability that was intended to hedge against future uncertainties, arguing that this characteristic should be utilized more effectively. While discussing the future of the TRA, Cartin expressed skepticism about creating a new version of the TRA, as he noted that domestic pressure would likely make this difficult. Throughout his remarks, Cartin emphasized the importance of the TRA in allowing the United States to affirm its respect for Taiwan, its people, and its dignity. 

During the moderated portion of the panel, the discussion ranged from the TRA’s role in US efforts to counter the PRC’s destabilizing efforts in the Taiwan Strait, to its potential to shape US policy in the event of an invasion of Taiwan. Deterrence, reassurances, and strategic ambiguity were key points of emphasis. Hass stressed the importance of visible and tangible public support from the United States to Taiwan in order to offset PRC pressure on Taiwan. Cartin and Stilwell similarly noted the importance of proactive responses to PRC pressure in the non-kinetic arenas. Several panelists noted that countering threats in the economic and informational arenas is one form of deterrence that should receive more attention, potentially under the framework of the TRA. The importance of reassurances–not concessions–was emphasized by all three panelists, with Hass in particular expressing hope that the United States would use incentives to shape PRC behavior in the Taiwan Strait. Throughout the discussion, the panelists spotlighted the flexibility of the TRA and its ability to shape US policy in the future. 

This summary was written by GTI Spring 2024 Intern Uma Baron.