Chronology of recent events

in U.S.-Taiwan and U.S.-China Relations


January 30, 1995 Chinese President Jiang Zemin presents his ill-fated "eight-point plan" on Taiwan. Old wine in a leaky bottle.

April 8, 1995 Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui offers a "six-point" response to Jiang.

Early May 1995 Both houses of the U.S. Congress pass resolutions (by votes of 97 to 1 in the Senate and 396 to 0 in the House) urging Clinton to permit Lee to visit the U.S.

May 15, 1995 China conducts underground nuclear tests.

May 22, 1995 The U.S. announces the decision to allow Lee Teng-hui to make a private visit to his alma mater in June.

June 7-12, 1995 Lee Teng-hui makes his landmark visit to his alma mater, Cornell University.

June 15-22, 1995 Taiwanese Premier Lien Chan makes a private trip to Austria and the Czech Republic. Lien's destination is not revealed until his arrival in Vienna. It is the first trip to Europe by a top leader from Taiwan.

June 16, 1995 Beijing postpones the July cross-strait talks with Taiwan.

June 17, 1995 Chinese and U.S. ambassadors return home.

July-August 1995 China's propaganda organs publish increasingly harsh and highly personal attacks on Lee, accusing him of promoting Taiwan's independence and abandoning a commitment to unification with China.

July 18, 1995 China announces missile exercises just north of Taipei. The following day, Taiwan's stockmarket drops 229 points, or 4.2%.

July 22-24 1995 China conducts the first round of missile exercises into waters north of Taiwan, firing 4 land-to-land M-9 missiles and 2 mid-range missiles (all tactical ballistic missiles). The exercises force the diversion of hundreds of international flights and ships.

August 10, 1995 China announces a second round of missile exercises north of Taiwan.

August 15-25, 1995 The Chinese declare an area 50 times larger than the first exercise off limits, amounting to a partial blockade of Taiwan, the world's 14th largest trading nation. The ten-day live ammunition naval exercise (including antiship cruise missiles) are expanded to include the firing of live artillery.

August 23, 1995 Lee Teng-hui announces his candidacy for president in the March 1996 election. Beijing's Xinhua (New China) News Agency calls on "all the Chinese people" to sweep Lee "into the dustbin of history."

September 3, 1995 Taiwan takes delivery of two E-2Ts, an aircraft which will extend Taiwan's advance warning of any attack to 25 minutes from the current five. Taiwan had bought four E-2Ts from U.S. defense contractor Grumman, valued at US$749.5 million.

September 15, 1995 The China Times reports that Taiwan will start rehearsals on September 27 for a military exercise scheduled for October. The exercise, described as a routine military inspection named Hua Hsing, will be held at the southern navy headquarters of Tsoying before October 10.

September 19, 1995 At the start of the annual UN General Assembly session, Taiwanese in the United States hold a demonstration in front of the UN in favor of Taiwan membership in the United Nations under the name "Taiwan."

September 21, 1995 The UN rejects a Kuomintang-sponsored membership-bid under the name "Republic of China on Taiwan." The bid, sponsored by 20 mostly Caribbean, Central American, and African countries, is defeated when the UN General Assembly's steering committee decides without a vote not to recommend putting the item on the agenda of the three-month session, which opened on September 19. The decision followed a long debate, in which more than 40 countries, including many which are not members of the 28-nation committee, took part.

September 24, 1995 Taiwan's Central Daily News, a KMT-owned newspaper, reports that Taiwan has taken delivery of two more U.S.-made E-2T early warning aircraft.

October 5, 1995 Lee Teng-hui inaugurates a large-scale military exercise near Taiwan's southern coast in the build-up to National Day on October 10. The Hua Hsing Exercise, in which no shot will be fired, is scheduled to involve a review of some 60 frigates, 60 aircrafts, and 6,000 troops from the island's 500,000-strong army, air force, and navy. The 100-minute exercise is attended by ranking officials, foreign delegations, overseas Chinese representatives, and the media in the Tsoying military zone near the southern city of Kaohsiung.

October 9, 1995 The China Times newspaper reports that Taiwan has decided to raise its defense spending by 20 percent in fiscal 1996-97 (July-June), mainly to buy more military hardware. Defense spending, excluding personnel expenses, will be raised by US$1.5 billion in the next fiscal year. The entire defense budget is likely to hit a record high of US$11.1 billion.

October 24, 1995 Taiwanese in the United States hold the largest "Enter-the-UN" demonstration ever, protesting the Chinese threats and intimidations against Taiwan, and favoring Taiwan's membership in the UN. President Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin meet in New York for two hours.

October 26, 1995 The Associated Press reports that China has bought 24 more Su-27 jet fighters and more AA-10 air-to-air missiles from Russia to bolster its military power in the South China Sea.

November 7, 1995 Sources in Beijing report that China will conduct another military exercise off Taiwan's coast before Taiwan's December 2 legislative election.

November 17, 1995 At the end of three days of talks in Beijing, China and the U.S. resume a program of high-level military contacts, agreeing to an exchange of visits of their top military officers the following year. The visit of the U.S. delegation is led by assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs Joseph Nye, Jr. Dr. Nye says at a news conference, "We stand for peaceful resolution of disputes across the Taiwan Strait, and any use of force by China against Taiwan would be a serious mistake."

December 2, 1995 Parliamentary elections in Taiwan for the 164-seat Legislative Yuan. The KMT wins 85 seats, the DPP 54, and the New Party 21.

December 19, 1995 The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and four escort vessels sail through the Taiwan Strait. One month later, the USS Fort McHenry makes a friendship visit to Shanghai. This combination sends the message that the U.S. is powerful but wants to be a friend of China.


January 4, 1996 New York-based Human Rights Watch, relying on hundreds of medical case studies from a large state-run orphanage in Shanghai, charges Chinese officials, alleging that thousands of orphans in Shanghai and in China's 66 other state-run orphanages are dying each year from deliberate starvation and neglect. In a Human Rights Watch report, Chinese physician Zhang Shuyun documented the "unnatural deaths of well over 1,000 children between 1986 and 1992 alone." By her accounting, 47% of the 207 orphan deaths that occurred from November 1991 to October 1992 were a result of "third-degree malnutrition." The 53-year-old physician fled China in 1995 after waging what she describes as an unsuccessful campaign to expose conditions at the orphanage.

January 8, 1996 Chinese officials open the doors to the state-run orphanage in Shanghai and put on display for foreign journalists hundreds of well-fed children in what appears to be a healthy and nurturing environment.

January 11, 1996 U.S. assistant military attache Lieutenant Colonel Bradley Gerdes of the Air Force and a driver are arrested near a military air base at Saixi in Guangdong Province in southern China, where he had been traveling with the permission of the Chinese Government. Colonel Gerdes is interrogated for 19 hours. Gerdes is released on January 12 and returns to Beijing on January 13. He is given six days to leave the country with his wife and three children, thus violating the rules of diplomacy.

January 16, 1996 China announces a broad plan to restrict the flow of news and economic information into China, by monitoring foreign financial news services and on-line trading systems. These services will now be "supervised" by the official Xinhua News Agency for the content of their reports and the subscriptions they sell to Chinese customers. The moves primarily affect the Reuters and Dow Jones business news services.

January 22, 1996 The Philippines Navy reports that vessels flying the Chinese flag exchanged fire with a gunboat 12 nautical miles off Campones Island, 72 miles northwest of Manila, and escaped after a 90-minute gun battle. Beijing has denied that its vessels had strayed into Philippines waters or traded fire with the Philippines gunboat. Manila decides not to file a diplomatic protest. The skirmish is the first violent incident between the two countries since their navies confronted each other near Mischief Reef on the Spratly Islands in May 1995, and the ninth in 17 months involving ships suspected to be from China.

January 23, 1996 The New York Times reports a January 4 briefing by former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Chas. Freeman, Jr. to National Security Advisor Anthony Lake. Mr. Freeman informed Mr. Lake that he was told during his winter trip to China that the People's Liberation Army has prepared plans for a missile attack against Taiwan, consisting of one conventional missile strike a day for 30 days. Mr. Freeman describes being told by a Chinese official of the advanced state of military planning. He says preparations for a missile attack on Taiwan and the target selection to carry it out have been completed and await a final decision by the Politburo in Beijing. Mr. Freeman also quotes a Chinese official as asserting that China could act militarily against Taiwan without fear of intervention by the U.S. because American leaders "care more about Los Angeles than they do about Taiwan," a statement that he characterizes as an indirect threat by China to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. In recent months.

January 24, 1996 Beijing denies the New York Times report that Beijing has completed plans for a limited military attack on Taiwan. A Foreign Ministry spokesman dismisses the report as "totally groundless" and declines to comment further.

January 31, 1996 United States Trade Representative (USTR) Mickey Kantor warns China that it risks the imposition of stiff economic sanctions in the next few months because Beijing has ignored previous warnings and continues to violate a key trade agreement signed a year ago. Kantor convinces the White House that American credibility with China and other trading partners around the world will be jeopardized if Beijing is permitted to flagrantly ignore its agreement to close more than 30 compact-disk factories -- some apparently controlled by the Chinese military -- that are exporting millions of dollars worth of illegal copies of American products.

February 6, 1996 The New York Times reports that Russia and China have secretly concluded a broad agreement to upgrade the Chinese Air Force by completing the long-stalled sale of 72 high-performance Su-27 fighter planes to Beijing as a prelude to licensing the production of Russia's premier supersonic warplane in China.

February 7, 1996 Administration officials say China secretly sold nuclear-weapons technology to Pakistan the year before and can face billions of dollars in sanctions under U.S. law.

February 8, 1996 Chinese envoy Sha Zukang lashes out at U.S. criticism of China's nuclear testing program, saying the country with the largest and most advanced nuclear arsenal is "not qualified to lecture" Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang says the U.S. will have to stop selling weapons to Taiwan before the threat of military conflict between Beijing and Taipei can fade (Taipei is scheduled to receive 150 F-16 jet fighters from the U.S. this year). At the same news briefing, he asserts China's right to buy defensive weapons (China has reportedly signed a fresh contract to buy 72 advanced Russian Su-27 fighter planes).

France's foreign minister Herve de Charette meets with his Chinese counterpart, Qian Qichen, in Beijing and promises to abide by a January 1994 agreement not to sell new arms to Taiwan. In early 1993, France decided it would sell 60 Mirage 2000-5 fighter aircraft to Taiwan, which had also ordered six French Lafayette-class missile frigates and a number of MICA air-to-air missiles.

February 9, 1996 China began moving about 150,000 troops to a coastline facing Taiwan. China also reinforced its air strength with 88 warplanes to reach a total number of 226 aircraft deployed at 11 airports along 250 miles of coastline in its southeastern Fujian Province. They also deployed four amphibious landing craft -- two in the Fujian port of Xiamen (3.75 miles from the Taiwan-controlled island of Kinmen) and two at Pingtan (island near Taiwan-controlled Matsu island).

February 22, 1996 In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA Director John Deutch confirms that China is continuing to export "inappropriate" nuclear technology and missiles to Pakistan and says the agency is watching China's menacing military movements in Asia on a "minute-by-minute" basis. The disclosure that the CIA believes M-11 missiles -- not just related technology -- were transferred to Pakistan also requires sanctions to be imposed for violating the Missile Technology Control Regime.

February 23, 1996 Taiwanese presidential candidate Peng Ming-min warns China that if it occupies so much as one inch of Taiwan's territory, he will immediately formally declare Taiwan's independence.

February 28, 1996 The U.S. Export-Import Bank complies with Secretary of State Warren Christopher's request to stop financing any deals in China over the next 30 days while the Administration decides whether it will impose sanctions against Beijing for selling nuclear technology to Pakistan.

March 5, 1996 China's official Xinhua News Agency reports that the People's Liberation Army will stage a new series of missile exercises just off Taiwan's coast from March 8 to 15. Xinhua says the training exercises will involve surface-to-surface missiles in two areas: one site northeast of Taiwan, about 21 miles from Keelung port, the other 32 miles west of the southern port of Kaohsiung. By using two sites 250 miles apart, China apparently wants to show it can coordinate a complex, large-scale operation and block Taiwan's ports. Foreign ships and aircraft are advised to stay clear of the test sites.

The 40-member House Republican Policy Committee issues a written statement rejecting the Clinton Administration's ambiguity on the question of whether the U.S. would defend Taiwan if it comes under attack from China. The statement says the U.S. should commit itself "to the defense of Taiwan" and work to deter China from "invading, attacking, or blockading Taiwan."

March 6, 1996 The State Department publishes a report, suggesting that U.S. policy toward China has failed to bring about improvements in the country's human rights record. The report makes clear that U.S. policy toward China, which relies on economic growth and trade to bring greater freedom for the Chinese people, has not worked. Despite economic reforms, Beijing continues to disregard basic human rights.

March 8-25, 1996 China begins three rounds of war games near Taiwan. A Newsweek report on March 18 describes the economic impact on Taiwan:

...The missiles' economic impact was real but limited. Taiwan's stock index dipped slightly after the tests were announced, but it began climbing again before the close of the week's trading. Shipping companies and airlines rerouted their craft around the missile-test areas; even so, most delays amounted to no more than 20 minutes or so. Many banks exhausted their regular supplies of U.S. currency, a traditional staple in tense times for many prudent Taiwanese. Nevertheless, government intervention kept the local currency unit, the New Taiwan Dollar, on a steady course. Taiwanese authorities did their best to keep the public calm, going so far as to praise the sophistication of China's missiles. There is little danger of an accident, Taiwanese officials insisted, because the M-9 is accurate to within 600 meters of its intended target. They also said the test missiles are equipped to self-destruct in case they do stray off course.

Taiwan China
Armed Forces 376,000 2.9 million
ICBM's 0 about 17
Medium range missiles 0 about 70
Tanks 570 7,500 - 8,000
Major warships 38 50
Submarines 4 52

China's M-9 Missile: Intermediate-range, mobile-launch, solid-propellant, ballistic missile. Range: 373 miles, Length: 33 feet. Warhead: Nuclear or conventional high explosive. Payload: Single warhead, 1100 pounds.

China's M-11 Missile: Short-range, mobile-launch, solid-propellant, ballistic missile. Range: 75-93 miles, Length: 33 feet. Warhead: Nuclear or conventional high explosive. Payload: Single warhead, 2200 pounds.

March 8, 1996 First shot begins shortly after midnight. At intervals of roughly an hour, three M-9 ballistic missiles carrying dummy warheads splash down into target areas just 22 miles from Keelung, the island's second busiest seaport, and 32 miles from the harbor of Kaohsiung, the third largest container port in the world. These two ports closest to the Chinese target zones account for 70 percent of Taiwan's two-way trade. China also stages elaborate military maneuvers in a 6,600-square-mile rectangle that stretches to the mid-point of the Taiwan Strait. The area is 30 to 70 miles from Taiwanese Islands. Beijing also says it plans to begin "live ammunition" war games on March 12 in a 6,000-square-mile zone that will obstruct much of the shipping and air traffic in the Taiwan Strait.

UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali issues a written statement appealing for restraint and avoidance of tensions over China's missile exercises off Taiwan. However, his statement contrasts with the strong condemnation issued by the U.S. and other countries.

White House and State Department spokesmen call the Chinese missile exercises "both provocative and reckless." House Speaker Newt Gingrich labels it as "an act of terror."

March 10, 1996 U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher calls China's attempt to intimidate Taiwan "reckless," and announces the dispatch of a battle group led by the USS Independence. He says, "I think they've been risky, and.. smack of intimidation and coercion." The destroyer Hewitt and guided-missile frigate McClusky will join the Independence north of Taiwan the following day, according to the Seventh Fleet from Yokosuka, Japan. The guided-missile cruiser Bunker Hill took up a position south of the island to monitor China's missile tests, according to the Navy. Secretary Christopher says on NBC's Meet the Press that the U.S. intends the warships to be "in a position to be helpful, if they need to be."

Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan says, "People do not have to be afraid of the mainland's exercises, because the government has prepared measures in response, and everybody can relax and go about their business... It's not that Taiwan does not want reunification. It's just that Taiwanese people do not want to live under a communist system."

March 11, 1996 President Clinton orders a second U.S. carrier battle group into the area, and the Pentagon shifts a carrier already there closer to Taiwan. The naval battle group led by the USS Independence, stationed about 200 miles off Taiwan's shores the week before to monitor China's ballistic missile exercises, has moved to within about 100 miles. It remains outside the Strait of Taiwan. Secretary of Defense William Perry says the movement of U.S. warships is "a prudent, cautionary measure."

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Winston Lord says on PBS' NewsHour with Jim Lehrer program that the U.S. force in the area is there "to make sure there's no miscalculation in Beijing; it's there to reassure our friends in the area that we have a big stake in the stability and peace of that region; it is there to make sure this current.. situation does not escalate further."

March 12, 1996 China launches war games southwest of Taiwan, drawing a Taiwanese threat to strike back if the mock warfare turns into an attack. Chinese combat planes and warships practice bombing runs and drills off Taiwan at the start of eight days of war games. About 10 Chinese ships conduct formation drills, and about 10 warplanes practice air cover, surveillance and bombing runs near Dongshan and Nan Ao, on China's southeastern coast. Taiwan places its 400,000-member military on heightened alert, especially on the islands that face the exercise area.

General John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the Pentagon's addition of a second aircraft carrier battle group to one already deployed off the coast of Taiwan together represent "very important signals to the Chinese that we hope the situation will return back to normal very soon." At the Pentagon, Navy Captain Michael Doubleday describes a "carefully orchestrated" shifting of Navy ships (another carrier, the USS George Washington, must first move from the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal and into the U.S. Central Command's area of operations, the Persian Gulf region) in order to strengthen the U.S. military presence near Taiwan. He says the two carriers convey a message of precaution and reassurance -- "Precaution because we want to make sure that there is no miscalculation on the part of Beijing as to our very firm interests in that region of the world. Reassurance because we want our friends in the area to know that we have a large stake in the stability and the peace."

The White House says the U.S. considers China's launching of a missile into an area off Taiwan a "provocative act." White House spokesman James Fetig says the U.S. is "deeply disturbed by this provocative act... We continue to believe that these tests are reckless and increase tensions in the Taiwan Strait... We have previously put China on notice that it will be held responsible for any actions that occur during these tests. We continue to urge both China and Taiwan to exercise caution and restraint."

The State Department's Glyn Davies says, "You know we're concerned, on one level -- call it the macro level -- about the fact that these exercises are meant for political purposes, to intimidate Taiwan... You know, I mean, ordinance can go astray. There's shipping in that area, very important commercial shipping. There are 21 million people on the island of Taiwan. We're very concerned, obviously, that there be no accidents."

March 13, 1996 China fires another missile near Taiwan, but unlike the others, this one does not cross Taiwan's territorial waters.

A steady succession of F-14 and F-18 fighter planes shoot skyward from the USS Independence aircraft carrier (operating with a cruiser, a destroyer, and a frigate), based at Yokosuka, Japan and now positioned 200 miles off the east coast of Taiwan. The planes take 90-minute flights, practicing air intercepts and bombing runs. Thirteen planes at a time are in the air, with the missions continuing day and night. Rear Admiral James Ellis, Jr., commander of the Independence battle group (with a crew of 6,500 and carrying 55 to 70 aircraft), says its seven ships have come to show the U.S. commitment to peace in the region, but none is in the Strait and the group is engaging in "normal routine operations," while also monitoring the Chinese exercises. Although the Independence is leaving some distance between itself and the area of the Chinese maneuvers (about an hour's flying time), officers say the carrier is close enough. The ship's navigator Commander Dave Wirt says they can get to Taiwan in four hours.

March 19, 1996 The Clinton Administration approves Taiwan's request to buy Stinger air defense missiles and other weapons, a move officials say reflects a longstanding U.S. commitment to help Taiwan defend itself. In addition to the Stingers, weapons of last resort against close-in air attack, Taiwanese authorities have permission to buy an advanced targeting and navigation system for fighter jets and electronic warfare devices. However, Taiwan's request for submarines is turned down.

March 22, 1996 Worldwide "Peace and Protest" candlelight vigil organized by Taiwanese students for Peace in the Taiwan Straits and in Protest against the Chinese missile threats.

March 23, 1996 Taiwan holds its first-ever democratic election for president, as well as elections for members of the National Assembly.

March 28, 1996 Administration officials say that instead of issuing a blanket sanction against loans to companies doing business in China, American officials are drafting penalties against the Chinese company that sold $70,000 of ring magnets to Pakistan, a violation of an American law.

March 31, 1996 Taiwan's Defense Minister Chiang Chung-ling confirms reports that Taiwan will hold military exercises in its front-line Matsu Islands in early April, on the heels of China's war games in the Taiwan Strait.

April 2, 1996 Taiwan postpones military exercises set for April 7-10 near China. Taiwan's Defense Ministry, responding to U.S. and domestic concerns, says the war games will be rescheduled for a June 30 start "to avoid any misunderstanding and to ease tensions" in the region.

Compiled by: Kristie Wang, Program Director, Center for Taiwan International Relations.

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