In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Cross-Strait Relations

  • Introduction
  • History, 1949–1978
  • China–Taiwan Diplomatic Competition and Taiwan’s International Status
  • Solutions to the Differences across the Taiwan Strait

Chinese Studies Cross-Strait Relations
Jean-Pierre Cabestan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0022


Between 1949 and 1979, the study of the relations across the Taiwan Strait concentrated on the contentious and sometimes violent coexistence of the two regimes that came out of the Chinese civil war: the victorious People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland and the largely defeated Republic of China (ROC), which had taken refuge on the island of Taiwan. After Deng Xiaoping in 1979 launched his “peaceful reunification policy,” interest moved to the burgeoning interactions between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. But it was only after Chiang Ching-kuo, the ROC president, decided in 1987 to allow Taiwanese residents to travel to and trade with the mainland through a third port that publications on cross-Strait relations started to mushroom. Since then, an increasing number of scholarly books and articles have been devoted to this theme. Interest in cross-Strait relations has also been stimulated by the quasi-concomitant democratization of Taiwan. As informal talks between Beijing and Taipei took off in 1992, a large number of publications started to concentrate on the political interactions across the Strait. The unprecedented expansion of trade and economic relations has naturally occupied a large space in terms of both research and publications, often exploring the political and strategic implications of this new interdependence, and in what more and more authors have described as “economic integration” between Taiwan and mainland China. Triggered by the increasing tension between China’s and Taiwan’s conflicting objectives, the 1995–1996 missile crisis directly contributed to multiplying books and articles not only on both entities’ armed forces and readiness to go to or sustain war, but also on the role of the United States in a strategic relationship that is as triangular as bilateral, if not more so. Beyond these lasting issues, research has also focused on the growing daily interactions between the mainland Chinese and the Taiwanese societies, in terms of education, culture, religious organizations, migrations, and marriages, although to date less has been published on these topics. Since 2010 or so, more research work has been devoted to the Chinese Communist Party’s united front work on Taiwan as an alternative strategy aimed at eventually reunifying the island to the mainland. Yet, the future of cross-Strait relations has remained an attractive subject, analyzed in connection with the perceived weakening strategic role of the United States in East Asia vis-à-vis a rapidly modernizing Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the long term, and with the possible influence of Taiwan’s democratic experience on the mainland. Although it is not always easy to draw a line between studies on cross-Strait relations and Taiwan’s often contentious domestic politics, excluded from this article are books and articles dealing mainly with the latter. With PRC sources in this area, scholars have faced another difficulty in the large amount of propaganda or biased publications; also included is a representative selection of both, attempting as much as possible to signal the limits of their usefulness. Finally, this bibliography prioritizes scholarly books and articles published in English or Chinese, complementing these with a few well-known titles in French and German.

General Overviews

The number of recent general overviews is not large, and most of them deal with the developments that have taken place between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait since 1979 and especially since the 1987 thaw. However, some overviews do include a short section on the 1949–1978 period, a time when there were almost no contacts. That is also the case of the earlier books published in the 1990s, which, however, analyze mainly post-1991 developments, after both sides set up semi-official organizations that allowed them to talk to each other and start negotiating on functional issues.

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