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There are both simple and complex reasons the US supports the current status of Taiwan.|
Right or wrong, Americans consider themselves "guardians of democracy." Americans feel that the spread of democracy promotes freedom, peace, stability and economic growth, as "consolidated" democracies encourage (a) the removal of corrupt and incompetent rulers through elections, (b) the allocation of economic resources in a more efficient and transparent way, and (c) an open and critical press, which monitors politicians and business to fortify democracy and the open economy. This is good for America. The growth of world democracy and open economies helps America by providing open, stable markets that increase American prosperity, while also helping the local country. It is a mutually beneficial dynamic. Today Taiwan is seen as moving towards consolidated democracy, which is defined as a democratic government that has seen a peaceful transfer of power to different political parties in successive elections, as well as a highly open economy, joining, for example, Australia, Canada, the European Union nations, South Korea, and the United States. Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong also have highly open economies, but politically they have been dominated by a single party, so one can argue they have a less consolidated democracy. The People's Republic of China is viewed as a less open economy (recently ranked 100th in the world in one report, according to the Fraser Institute) and a non-democratic state. Americans want Taiwan democracy to be an example for the development of the rest of China. Americans fear that if Taiwan is returned to mainland China, before mainland China has the chance to reform itself into a modern democratic state with an open economy, the progress Taiwan has achieved in joining the developed world will be lost. Americans are suspicious that China is using the "one-country, two-systems" approach in Hong Kong as a trap to lure Taiwan back, and then Beijing will terminate democracy in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Now, you can argue that America's record as a guardian of democracy is mixed and hypocritical. America has failed in Vietnam, the Philippines, and much of Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union in promoting democracy and open economies. And despite being democratic, America still attacks other countries. But where it has been successful, in Europe, Japan, and South Korea, both America and those countries have benefited. There are also many success stories in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. And where America has failed, Americans pay the price of their failure. By failing to support democracy and open economies in the Middle East, America has allowed terrorism and extremism to prosper and come back to threaten America itself.
Many Americans think an open, democratic China is good for the world, but they think a closed, un-democratic China is dangerous. This may not be a correct analysis, but this is what many Americans truly think, based on their experience with countries like Germany, Japan, Russia, Iraq, and the Koreas. Hu Jintao has said that China must encourage the growth of democracy, and Wen Jiabao praised Taiwanese democracy in a recent press conference in America. Americans agree.