Both platforms reiterated the American commitment to Taiwan’s security and the American interest that the future of Taiwan be resolved peacefully that are embodied in the Taiwan Relations Act. But the Republican platform went on to take a number of other positions favorable to Taipei, including supporting Taiwan’s: “full participation” in multilateral organizations, “the timely” sale of defensive arms” to the island, and “free trade agreements status” for Taiwan-- presumably a somewhat awkward reference to either a free trade agreement with the U.S. or Taiwanese membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But these differences pale in comparison to the statements on Taiwan policy by Ronald Reagan during the 1980 campaign and by George W. Bush just after his inauguration in 2001.
These are all interesting differences of emphasis: the Republican platform more supportive of democracy in China, the Democratic platform willing to call for a cooperative relationship with Beijing, and the Republic platform somewhat more forthcoming with regard to Taiwan. But in themselves, these differences do not suggest major differences in China policy no matter who wins the election in November.
The more important and potentially significant differences involve trade policy. Both platforms called for a “firm response” (as the Republicans put it) to unfair Chinese trade practices. But they differed over which party would do the better job of being firm. The Democratic platform claimed that the Obama Administration had already taken a tough position with Beijing by bringing trade cases against China to the World Trade Organization at “twice the rate of the previous administration.” But the Republican platform declared that it would take a “new Republican Administration” to address trade issues successfully. In a fuller presentation of his position, Mitt Romney’s September 2011 “Believe in America” manifesto accused the Obama Administration of having “singularly failed in handling commercial relations with China. He came into office with high hopes that displays of American goodwill toward Beijing would lead to better relations across all fronts. Predictably, the good will has not been reciprocated. .. Having tried and failed with ‘engagement,’ the Obama Administration now behaves as if the United States has no leverage” in dealing with China and has “acquiesced” to the “one-way arrangements the Chinese have come to enjoy.”
Romney’s “Believe in America” plan went on to call for a policy of “confronting China” on trade issues,” being prepared to “walk away” from trade negotiations with Beijing, showing a willingness to “say‘no more’ to a relationship that too often benefits them and harms us” and to “put on the table all unilateral actions within our power to ensure that the Chinese adhere to existing agreements.”