Following his defeat in the civil war in China in 1949, KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) relocated the Republic of China to Taiwan, which he transformed into an unsinkable aircraft carrier of the anti-Soviet forces in East Asia. The Soviet Union, for its part, threw diplomatic, economic and military support behind communist China and abstained from any contacts with Taiwan. SovietROC enmity reached its zenith in 1954, when the Taiwanese navy intercepted the Soviet tanker, Tuapse, and refused to free all of its crew. The Sino-Soviet conflict in the 1960s did nothing to diminish the Chiang regime’s perception of the Soviets as treacherous, hostile and determined to subjugate China. Yet, in the late 1960s, emerging doubts about the long-term prospects of American support for Taiwan forced the ROC leadership to reconsider its Soviet policy. At the same time, the anti-China faction in the Soviet leadership initiated the first direct contacts with Taipei to assess the feasibility of an ROCUSSR joint action against the PRC. Although nothing – save the short-lived cooperation between Soviet and ROC intelligence agencies in the early 1970s – resulted from the secret contacts with Soviet agent Victor Louis in 1968-1970, Taipei publicized its communication with the Soviets to remind the Americans that its loyalty could evaporate, should the US seek rapprochement with the PRC or abandon its commitment to the defence of the island.1 The ‘Soviet card’ was re-played in 1971-1972, when Taipei lost its seat at the United Nations and threatened to restore trade, economic and ‘other relations’ with the Soviet Union. However, ROC Foreign Minister Chou Shu-kai’s (周書楷) prediction of trading relations with ‘non-hostile’ communist states2 and the Taiwanese media reports on the likely establishment of official or semi-official relations with the Soviet Union3 proved incorrect as Taipei maintained a ban on all sorts of contacts (including trade) with the Soviet bloc. Once Washington – striving to enlist the PRC’s support for its efforts to contain Soviet communism – established diplomatic relations with Beijing and de-recognized Taipei in 1979, Taiwan resorted again to the ‘Soviet card’. In late 1979, it lifted trade restrictions with the selected ‘non-hostile’ communist states (非敵對國家), albeit retaining all embargos on direct trade and communication with the Soviet Union (and Albania). This gesture proved, however, largely symbolic, as the ROC government’s anti-communist prejudice left all restrictions on contacts with the communists intact,

preventing direct economic cooperation with the Soviet allies, hostile or non-hostile. Chiang Kai-shek and his son and successor, Chiang Ching-kuo, were aware that cordial relations with Moscow would adversely affect US determination to defend the island and support its economic development, accelerate emerging Sino-US rapprochement and possibly provoke Chinese military action. Thus, the ‘Soviet card’ proved no more than a bargaining chip in Taipei’s game to secure the best possible terms for the island’s security at the time of Washington’s major re-evaluation of its Asian strategy. Until the late 1980s, the ROC leadership remained hostile to the Soviet Union in particular and the Soviet bloc in general, and the Americans were aware of it. The Soviet Union followed the ‘one China’ principle in its domestic and foreign policies. It supported Beijing’s territorial claims to the island, opposed the ROC’s UN membership, rejected the ROC’s participation in any international meetings held in the USSR and abstained from all contacts with the ROC. The Kremlin’s ‘Taiwan option’ in the late 1960s was both a reflection of the policy debates on China within the Soviet leadership and an element in Soviet coercive diplomacy designed to pressure the PRC into normalizing relations with the USSR. However, Moscow sought to avoid facing, over the long run, an unfriendly China while it was preoccupied with managing its European allies and sustaining strategic competition with the USA. An unambiguous embrace of the ‘one China’ principle was to demonstrate to the Chinese leadership the earnestness of Moscow’s desire to mend fences with its neighbour.4