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Foreign Service Accounts from the Oral History Archives (ADST.ORG)

Forty years ago, on January 1, 1979, the U.S. established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, simultaneously de-recognizing the Taiwan-based Republic of China. In ADST’s extensive country reader on China, officers in Washington and Taipei related hearing the sudden news and dealing with the complex aftermath.

Harvey Feldman, Director, Office of Republic of China Affairs, 1977-1978 (p. 848-857)

On December 15, 1978 I arrived at the office around 8 a.m. – my usual time. As I began to pour myself a cup of coffee, I was summoned to Holbrooke’s office. I was told to call Ambassador Unger in Taipei and instruct him to seek an immediate appointment with President Chiang Ching-kuo in order to inform him that around 9 p.m. in the evening (our time) the U.S. president was going to announce that negotiations on “normalization” had been concluded and that the U.S. on January 1, 1979 would de-recognize the ROC and would recognize the PRC as the sole legal government of China. While these negotiations were going on, our embassy in Taiwan was in limbo…

William Andreas Brown, Deputy Chief of Mission, Taiwan, 1978 (p. 2070-2079)

Finally, there came a moment when we lowered the U.S. flag, as they were raising the flag at the American embassy in Beijing. It was all very emotional and very heart-rending for those of us on the site. This marked the end of an era. We had invested a tremendous amount of treasure, emotion, and money in the whole relationship with the Republic of China. And now we were ending it.

Neal Donnelly, Cultural Affairs Officer/Deputy PAO Taiwan, 1975-1981 (p. 1469-1477) February 28 was the last day when we had any official capacity whatsoever… Senator Ernest Hollings decided to punish the State Department for doing things without informing congress: he held up our pay. There could be no money spent on anything in Taiwan while we were there; no visas could be issued, nothing could be done. No official Americans could come and we could not go to our offices. We were all put on administrative leave.

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