Dangerous Strait: The U.S.--Taiwan--China Crisis

Dangerous Strait: The U.S.--Taiwan--China Crisis

Dangerous Strait: The U.S.--Taiwan--China Crisis

Dangerous Strait: The U.S.--Taiwan--China Crisis

Synopsis

Today the most dangerous place on earth is arguably the Taiwan Strait, where a war between the United States and China could erupt out of miscalculation, misunderstanding, or accident. How and to what degree Taiwan pursues its own national identity will have profound ramifications in its relationship with China as well as in relations between China and the United States.

Events late in 2004 demonstrated the volatility of the situation, as Taiwan's legislative elections unexpectedly preserved a slim majority for supporters of closer relations with China. Beijing, nevertheless, threatened to pass an anti-secession law, apt to revitalize pro-independence forces in Taiwan -- and make war more likely. Taking change as a central theme, these essays by prominent scholars and practitioners in the arena of U.S.-Taiwan-Chinese relations combine historical context with timely analysis of an accelerating crisis. The book clarifies historical developments, examines myths about past and present policies, and assesses issues facing contemporary policymakers. Moving beyond simplistic explanations that dominate discussion about the U.S.-Taiwan-China relationship, Dangerous Strait challenges common wisdom and approaches the political, economic, and strategic aspects of the cross-Strait situation anew. The result is a collection that provides fresh and much-needed insights into a complex problem and examines the ways in which catastrophe can be avoided.

The essays examine a variety of issues, including the movement for independence and its place in Taiwanese domestic politics; the underlying weaknesses of democracy in Taiwan; and the significance of China and Taiwan's economic interdependence. In the security arena, contributors provide incisive critiques of Taiwan's incomplete military modernization; strains in U.S.-Taiwan relations and their differing interpretations of China's intentions; and the misguided inclination among some U.S. policymakers to abandon Washington's traditional policy of strategic ambiguity.

Excerpt

NANCY BERNKOPF TUCKER

AT THE BEGINNING of this new century, nowhere is the danger for Americans as great as in the Taiwan Strait where the potential for a war with China, a nuclear armed great power, could erupt out of miscalculation, misunderstanding, or accident. Skeptics might argue that other threats are more volatile or more certain—conflict in the Middle East, terrorism at home and abroad, clashes with angry and chaotic rogue or failed states. But although the United States risks losing lives and reputation in these encounters none but a collision with China would be as massive and devastating.

War with China over Taiwan may or may not be inevitable. The prospect, nevertheless, shapes the course of U.S.-Taiwan relations and significantly influences the texture of Taiwan's domestic affairs. Similarly, though the level of tension between Washington and Beijing fluctuates, depending on security, proliferation, trade, and human rights concerns, the dilemma of Taiwan's future remains a constant and can become incendiary with little warning. Optimists believe that, with time, ground for reconciliation between China and Taiwan can be found and the two sides will be able to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution despite an impasse that has produced repeated military skirmishes and political upheaval for more than fifty years. Pessimists argue that the road to war has been laid, and nothing that anyone does, short of realizing the immediate unification demanded by Beijing, will deter combat. Indeed some feel that progress toward such a . . .

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