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Is America Prodding Taiwan Towards Conflict with China?

May 30, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

For decades, U.S. policy toward Taiwan has reflected a desire to
perpetuate the island’s de facto independence while not
unduly agitating the People’s Republic of China.

Under these conditions, Washington depends on the Chinese
government (PRC) to refrain from adopting coercive measures
(especially military actions) aimed at forcing the island to
reunify with the mainland. In return, Taiwanese authorities are
expected not to push for formal, internationally recognized
independence.

For its part, the United States has tried to balance two
difficult objectives—reassuring Taipei of its own protection
while at the same time not antagonizing Beijing. Joseph Nye, an
assistant secretary of defense during Bill Clinton’s
administration, described the approach as one of “strategic ambiguity.” Although Washington has an
implied commitment in the 1999 Taiwan Relations Act to defend
Taiwan against aggression, Nye and other officials have indicated
that the commitment is not unconditional, especially if Taiwanese
leaders provoke Beijing by pursuing formal independence.

Tensions are building as
Beijing cracks down on the island’s hopes for independence. But
should Washington be choosing sides?

The U.S. approach has worked reasonably well, despite some
occasional tense moments. But there are now multiple signs of
trouble in China, Taiwan, and the United States.

Xi Jinping’s government is adopting an increasingly
aggressive strategy toward Taiwan, both diplomatically and
militarily. And the victory of the pro-independence Democratic
Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan’s 2016 elections dashed
Chinese hopes that proliferating economic ties with the mainland
might gradually condition the Taiwanese people to accept political
reunification.

Angry at the apparent failure of that strategy, Beijing
increased Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation by luring away the
handful of small nations that still maintain formal relations with
Taipei. The PRC’s saber rattling has also increased. Both the
number and size of Chinese military exercises in and around the
Taiwan Strait have soared over the past two years. The U.S. Defense
Intelligence Agency’s 2019 report to Congress concludes that
Beijing is building up its ground, air, and naval forces to achieve
a more robust capability to invade Taiwan.
Taiwanese officials and outside experts see signs that Beijing may
be preparing for an invasion as early as 2020 or 2021. Taipei also contends
that Chinese intelligence infiltration attempts have markedly
accelerated.

Under President Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese government has
firmly rebuffed Beijing’s bullying behavior. It has also
sought to assert its own separate international identity, pursuing
territorial claims in the South China Sea and maximizing its
influence as a significant player in the global economic system.
The government has sought and received new weapons shipments from
the United States. Nevertheless, Tsai has proceeded more cautiously
on the independence issue than did …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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