Untying the Knot: Making Peace in the Taiwan Strait

Brookings Institution Press
Free sample

The relationship between Taiwan and China is a paradox. On the one hand, the two economies are becoming increasingly integrated, as Taiwanese companies have come to regard the mainland as the best place to manufacture their products and maintain global competitiveness. On the other hand, the long-running and changing political dispute between the two governments remains unresolved. Each side fears the intentions of the other and is acquiring military capabilities to deter disaster. In its pursuit of peace in the Taiwan Strait, the United States could get drawn into a war between the two rivals. Richard C. Bush, whose career has been dedicated to Taiwan-China issues, explores the conflicts between these nations and the difficulties that must be resolved. Disagreements over sovereignty and security form the core of the dispute. What would be the legal status and international role of the Taiwan government in a future unified China? Given China's growing military power, how could Taiwan feel secure? Complicating these issues are domestic politics and international competition, as well as misperceptions on both sides. Thus multiple obstacles prevent the two sides from even getting to the negotiating table, much less reaching a mutually acceptable resolution. For reasons of policy and politics, the United States is constrained from a central role. To begin with, it must provide China with some reassurance about its policy in order to secure cooperation on foreign policy issues. At the same time, it must bolster Taiwan's political confidence and military deterrence while discouraging provocative actions. The arcane nature of this dispute severely restricts the role of the United States as conflict mediator. But if there is to be any solution to this conflict, the comprehensive analysis that this book provides will be required reading for effective policy.
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About the author

Richard C. Bush is a senior fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution and director of its Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies. He has worked on China and Taiwan issues his entire professional career: at the Asia Society, on the House International Relations Committee, on the National Intelligence Council, and at the American Institute in Taiwan, where he served as chairman and managing director from 1997 to 2002.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Nov 1, 2005
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780815797814
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / International Relations / Diplomacy
Political Science / International Relations / General
Political Science / World / Asian
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This content is DRM protected.
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President Nixon's historic trip to China in February 1972 marked the beginning of a new era in Sino-American relations. For the first time since 1949, the two countries established high-level official contacts and transformed their relationship from confrontation to collaboration. Over the subsequent twenty years, however, U.S.-China relations have experienced repeated cycles of progress, stalemate, and crisis, with the events in Tiananmen Square in June 1989 the most recent and disruptive example. Paradoxically, although relations between the two countries are vastly more extensive today than they were twenty years ago, they remain highly fragile.

In this eagerly awaited book, China expert Harry Harding offers the first comprehensive look at Sino-American relations from 1972 to the present. He traces the evolution of U.S.-China relations, and assesses American policy toward Peking in the post- Tiananmen era.

Harding analyzes the changing contexts for the Sino-American relationship, particularly the rapidly evolving international environment, changes in American economic and political life, and the dramatic domestic developments in both China and Taiwan. He discusses the principal substantive issues in U.S.-China relations, including the way in which the two countries have addressed their differences over Taiwan and human rights, and how they have approached the blend of common and competitive interests in their economic and strategic relationships. He also addresses the shifting political base for Sino-American relations within each country, including the development of each society's perceptions of the other, and the emergence and dissolution of rival political coalitions supporting and opposing the relationship.

Harding concludes that a return to the Sino-American strategic alignment of the 1970s, or even to the economic partnership of the 1980s, is less likely in the 1990s than continued tension or even confrontation over such issues as trade, human rights, and the proliferation of advanced weapons. But he also explains the importance of maintaining normal working relations with China in order to promote security in East Asia, protect the global environment, and encourage an open, more realistic and stable relationship with China.

Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Book of 1992

Award winner for excellence in publishing from the Association of American Publishers

The future of the Taiwan Strait is more wide open than at any other time in recent decades. Tensions between China and Taiwan have eased since 2008. But the movement toward full rapprochement remains fragile. Whether the two sides of the Strait can sustain and expand a cooperative relationship after years of mutual distrust and fear is still uncertain.

The waters of the Strait are uncharted, and each side worries about shoals beneath the surface. The current engagement between Beijing and Taipei may make possible a solution to their six-decade-long dispute. Whether, when, and how that might happen is, however, shrouded in doubt. China fears the island's permanent separation, by way of either an overt move to de jure independence or continued refusal to unify with the mainland. Taiwan fears subordination to an authoritarian regime that does not have Taipei's interests at heart. And the United States worries about the stability of the East Asian region.

Richard Bush, who studied issues surrounding Taiwan during almost twenty years in the U.S. government, explains the current state of relations between China and Taiwan, providing the details of what led to the current situation. And he extrapolates on the likely future of cross-Strait relations. Bush also discusses America's stake, analyzing possible ramifications for U.S. interests in the critically important East Asia region and recommends steps to protect those interests.

"At the heart of the [Taiwan conundrum] is a question of definition. Does the dispute stem from the protracted division of the Chinese state after World War II, or does the Republic of China on Taiwan in some sense constitute a successor state of the old Republic of China (ROC), one on a par with the People's Republic of China on the Chinese mainland? Whether and how the unification of the two entities might occur hinges on the answer. Indeed, I have argued that the core of the dispute between the two sides has been their disagreement over whether the Republic of China—or Taiwan—is a sovereign entity for purposes of cross-Strait relations. It follows that if unification is a real option, the two sides must form a political union that bridges the disagreement over the island's legal status. Is that possible?"—from the Introduction

This is a new analysis of the key issues facing Chinese policy makers in their approach towards Taiwan. This is one of the most tense and potentially explosive relationships in world politics.

This book explains succinctly the impetus, the methods and the consequences if China is to use force, a prospect that has become greater following the return of President Chen Shui-bian to power in Taiwan for a second term in 2004.

If China Attacks Taiwan shows how in reality there can be no real winner in such an eventuality and how the consequences would be dire not just for Taiwan and China, but East Asia as a whole. Whether China will use force depends ultimately on how its policy making apparatus assess potential US intervention, whether its armed forces can subdue Taiwan and counter US military involvement, as well as on its assessment of the likely consequences. Given the extremely high probability of American involvement this volume appeals to not only scholars and students working on China, its foreign policy and the security and prosperity of East Asia, but also to policy makers and journalists interested in China’s rise and its defense policy, Taiwan’s security and development, regional stability as well as US policy toward China and the East Asia region generally. This book is essential for understanding China’s efforts to achieve a ‘peaceful rise’, which requires it to transform itself into a global power not by the actual use of force but by diplomacy backed up by rapidly expanding military power.

This book is an excellent resource for all students and scholars of military and security studies, Asian (China/Taiwan) studies and international relations

The rivalry between Japan and China has a long and sometimes brutal history, and they continue to eye each other warily as the balance of power tips toward Beijing. They cooperate and compete at the same time, but if competition deteriorates into military conflict, the entire world has much to lose. The Perils of Proximity evaluates the chances of armed conflict between China and Japan, presenting in stark relief the dangers it would pose and revealing the steps that could head off such a disastrous turn of events.

Richard Bush focuses his on the problematic East China Sea region. Although Japan's military capabilities are more considerable than some in the West realize, its defense budget has remained basically flat in recent years. Meanwhile, Chinese military expenditures have grown by double digits annually. Moreover, that the emphasis of China's military modernization is on power projection—the ability of its air and naval forces to stretch their reach to the east, thus encroaching on its island neighbor.

Tokyo regards the growth of Chinese power and its focus on the East China Sea with deep anxiety. How should they respond? The balance of power is changing, and Japan must account for that uncomfortable fact in crafting its strategy. It is incumbent on China, Japan, and the United States to take steps to reduce the odds of clash and conflict in the East China Sea, and veteran Asia analyst Bush presents recommendations to that end. The steps he suggests won't be easy, and effective political leadership will be absolutely critical. If implemented fully and correctly, however, they have the potential of reducing the perils of proximity in Asia.

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