Chapter 15: Taiwan in US–China relations
Taiwan has been a key issue in US–China relations since the end of World War II and, as the Taiwan Strait crisis in 1995–96 demonstrated, it could yet lead to open conflict between the two great powers. For China, resolving the Taiwan issue through reunification with the Mainland is a primary political objective on account of the strong and emotive nationalist sentiments surrounding the issue in China. However, Taiwan has been the benefactor of fortuitous strategic developments in Asia, which has led the United States to continue to protect it from China. Given the context of China’s rise and challenge to the US position in Asia, it is in the United States’ interest to continue the policy of strategic ambiguity embodied in the Taiwan Relations Act, which has helped to maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. Given the intensifying strategic rivalry between the United States and China in recent times, it is also increasingly unlikely that the United States would fail to intervene should China use force, as this would undermine the US position in Asia. While Taiwan is ultimately expendable should strategic circumstances change, for the time being, it remains a key issue in US–China relations and the challenge is maintaining the status quo and thus peace.
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