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Defending Taiwan, and Why It Matters

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The unresolved political status of Taiwan has over the past decade assumed a renewed urgency, to the extent that conflict across the Taiwan Strait has overtaken that on the Korean Peninsula as the most likely war scenario in East Asia. The Taiwanese democratization process combined with regime weakness and a process of domestic change within China itself to create the conditions for the deterioration of cross-strait relations that led to Beijings 1995-96 series of military exercises, culminating in the temporary, de facto blockade of Taiwans two major ports as a result of Chinas ballistic missile tests in March 1996. Since that time cross-strait tensions have hardly abated, with the election in 2000 of the at one time openly pro-independence presidential candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party, Chen Shui-bian. Underlying the pedantry over definitions of one China and other impediments to meaningful dialogue between Beijing and Taipei, however, is a more serious problem. The problem, simply stated, is that the future political status of Taiwan itself is growing in significance as a vital national interest for other states in the context of the expansion of Chinas power and influence throughout maritime East Asia. The status of Taiwan has also been the primary irritant affecting Sino-U.S. relations, a point placed in stark relief by the 1996 missile crisis, when the United States deployed two carrier battle groups near the island, and by incessant warnings from Beijing over foreign interference in Chinas domestic affairs ever since. More recently, the 1 April 2001 EP-3 surveillance plane incident prompted repeated Chinese demands for the cessation of U.S. surveillance flights near Chinese territory.

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  • Government and Political Science

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