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Untying the Knot

Making Peace in the Taiwan Strait

Untying the Knot by Richard C. Bush
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The relationship between Taiwan and China has been a contentious one for more than five decades. On the one hand, the two economies have become increasingly integrated as Taiwan’s companies have come to regard the mainland as the best place to manufacture their products and so maintain their global competitiveness. On the other, as China maintains its "one-country, two-systems" approach and some on Taiwan seek de jure independence, the long-running and changing political disagreement between the two governments remains unresolved. Each side fears the intentions of the other, and both are augmenting their military capabilities. If one side miscalculates or misreads the actions of the other, the United States could get drawn into a war between them.

Untying the Knot explores the significant differences and many similarities of the two sides and the difficulties that must be resolved to calm the Taiwan Strait. What might the legal status and international role of the Taiwan government be in a future unified China? Given the growing military power of the Asian behemoth, how could Taiwan be made to feel secure? Complicating the resolution of these issues are each government’s domestic politics and decisionmaking systems and the leverage game that they play with each other in the international arena. Thus multiple obstacles prevent the two from even getting to the negotiating table, much less reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of their conflict.

The role of the United States as mediator is severely restricted by the nature of the dispute and the relations between the United States and the two parties involved; moreover, it is up to question whether either party would accept the United States in such a capacity. This fascinating, comprehensive analysis will be required reading for anyone endeavoring to unravel the tangled knot of Chinese-Taiwan relations.

Brookings Institution Press; Read online
Title: Untying the Knot
Author: Richard C. Bush

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