The symbolism of the move is unmistakable, however. It is a sign of a renewed U. It would be the first fighter jet sale since ; a similar request was rejected in and the existing fleet was upgraded instead. Also last month, two U. The U. Pacific Fleet explained. Finally, the U. Various warning indicators are associated with each of the three contributing developments to a cross-strait crisis discussed above.
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The possibility of a DPP candidate Beijing distrusts even more than Tsai, or of a three-way race for the presidency in , could create unpredictable dynamics. Xi could signal an impending increase in pressure by using new language suggesting urgency about Taiwan, such as setting an explicit timetable for unification. For example, Xi could declare the ongoing PLA reforms and reorganization a success.
Zhao on Clough, 'Cooperation or Conflict in the Taiwan Strait?'
China is undoubtedly aware that some observers suspect the PLA would not be ready for a major conflict in the short term because of the ongoing restructuring, so signaling that the PLA is ready or that it would be by could be a seen as a warning. Changes in U. Short of such a dramatic alteration to U. For example, China strongly objected to the Taiwan Travel Act, which states that Congress believes it should be U.
Navy vessels to make port calls in Taiwan. A high-profile arms sale to Taiwan that included cutting-edge hardware such as F fighters or submarines could also raise tensions with China. Additionally, a sharp downturn in the U. If China decides, for whatever reason, to ramp up pressure on Taiwan, there would likely be additional signals including leadership statements that criticize specific actions by Taiwan or the United States, harsh condemnations of pro-independence politicians in Taiwan in various media outlets, and other moves to prepare the public for a confrontation.
Third Taiwan Strait Crisis
In addition, some tactical indicators might be observable shortly before China increases the pressure on Taiwan. These signs could include unusual activity by Chinese military units, intensified intelligence operations against Taiwan, or heightened levels of Chinese computer espionage against political parties or election-related targets in Taiwan. At a minimum, a cross-strait crisis could result in a broader freeze in U. For example, it could exacerbate tensions in other areas where there is already considerable friction e. A successful pressure campaign could embolden China to apply similar tactics elsewhere.
A crisis could also fundamentally damage U. This scenario could play out differently depending on how the United States reacts and how its reaction is perceived by other actors in the region. Particularly if the U. On the one hand, the consequences for U. On the other hand, if the United States fails to help Taiwan respond to escalating Chinese pressure tactics or if the United States responds but is unable to stop China, other U. Misunderstandings and miscalculation could still propel the parties to outright conflict.
Cross-Strait Economic Relations: Recent Development and Implications for Taiwan
The United States has several preventive options to try to avoid another cross-strait crisis. These options include the following:. Washington should aim to strengthen deterrence while working within the context of a long-standing policy that helps maintain stability and affords considerable flexibility.
Within this context, the United States is unlikely to facilitate a major breakthrough in cross-strait relations, though it should do what it can to prevent them from worsening. Because this is a sensitive time in cross-strait relations, careful diplomacy and stewardship are required to reduce the risk of crisis. In particular, the United States should encourage China and Taiwan to maintain a stable and constructive cross-strait relationship on terms consistent with the interests and aspirations of the people of Taiwan, primarily by reiterating clearly and publicly its opposition to unilateral actions altering the status quo.
Unlike a decade ago, however, the U. Because escalating Chinese pressure presents a multifaceted threat to Taiwan, the United States should think more broadly about how to help Taiwan strengthen deterrence and increase its resilience. Since Beijing would likely rely on a strategy that incorporates a variety of diplomatic, economic, military, and informational instruments of power, Washington should develop an approach that accounts for the challenges presented by all of the different elements of a Chinese coercion campaign against Taiwan.