The Precarious Triangle: China, Taiwan, and United States
Taiwan has become the most dangerous flashpoint in U.S.-China relations.
On May 20, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen will be sworn in for her second term, while strains in the tripartite relationship between China, Taiwan, and United States reach unprecedented levels. Taiwan continues to be used as a ploy in the political games between the world’s two superpowers, with both sides turning up the heat in the Taiwan Strait. Tsai’s inauguration coincides with U.S. lobbying efforts to help Taiwan secure observer status at the World Health Organization (WHO)’s 73rd World Health Assembly, as well as increased pressure from Beijing to have more say in the self-ruling island’s status. Though it is likely that Tsai will maintain her track record of capably preserving the cross-strait status quo, U.S.-China competition may emerge as a potential game changer in the unresolved Taiwan Strait crisis, especially with the U.S. presidential election drawing closer.
Tsai and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) she represents won a landslide victory in the January election, which was widely seen as a referendum on the future of Taiwan and its relationship with China. Over 8 million voters cast their ballots for Tsai, placing confidence in her ability to defend Taiwan’s democracy and sovereignty. The election took place when Taiwan’s heightened sympathy for Hong Kong’s fight for democracy was juxtaposed against the precipitous erosion of the “one country, two systems” formula, originally developed for Taiwan by former Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping and only later adopted for Hong Kong. Three decades after the formula’s conception, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s overture to the Taiwanese about “inevitable” reunification has been quickly dismissed and the prospect of Taiwan returning to China is a taboo subject for Taiwanese politicians. Not surprisingly, the Kuomintang (KMT) opposition party is still licking its wounds from the electoral defeat that was driven, in no small part, from its struggle to move past its Beijing-friendly position.
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