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How serious is the risk of war over Taiwan?

Brookings Senior Fellows Richard Bush and Ryan Hass, joined Bonnie Glaser, Head of the German Marshall Fund’s China program, in authoring a new book on US-Taiwan relations in the context of China’s challenge. The authors argue that the tensions between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan can only be resolved with the assent of Taiwan’s people. They also note that Taiwan’s 2024 presidential election will affect how much pressure Beijing applies to cross-Taiwan Strait relations. In a podcast hosted by David Dollar, Richard Bush explains that the US position on Taiwan has remained unchanged since 1979. The US recognises the PRC as the government of China, and the ROC controls Taiwan. The Taiwan issue should be resolved only by the two parties themselves, peacefully, and with the assent of the people of Taiwan. Japan and Europe have the same basic position as the US. Ryan Haas, former China Director on the National Security Council, explains that political discipline towards Taiwan has eroded in recent years, but that Taiwan is not a problem with an American solution. Resolving the Taiwan issue is about preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Friends don’t treat friends as strategic pawns, and Taiwan is not a card to be played in a competition with China. The US should not dictate solutions or pre-determine which ones are acceptable or unacceptable. As to what the Taiwanese themselves think, polls show that less than 4% describe themselves as Chinese, 62% as Taiwanese, and 31% as both. 6.4% want independence now, 22% want to wait and see, and 60.4% want to maintain the status quo, with just 7.1% in favour of unification with China. The vast majority of Taiwanese would be happy to be an independent country if it didn’t mean war against China.

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