Illustration by Kyoko NemotoASIA INSIGHTTaiwan caught in US-China diplomatic crossfire

The risk of a miscalculation triggering a confrontation is real

Nikkei Asian Review
Date: November 20, 2018
By: Chris Horton, Contributing writer

Illustration by Kyoko Nemoto

TAIPEI — The U.S.-China relationship is at its lowest point since then President Bill Clinton sent aircraft carrier groups to stop Chinese intimidation of Taiwan in 1996.

Today, just as then, Taiwan is caught in the middle of rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.

In an early November meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, Chinese envoy Yang Jiechi warned that Taiwan was Beijing’s “most important and sensitive” issue. As Yang undoubtedly knows, before joining the Trump administration, Bolton had called for steps including the restoration of full diplomatic recognition of Taipei if China continued its strong-arm tactics against the self-ruled democracy.

Taiwan is claimed by a Chinese government that has never ruled it and backed by a U.S. government that does not officially recognize it. The island occupies an awkward and uncertain position as Beijing and Washington step up belligerent rhetoric over trade, the South China Sea and human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

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