The Economist: Superpower politics : The most dangerous place on Earth

The Economist

Zanny Minton Beddoes

America and China must work harder to avoid war over the future of Taiwan

Our cover this week looks at the growing tensions between China and America over the future of Taiwan. The United States is coming to fear that it may no longer be able to deter China from seizing Taiwan by force. The head of the Indo-Pacific Command told Congress in March that he worried about China attacking Taiwan as soon as 2027. War would be a catastrophe, and not only because of the bloodshed in Taiwan and the risk of escalation between two nuclear powers. The island is so central to the production of the world’s most advanced semiconductors that an attack would put the global electronics industry in jeopardy. A Chinese assault would also be a test of America’s military might and its diplomatic and political resolve. If it succeeded, China would overnight become the dominant power in Asia. Neither side—nor Taiwan itself—needs to force a showdown. Yet, as tensions rise, America and China are talking themselves into a confrontation. Nowhere calls for statesmanship more urgently than the most dangerous place on Earth.

THE TEST of a first-rate intelligence, wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald, is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. For decades just such an exercise of high-calibre ambiguity has kept the peace between America and China over Taiwan, an island of 24m people, 100 miles (160km) off China’s coast. Leaders in Beijing say there is only one China, which they run, and that Taiwan is a rebellious part of it. America nods to the one China idea, but has spent 70 years ensuring there are two.



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