October 25, 2009

Trading Up in the Taiwan Strait

By Richard Fontaine

In the year and a half since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in Taipei, the world has witnessed an unprecedented rapprochement between China and Taiwan. The two sides have hosted visits of party officials, established direct charter flights across the Taiwan Strait, allowed for greater Chinese investment in Taiwan, and expanded the scope for Chinese tourism on the island. These and other moves add up to a major relaxation of tension, in sharp contrast to the previous eight years of cross-Strait relations.

The United States has welcomed these moves. Indeed, Washington is right to encourage a more constructive relationship across the Taiwan Strait, one that will make any use of force a more remote possibility. Yet the main vehicles for the rapprochement—strengthened economic ties between Taiwan and the mainland—contain the levers of political influence. And though defense issues, and arms sales in particular, have traditionally driven much of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, it is time for Washington to consider more carefully the potential geopolitical implications of economic policy.

Read the full article at The Wall Street Journal.

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