The Looming U.S.-China Showdown Over TaiwanA new crisis in relations between China and Taiwan is likely in the coming months, one that will pose more acute difficulties than in the past for Taiwan’s benefactor, the United States. China is relatively stronger than Taiwan, less inhibited from behaving assertively, and more insistent on attaining its objectives—which include ruling Taiwan. The people of Taiwan, however, are showing signs of evolving toward permanent opposition to political unification with China. Reaffirming U.S. willingness to protect Taiwan from forced unification would put at risk America’s relationship with the world’s second most important country. Abandoning Taiwan to involuntary absorption, however, would signal to the region the end of Pax Americana. The rapid increase in Cross-Strait economic ties following Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s election in 2008 initially had a pacifying effect on China-Taiwan relations because it gave Beijing confidence in a natural, peaceful progression toward unification. It now appears possible, however, that the pacification returns from economic integration might diminish rather than grow over time. On the Taiwanese side, deeper economic dependence on China is leading to proportionately stronger opposition from the Taiwan public towards China. On the Chinese side, stronger economic ties increase the disparity between economic ties on the one hand, and demands for political integration on the other. This raises the temperature of simmering Chinese frustration. For several years, some Chinese analysts have worried that Taiwan intended to take advantage of the generous economic terms offered by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) while putting off political negotiations indefinitely. Their skepticism was justified. Economic integration and increased movement of people across the Strait will not necessarily lead to political integration. Taiwanese people may not prioritize an improved material standard of living over maintaining their civil liberties. Even if the sole concern is economic benefit, Taiwan arguably has an interest in delaying unification so as to wait for a point in time where China takes an economic loss and Taiwan profits disproportionately from their bilateral trade. Chinese magnanimity would likely decline after unification. MORE