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International Relations

Taiwan, Thorn in China’s Side, Gets New Attention

Taiwan Flag
Courtesy Nicolas Raymond/Flickr. CC BY 2.0

This article was originally published by YaleGlobal Online on 6 December 2016.

Taiwan issue underscores limits of power for the US and China – and the calcification of international policymaking

Since the 1940s, after Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the defeated Kuomintang retreated to Taipei, the Taiwan Strait has remained among the most intractable issues in international relations and a potential site for conflict in Asia. A brief phone call between the US President- elect Donald Trump and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was a startling intervention in what’s become a warily balanced array of power relations sustained by arcane diplomatic formalisms.

The response from China, which maintains territorial claim to the island as sovereign territory, was relatively muted with more annoyance directed toward Taiwan. Immediate reaction elsewhere to the phone call included concerns about an escalation of the conflict for the entire region and the United States.