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How to Prevent Inadvertent Escalations in Taiwan Strait



In the Taiwan Strait, tensions simmer, drawing the world's attention to the delicate situation, especially in the aftermath of Russia's actions in Ukraine. This area, a potential hotspot for conflict, has become a focal point amid speculations ranging from a crisis as soon as 2027 to the symbolic significance of 2049, marking a century of the People's Republic of China.

 

This moment presents a crucial opportunity for global stability, demanding strategies to prevent inadvertent escalations or purposeful confrontations. Previous experiences, notably during Ma Ying-jeou's presidency (2008-2016), offer a potential framework for reconciliation and stability in this region.

 

Despite Beijing's historical reluctance to negotiate with Taiwan's ruling authorities, Ma's administration, employing strategic maneuvers and what scholar Holmes Welch termed "the Chinese art of make believe," brokered over 20 significant cross-strait agreements. These agreements facilitated cooperation in trade, investment, tourism, and law enforcement, although criticized in Taiwan for lacking democratic oversight.

 

Today's challenge revolves around preserving Taiwan's autonomy while fostering a less adversarial relationship with China, ensuring any agreements align with Taiwan's democratic values. However, since Tsai Ing-wen took office, Beijing's efforts to compel recognition of its One China stance have strained relations, resulting in the suspension of crucial agreements.

 

The upcoming presidential election in Taiwan introduces diverse possibilities for cross-strait relations. The KMT candidate, Mayor Hou Yu-ih, aims to reaffirm adherence to the "1992 Consensus," viewed by Beijing as crucial for renewed cooperation. Hou seeks to revive communication channels and past agreements, focusing on issues like crime prevention and mutual judicial assistance.

 

Yet, prevailing sentiments in Taiwan might challenge Hou's approach. The Democratic Progressive Party's candidate, William Lai, stands firm against conceding to Beijing's One China principle but remains open to dialogue without preconditions.

 

This divergence in approaches places the onus on Beijing to reconsider its rigid stance, especially given the failure of its anti-Tsai policies. President Xi Jinping faces internal and external challenges, including economic sluggishness, prompting a re-evaluation of Taiwan policy for regional stability.

 

Adopting flexibility and departing from rigidity could offer Beijing a more constructive path forward, acknowledging the potential benefits of a conciliatory approach. The choice rests with China's leadership to opt for engagement over confrontation, recognizing that cooperation could yield more favorable outcomes than hostility.

 

For Xi Jinping, adapting policies to the evolving dynamics in the Taiwan Strait could not only ease tensions but also enhance China's global standing and ease domestic pressures. Achieving stability demands a willingness to negotiate, accommodate differing perspectives, and embrace a nuanced approach to cross-strait relations.

 

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