US, China and Taiwan: Why the triangle might get more complex

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Post-Event Summary
The governments of the U.S., China and Taiwan will continue to act according to national interest while calibrating their respective policies based on the actions and reactions of the other two countries. This was a point of agreement among panelists at Monday’s AEI event addressing the ways in which the political transitions in these countries would affect their interaction with each other.

Despite the panel’s agreement on the triangular interplay among the U.S., China and Taiwan, they raised different points about each country’s unique qualities. Gary Schmitt of AEI emphasized that although U.S. policy would remain a mixture of engagement and hedging, hedging might receive more resources and attention in the immediate future.

Bonnie Glaser of the Center for Strategic and International Studies highlighted possible areas of change in cross-Straits ties, but also commented that Taiwan and its people will be reluctant to move forward on political questions so long as China remains authoritarian. Randall Schriver of the Project 2049 Institute discussed the possibility of Beijing leadership speeding up certain cross-Strait initiatives toward the end of Ma’s second term if he is replaced by a president from the Democratic Progressive Party. Although the future remains unclear, given the variety of domestic and international factors at play, it is fair to say that the complexity of the U.S.-China-Taiwan triangle will persist.

-- Lara Crouch

Event Description
Chinese politician Bo Xilai’s surprising downfall and dissident Chen Guangcheng’s escape to the U.S. embassy hint at political schisms and internal instability that potentially foreshadow a changing China. During his re-election campaign, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou floated pursuing a cross-Strait peace treaty with mainland China. Furthermore, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have taken a tough line on China in their campaign rhetoric.

2012 looks to be an interesting year for the already complex political triangle among the United States, Taiwan and China, with each country undergoing political transitions. Should we expect policy continuity from President Ma Ying-jeou and the likely new Chinese leader Xi Jinping? What about continuity in the United States? How would a Republican administration differ from a second Obama term in formulating cross-Strait policy, including arms sales to Taiwan? An expert panel featuring Bonnie Glaser, Randall Schriver and Gary Schmitt will discuss these and other questions.

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