Would the People’s Republic of China (PRC) invade Taiwan if it meant risking war with the United States and its allies? In the past, it was clear Beijing had no appetite for starting a war over Taiwan its military could not win. Today, however, a growing number of US-based analysts are skeptical China can be deterred from attempting unification with Taiwan by force. They claim Chinese leaders no longer tremble at the prospect of the United States coming to the defense of Taipei because Beijing’s top brass increasingly believes it would prevail in a war over the island.1 Some of Taiwan’s staunchest supporters argue for a strengthening of US commitments in response to China’s growing confidence and assertiveness. One familiar recommendation is for Washington to trade its long-standing policy of “strategic ambiguity” (meant to leave both China and Taiwan guessing as to how the United States would respond in the event of war) for “strategic clarity” in favor of Taipei.2 This view claims the threat of a Chinese invasion has grown only because the United States has failed to keep pace with China’s rising power. If Beijing were convinced any move against Taiwan would be met with the full force of the US military, then the risk of war would drop precipitously.
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