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The Tragedy of Taiwan’s Success

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The Tragedy of Taiwan’s Success

The logic and virtue of American “strategic ambiguity” are more important than ever.

The Wire China,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

America’s strategic equivocation about its intent to defend Taiwan has assumed greater importance.

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  • Eye Opening
  • Background
  • Eloquent


China is on a mission to seal its destiny by taking Taiwan by force, China expert Orville Schell writes in this sobering analysis, and he notes that the United States and the world must awaken to this harsh reality. For its part, Taiwan needs a strong military and a citizens’ militia to stand up to the threat. The United States and Taiwan must achieve a delicate balance, as President Xi Jinping appears ready to wrest back control of Taiwan, even if such action risks imperiling China.


Taiwan has become an economic and political miracle, all while walking a geopolitical tightrope.

In 1949, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Republic of China, fled to the island of Taiwan after his defeat at the hands of Mao Zedong’s communist forces. Under a government in exile, the Taiwanese people endured Chiang’s authoritarian rule, as well as barrages of communist propaganda from the mainland. Over the decades, Taiwan has prospered economically and evolved into a high-functioning democracy. It has done so despite China’s aversion to egalitarianism and the end ...

About the Author

Orville Schell is the director of the Center on US–China Relations at the Asia Society, and a former professor and dean at the University of California, Berkeley.

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