Perfect storm over Taiwan?

At the talk I heard last week by Randall Schriver (discussed here), he referred to the possibility of a “perfect storm” in the dispute between China and Taiwan as 2008 approaches, 2008 being the year in which the US and Taiwan elect new presidents and China hosts its long-desired Olympic Games. He suggested that the storm has begun forming already, as candidates in both countries begin campaigning.

I was somewhat incredulous about the “perfect storm” idea, but over the past couple of days several stories have led me to wonder if the danger might be real.

First, China tells a visiting John Negroponte that the US should halt plans to sell missiles to Taiwan, at the same time that China announced a major increase in defense spending. Now, Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, at a campaign rally for presidential candidates from his Democratic People’s Party, has apparently hinted at Taiwanese independence. (The Financial Times suggests that the verb he used could be “understood as ‘will,’ ‘wants,’ ‘must’ or ‘should,’ but regardless of the interpretation his statement — “Taiwan wants independence, Taiwan wants name rectification, Taiwan wants a new constitution” — is potentially provocative.) The brinkmanship will undoubtedly continue as what looks to be a hard-fought election heats up.

There is indeed real potential for a perfect storm.

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