Analysis | Why Taiwan Is the Biggest Risk for a U.S.-China Clash

Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou engaged Beijing in a series of negotiations culminating with an unprecedented meeting with Xi in 2015. But the landslide defeat of Ma’s nationalist party in 2016 elections upended Beijing’s plans for reconciliation and installed as president Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party, which was founded on the promise of independence. Rejecting the nationalist party position that both sides belong to “One China,” Tsai was comfortably re-elected in 2020. Beijing has responded by cutting off communication, curbing travel, resuming efforts to lure away Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic partners and pressuring airlines, retailers and other multinationals to revise policies that treat Taiwan as a country. More recently, Chinese forces have stepped up naval and air exercises near the island, sending ripples through financial markets. In April, a sortie of 25 Chinese planes entered airspace in which Taiwan reserves the right to intercept unidentified aircraft.

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