Conventional War Across the Taiwan Strait

The Nationalist government in Taiwan has been a constant and visible challenge to the Beijing regime’s claim to be the legitimate government of all China since the inception of the People’s Republic in 1949. Accordingly, Beijing’s political objective has been to compel Taipei to accede to reunification on its terms. To be sure, other more pressing political goals absorbed China’s attention during the cold war, but since the late 1980s the growing independence movement on Taiwan coupled with the collapse of the Soviet Union has returned the Taiwanese issue to a prominent place among China’s strategic concerns. Chinese leaders in Beijing, now assiduously cultivating Chinese nationalism as a force for internal political stability, could not ignore this mounting challenge to their authority and to the integrity of China. In 1992, a Chinese official with “ties to senior generals” stated, “If Taiwan declares independence, we’ll have to attack them.” More recently, Beijing held a series of missile tests and military maneuvers near Taiwan between July 1995 and March 1996 to demonstrate its resolve…

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