Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Law’s Spectral Answers to the Cross-Strait Sovereignty Question

Law’s Spectral Answers to the Cross-Strait Sovereignty Question

There is much talk of the need to craft a new, formal arrangement to address relations across the Taiwan Strait and the “sovereignty question.” In international relations, formal arrangements deal in terms that are partly legal, such as “statehood” and “sovereignty.” “Blended,” “hybrid,” or “modified” sovereignty arrangements have been systematized in international law over the centuries and should be especially relevant under current conditions of sovereignty-undermining globalization. The hope and expectation is that these arrangements can provide a new structure for cross-Strait relations to reduce recent tendencies toward political crisis and manage increasingly dense and complex economic ties.

The optimism, however, is misplaced. Available legal models of non-traditional sovereignty interact in toxic ways with contemporary cross-Strait politics. Absent a change in political will and perceived interests on one or both sides of the Strait, focusing on formal solutions afforded by international law will do little good and may do considerable harm.

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