Since the inauguration of Tsai Ing-wen as president of Taiwan in May 2016, cross-Strait relations between Taiwan and China have been deteriorating at an alarming rate. The cooling of relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait was expected because Tsai is a member of the Democratic Progressive Party, a political party that generally favors a more pro-Taiwan ideology than China’s preferred Kuomintang. Regardless of low expectations, the cooling has devolved into an unconventional security dilemma, creating an even more fraught situation in East Asia.
In a security dilemma, relations between two or more nations deteriorate and could even lead to a conflict. This situation occurs when one state—China in this example—takes measures to increase its security, such its militarization of the South and East China Sea, causing the security of other states—Taiwan, for instance—to decrease. As a result, the less secure state might do things to increase its own security. The tit-for-tat has the potential to spiral as countries continue to make moves and countermoves. One way to get out of a security dilemma is for countries to have open lines of communication and develop trust so that military buildups or weapons development are not considered threatening.