Taipei, A U.S. scholar warned of a possible cross-Taiwan Strait crisis around 2020 as he believes China's pressure campaign against Taiwan could intensify in the lead-up to and immediately following Taiwan's 2020 presidential election.
Michael S. Chase, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, made the comment in an article titled "Averting a Cross-Strait Crisis" published on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. think tank, on Feb. 26.
China responded to Tsai's refusal to endorse its approach to the 1992 Consensus by implementing a multifaceted pressure campaign to punish and coerce Taiwan into being more compliant, he noted.
The "1992 consensus" refers to a tacit agreement reached in 1992 between the then Kuomintang (KMT) government of Taiwan and Chinese communist officials that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is only "one China."
This pressure campaign could intensify in the next 12 to 18 months -- particularly in the lead-up to and immediately following Taiwan's 2020 presidential election -- to the extent that it triggers a new cross-strait crisis, he noted, adding it would affect U.S. national security interests.
Ahead of the next election, Chase said, there are some warning indicators associated with Beijing's desire to ramp up the pressure against Taipei.
Namely, Taiwan President Tsai-Ing-wen statements, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) changing public opinion (particularly in relation to China), and the emergence of a more pro-independence DPP candidate or a surprise third-party candidate.
Commenting on the implications for U.S.-China relations if a cross-strait crisis were to occur, Chase said it could exacerbate tensions in areas where there was already considerable friction (e.g., maritime disputes in the South China Sea) or imperil cooperation on other issues of concern (e.g., North Korean denuclearization), at least temporarily.
If the United States fails to help Taiwan respond to escalating Chinese pressure tactics or if Washington responds but is unable to stop China, Chase said, other U.S. allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific -- in particular Japan and South Korea -- might see the United States as lacking in resolve or in capability.
In the article, Chase also offered several deescalating options to avoid another cross-Strait crisis, namely, to facilitate communication between Beijing and Taipei, to demonstrate U.S. support for Taiwan and to pressure China to back down or at least attempt to deter China from further escalating the crisis.
"Rather than waiting for the situation to deteriorate before taking action, U.S. policymakers should consider and prepare to implement options to avert a cross-strait crisis, as well as to be better positioned to deal with one effectively if it cannot be avoided," the scholar suggested.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel