Insight and analysis of top stories from our award winning magazine “Bloomberg Businessweek”.
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Wealthy, democratic and strategically located off the Chinese coast, Taiwan has long been the most volatile issue between the US and China. Both sides have avoided serious conflict by leaving unsettled the question of who actually owns the island. But it’s becoming harder to avoid as China’s military ratchets up exercises near what President Xi Jinping views as his country’s lost territory. Standing in the way are the US Pacific Fleet and Taiwanese voters, who emphatically rejected closer ties with Beijing in two straight elections. The tensions are raising the stakes for US President Joe Biden’s efforts to manage a growing superpower rivalry with China.
Empires have jockeyed over Taiwan for centuries, with occupations by the Spanish, Dutch and China’s Qing Dynasty. The Qing’s loss of Taiwan to the Japanese after a humiliating military defeat in 1895 made “reunification” a rallying cry for generations of Chinese, including Xi’s. To the US and Japan, Taiwan is a vital stronghold in a string of archipelagos that they rely on to contain China and safeguard trade routes. Taiwan has thrived under American protection to become a critical supplier of semiconductors and other high-tech goods. Today, the island of 23.5 million people is also among Asia’s most vibrant democracies, a rejoinder to Communist Party arguments that Western political structures are incompatible with Chinese culture.

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