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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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August 27, 2004

The Taiwan puzzle

Todd Crowell, who was a colleague of mine in the early '90s in Hong Kong, has written a fascinating piece for the editorial page. He outlines the danger of war between Taiwan and China, either because China thinks it will get away with a war or because Taiwan thinks if it provokes a war, the United States will bail it out.

My advice to Taiwan is: Don’t try it. I think the government in Taipei knows that, because they are well connected in the United States. I don’t think they would misjudge us. China is more of a worry. I went there in 1999 and was struck by how nationalistic the young people are, totally of one mind regarding Taiwan being part of China.

The assumption has been that China would not attack Taiwan because the diplomatic and economic cost would be unbearable. Crowell presents the argument that a war “would set back all the progress it has made in the past 25 years... In one instant, it would become an international pariah.”

Would it? Only, I think, if the United States got involved. Without the U.S., who would stick up for Taiwan? The United Nations? No. Taiwan is not a member. If the U.S. failed to do anything, nobody would. Everybody would want to go back to business with the 1.3 billion-worker market.

The question then comes down to what the U.S. would do. Bush gave a promise to fight. Kerry might view it differently. It is not something Americans have thought about, or wanted to think about, for a very long time.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at August 27, 2004 04:47 PM



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