The Struggle for Taiwan: A History by Sulmaan Wasif Khan - review by Neal E Robbins

Neal E Robbins

Tale of Two Chinas

The Struggle for Taiwan: A History

By

Allen Lane 336pp £25
 

In this excellent and timely book, Sulmaan Wasif Khan unpeels the decades of paranoia and misunderstanding that have led to the current Taiwan imbroglio. He re-examines diplomats’ and national leaders’ choices over the last eighty years, describing how a combination of great events, happenstance and ill-informed decisions has made Taiwan the conflict zone it is today.

Take the much-ballyhooed trip of Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, to Taiwan in August 2022. Fired by her ideals to show support for the shining example of democracy that Taiwan is today, Pelosi promised US solidarity in the face of Chinese threats to take over the self-governing, effectively independent island. In response, Beijing launched missiles into the sea around Taiwan and repeatedly entered its waters and encroached on its airspace. In April this year, after the US Congress passed a bill giving Taiwan billions of dollars in military aid, China sent even more warplanes to harass the island, raising tensions to a new high.

The people most in the firing line, the Taiwanese, appreciate US support and shrug off China’s chest-beating displays. Chinese bellicosity turns them against China. Xi Jinping, president of China and cheerleader for Chinese nationalism, doesn’t seem to notice, however. For Beijing, the Americans are interlopers in China’s internal affairs. As

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RLF - March