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America’s Coming War With China

A Collision Course Over Taiwan

About the Book

One issue could lead to a disastrous war between the United States and China in the next five to ten years: Taiwan. In early 2005 China passed an anti‐​secession law that authorized the use of force against Taiwan would it declare independence, raising tensions in a region where emotions are already running high. Many see the move as one step closer to war breaking out between China and Taiwan. A growing number of Taiwanese want independence for their island and regard mainland China as an alien nation. Mainland Chinese believe Taiwan was stolen from China more and a century ago, and their patience about getting it back is wearing thin.

Washington officially endorses a “one China” policy but also sells arms to Taiwan and maintains an implicit pledge to defend it from attack. That policy invites miscalculation by both Taiwan and China. The three parties are on a collision course, and unless something dramatic changes, an armed conflict is virtually inevitable within a decade.

In America’s Coming War With China, Carpenter warns that the U.S. must do—quickly—to avoid being dragged into war.

About the Author

Ted Galen Carpenter is vice president for defense and foreign policy at the Cato Institute.

What Others Have Said

An intractable and dangerous international confrontation gets a sobering reappraisal in this provocative study. Carpenter gives a lucid, evenhanded diplomatic history of the China‐​Taiwan standoff and the recent rise in tensions as China’s growing determination to reclaim Taiwan meets increasingly defiant Taiwanese assertions of independence. Influenced by business interests eager to court China and conservatives loath to see Taiwan’s plucky democracy swallowed by the Communist Leviathan, Washington placates Beijing with an official One China policy while selling arms to Taiwan and conveying a tacit promise to defend her against Chinese attack. These mixed messages, Carpenter argues, invite the two sides into miscalculations that could embroil America in war, a possibility he fleshes out in a scenario for a 2013 conflict between China and the United States. He proposes that America cut the Gordian knot by firmly renouncing any military commitment to Taiwan while continuing arms sales, thus signaling Taiwan’s status as a ” ‘peripheral,’ not a vital, American interest.” Carpenter’s realpolitik will stir controversy, but his incisive analysis of the Taiwan standoff and America’s contradictory policy toward it makes a convincing case for a change of course.
–Publisher’s Weekly

America’s Coming War with China is a timely and important book. Although 9/11 and the subsequent Iraq war pushed it off the foreign policy center stage, recent events have put the spotlight back on the complex Sino‐​American relationship. Ted Galen Carpenter forcefully reminds us that, because the unresolved Taiwan issue could trigger a military showdown between the United States and China, relations with Beijing constitute perhaps the most important long‐​term strategic challenge for Washington. America’s Coming War with China is must‐​read for anyone interested in contemporary American foreign policy.”
–Christopher Layne, Associate Professor, Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A & M University

“In America’s Coming War with China, Ted Galen Carpenter explains with unique insight how the misjudgments and false assumptions of Washington’s policy of strategic ambiguity on China and Taiwan are putting the United States on a collision course with China. This book is a must read.”
–Clyde Prestowitz, author of Three Billion New Capitalists

America’s Coming War with China is a thoughtful, even‐​toned, deeply disturbing book. Ted Galen Carpenter has long been one of the wisest, most far‐​seeing foreign policy voices in Washington. His quiet, careful documentation of an on‐​rushing, potentially catastrophic confrontation between the United States and China over Taiwan, which can still be avoided, but may not be, is far more troubling than the hysterical claims from other sources that brand China as an inevitable, mortal enemy of the United States. This is clearly one of the most important books on U.S. foreign policy in years. It is essential reading for everyone who cares about the peace of the world.”
–Martin Sieff, National Security Correspondent, United Press International

America’s Coming War with China provides the ground‐​shaking wake‐​up call to U.S. officials who favor inertia over sensible policy in managing the U.S-China-Taiwan relationship. Carpenter’s brilliant book jumps ahead to 2013 and makes the case that we are facing a train wreck with China over the Taiwan issue if we do nothing to resolve dangerous and exploitable ambiguities in U.S. policy. American views of China tend to swing from paranoia to over‐​indulgent trust. Carpenter calls for consistent strategy and a realistic assessment of this crucial East Asian relationship in this must‐​read page‐​turner.”
–Steven Clemons, Executive Vice President, New America Foundation

“The book is an outstanding examination of the Taiwan issue and should serve as a wake‐​up call to Washington policy‐​makers involved in the United States’ relations with Taiwan and China. Carpenter’s book should be compulsory reading for all likely to debate the issue, whether in Taiwan or China, but especially for future U.S. Congress members, presidents and secretaries of state and defense, in order to avoid the kind of ignorance and potentially catastrophic decisions that have led to situations such as Iraq.
–Philip Courtenay, Taiwan Journal