That has even been the case with East Asia, a region in which the United States has major economic and security stakes. Moreover, the extent to which developments in East Asia have received attention has mainly been focused on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs as well as China’s behavior in the South China Sea. But there is another trend that deserves far more notice than it has received: the rapidly deteriorating ties between Taiwan and mainland China.
Some deterioration of relations between Beijing and Taipei was expected in light of the electoral triumph of the pro‐independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the January 2016 elections for Taiwan’s presidency and legislature. Chinese leaders were unhappy about the victory of the DPP’s Tsai Ing‐wen as Taiwan’s new president, even though she was not as strident in her advocacy of formal independence for the island as the last DPP president, Chen Shui‐bian, had been. But the speed and extent of the deterioration has been an ominous surprise.
Even before she took office in May, Tsai, along with her supporters, were warned by Beijing that they must accept the so‐called 1992 consensus stating that there was one China, however much the two sides might disagree about the specific definition of that concept. The pressure on Tsai and other key political players has continued unabated since she took office. Zhang Zhijun, the head of the Taiwan Affairs Office, put it bluntly to a visiting Taiwanese business delegation in late May, saying, “There is no future in Taiwan independence, and this cannot become an option for Taiwan’s future. This is the conclusion of history.” He added that “some people say you must pay attention to broad public opinion in Taiwan,” but he would have none of that reasoning, arguing instead, “Taiwan society ought to understand and attach great importance to the feelings of the 1.37 billion residents of the mainland.”