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Great Power Competition and the Risk of War in the Taiwan Strait

May 11, 2023
La Jolla, CA
Room 3106, School of Global Policy and Strategy, UC San Diego

There are growing concerns about the risk of conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan. This presentation explains rising tensions by focusing on three abstract terms: Beijing’s pursuit of “peaceful” unification with Taiwan; the United States’ commitment to “unofficial” relations with Taiwan; and the United States’ opposition to unilateral changes to the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait. For decades, these terms served as a bargain for maintaining peace and stability, but the agreement was only theoretical, because the United States and China never reached a joint understanding of what these terms meant in practice. Against the backdrop of great power competition, their fundamental disagreement has been laid bare, raising the risk that the bargain could unravel entirely and lead to war between the United States and China.

The UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) and 21st Century China Center joined together on May 11, 2023 at 4 p.m. PST in Room 3202 for a closed talk with Dr. James Lee, assistant research fellow at the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica in Taiwan and an affiliated researcher at IGCC. His research has been published in International Studies Quarterly, Business and Politics, the Journal of Strategic Studies, the Journal of East Asian Studies, and the Journal of Chinese Political Science. His policy writing has been published in Global Asia, the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, East Asia Forum, Political Violence at a Glance, and The Diplomat. He received his Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University in 2018 and subsequently held research positions at the European University Institute in Florence and the University of California, San Diego. In the fall of 2023, he will be an Eisenhower Defense Fellow at the NATO Defense College in Rome.

Thumbnail credit: Kevin Harber