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Will China Seize Taiwan?

Wishful Thinking in Beijing, Taipei, and Washington Could Spell War in 2019

A Taiwanese naval ceremony at Kaohsiung's Zuoying base, Taiwan, November 2018 Tyrone Siu / REUTERS

“China must be, and will be reunified,” Chinese President Xi Jinping declared in a speech in January. Xi spoke of “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan, but he warned, “We do not forsake the use of force.” Ever since Hong Kong and Macau rejoined Mainland China in 1997 and 1999, respectively, Chinese expectations that Taiwan would follow suit have grown. When, a decade ago, the Beijing Olympics and the global financial crisis boosted China’s confidence on the world stage, those expectations redoubled.

But “peaceful reunification” has proved elusive. After Taiwan elected Tsai Ing-wen, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), to the presidency in 2016, many Mainland Chinese lost patience with the idea. Some Chinese nationalists now argue that China has only a brief window of opportunity to seize Taiwan. Talk of “forceful reunification” is ascendant.

China has already begun to tighten the noose. It has forced Taiwan out of international bodies, such as

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