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Taiwan is approaching an ominous deadline. For decades, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party have declared that China’s “great national rejuvenation” must be accomplished by the year 2049. National rejuvenation, the party insists, includes a Taiwan governed by the same powers and principles that now reign across the Taiwan Strait. Beijing would prefer to accomplish this through the free assent of the Taiwanese people. If they do not give it, party leadership has made clear that it is willing to decide the matter with military force.

For many years, this seemed like an empty threat. Traditionally, Taiwan offset Chinese manpower with superior technology and training. But over the last 15 years, the Chinese military has implemented the most ambitious modernization program the world has seen since the 1930s. China’s navy has, in the words of one U.S. defense analyst, “metamorphosized from a coastal-defense force composed of largely obsolescent

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