Uncharted Strait

Uncharted Strait

The Future of China-Taiwan Relations

The future of the Taiwan Strait is more wide open than at any other time in recent decades. Tensions between China and Taiwan have eased since 2008, but the movement toward full rapprochement remains fragile. Whether the two sides of the Strait can sustain and expand a cooperative relationship after decades of mutual distrust and fear is still uncertain.

In Uncharted Strait, Richard Bush, who specialized in Taiwan issues during almost twenty years in the U.S. government, explains the current state of relations between China and Taiwan. He discusses what led to the current situation and then extrapolates the likely future of cross-Strait relations. Bush also explains America’s stake, analyzing possible ramifications for U.S. interests in the critically important East Asia region as well as recommending steps to protect those interests.

As Bush explains, current engagement between Beijing and Taipei increases the likelihood of a peaceful long-term solution to their six-decade dispute. Whether, when, and how that might happen, however, is shrouded in uncertainty. The Taiwan Strait is now uncharted water, and both shores worry about the shoals that may lurk below the surface. China still fears the island’s permanent separation, either because it makes an overt move to de jure independence or continues to refuse unification on Beijing’s terms. Taiwan fears subordination to an authoritarian regime, an adversary from the past that may not have its best interests at heart. And the United States fears instability in East Asia.

Praise for Uncharted Strait: The Future of China-Taiwan Relations:

"Bush’s masterful assessment of Chinese-Taiwanese relations predicts that 'the momentum of cooperation on stabilization that began when [Taiwanese President] Ma [Ying-jeou] took office in 2008 will decelerate and most likely stall.' This was a prescient claim, as that is exactly what began to happen last summer, months after Bush’s book was published, after the Taiwanese legislature balked at passing a cross-strait agreement on liberalizing trade in services. Bush terms the subjects on which the two sides reached deals before 2013 'the low-hanging fruit.' Almost all the agreements concern economic affairs, with nothing substantive addressing politics. Progress has been further slowed by Ma’s recently plummeting approval ratings, which are currently languishing in the midteens. Bush could not have foreseen the dramatic decline in Ma’s popularity; indeed, no specialist has offered an adequate explanation for it. Ma’s ineffectiveness must surely increase Beijing’s worries. It might hasten the end of what Bush terms 'the paradigm of mutual persuasion' and convince Chinese leaders to start exploiting their power advantage more aggressively. Bush’s book offers an exceptionally lucid and comprehensive analysis of what such a shift would likely mean for the region."
Foreign Affairs

"Richard Bush has produced another masterpiece, providing a road map for interpreting and responding to developments in cross-Strait relations that is rooted in careful research and sober analysis of the post-2008 period. The book is by far the most thorough, well-documented, and fair-minded treatment available anywhere. Policymakers in Beijing, Taipei, and Washington would be wise to pay close attention."
—Shelly Rigger, Brown Professor of East Asian Politics and chair of political science, Davidson College

"Building on his masterful assessment of Taiwan-China issues in Untying the Knot, Richard Bush once again employs clear organization and lucid prose in this comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the remarkable recent thaw in cross-Strait relations and its implications for the United States. Readily understood by newcomers and valued by specialists, Uncharted Strait will guide discussion of Taiwan issues for years to come."
—Robert Sutter, Professor, George Washington University