How Taiwan can overcome internal stresses and the threat from China
Taiwan was a poster child for the “third wave” of global democratization in the 1980s. It was the first Chinese society to make the transition to democracy, and it did so gradually and peacefully. But Taiwan today faces a host of internal issues, starting with the aging of society and the resulting intergenerational conflicts over spending priorities. China’s long-term threat to incorporate the island on terms similar to those used for Hong Kong exacerbates the island’s home-grown problems. Taiwan remains heavily dependent on the United States for its security, but it must use its own resources to cope with Beijing’s constant intimidation and pressure. How Taiwan responds to the internal and external challenges it faces—and what the United States and other outside powers do to help—will determine whether it is able to stand its ground against China’s ambitions.
The book explores the broad range of issues and policy choices Taiwan confronts and offers suggestions both for what Taiwan can do to help itself and what the United States should do to improve Taiwan’s chances of success.
Praise for Difficult Choices
“Once again, Richard Bush somehow manages to tell a detailed, nuanced story without ever losing sight of the big picture. In Difficult Choices, Bush calls attention to one of the most urgent problems facing Taiwan: how to reconcile the yearnings of a democratic nation with the exigencies of a state facing a truly existential threat. Bush probes the dilemma from all directions—economics, institutions, demographics, and more. It is a hard message to hear, but illuminating the challenge is the first step toward addressing it.”
—Shelley Rigger, Brown Professor of Political Science, Davidson College
“We are approaching the time when Taiwan is going to be a global flash point again, with extremely serious ramifications, and serious measures are required to be prepared for it. In Difficult Choices, Richard Bush presents a clear, comprehensive, and accessible primer on contemporary Taiwan, with particular focus on the relationship with China and the challenges it represents to security and governance.”
—Jonathan Sullivan, associate professor, University of Nottingham
“In Difficult Choices, Richard Bush highlights the existential dilemmas facing Taiwan’s people and the challenges its political system has in reconciling them. Foremost among these challenges is its complicated relationship with the People’s Republic of China. In this careful, well-researched, and highly original analysis, Difficult Choices examines many of the most pressing political issues facing Taiwan and provides a warning about the future if these issues aren’t dealt with effectively.”
—Kharis Templeman, research fellow, Hoover Institution
“In Difficult Choices: Taiwan’s Quest for Security and the Good Life, Bush asks whether Taiwan will be able to simultaneously ensure its security and preserve its hard-won economic and societal gains, or whether the two will become increasingly incompatible. Bush comes at this question from multiple angles with nuance and authority, addressing cross-Strait relations, Taiwan’s domestic challenges, and Taiwanese views on critical strategic and economic issues.”
—David Sacks, Asia Unbound blog
“As one would expect from someone of Richard Bush’s expertise and experience, this book is a comprehensive and invaluable presentation of the situation as of early 2021. If Xi Jinping were to read one book to understand Taiwan inside and out, this should be on his nightstand.”
—Thomas Gold, Taiwan Business TOPICS
Richard C. Bush is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the Chen-fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies. He is a leading specialist on issues concerning Taiwan and its relations with China.
Global Taiwan Institute
Brookings Cafeteria Podcast
CFR's Asia Unbound blog
Taiwan Business TOPICS