Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (C) arrives at the Tsoying navy base in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan on March 21, 2017. Taiwan formally launched an ambitious project to build its own submarines as the island faces growing military threats from China as relations deteriorate. Photo: AFP/ Sam Yeh

“We Taiwanese could be headed for a compromise over the fate of our country on China’s terms”, writes Enoch Wu in the pages of the New York Times this week.

“Beijing’s belligerence presents an existential threat to Taiwan, a country that Chinese leaders have long vowed to take by force if they deem necessary. For years, the political establishment in Taipei has delegated responsibility for responding to Beijing to the United States.”

The editorial exposes perhaps the most fraught bilateral issue in US-China relations, one of far greater gravity than that of territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The US has long maintained tacit support for Taiwan’s de facto independence, despite the fact that any statement in support of the territory’s status as an independent nation would be considered an act of war by Beijing.

As China’s power grows, so too does the volume of many voices in Taiwan of people who feel less and less connected to a Chinese identity. This was on display when voters elected Taiwan’s current independence-flirting president Tsai Ing-wen – though since taking office she has espoused support only for maintaining the awkward status quo.

Will China’s growing economic and military might eventually lead to some sort of conclusion to the cross-strait conundrum? Let’s hope for the sake of peace and stability we don’t find out the answer any time soon.

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