Will the New Taiwan Crisis Spiral Out of Control?

There’s no such thing as a winnable U.S.-China crisis over Taiwan. And yet we appear to have sleepwalked into a crisis anyway, pushed over the brink by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to travel to Taipei and meet with Taiwan president Tsai Yingwen.

Pelosi’s trip was a wrongheaded move that, no matter how well-intentioned, failed to deliver meaningful benefits to Taiwan while providing Beijing with a pretext for sharp military and diplomatic escalations. As most experts predicted, Pelosi’s ill-advised trip has triggered a confrontation that poses serious risks to Taipei and Washington alike. China and the United States must now prepare to defuse the crisis triggered by the speaker’s visit to Taiwan.

For more than fifteen years, a university colleague and I have worked with former U.S. and Chinese officials, military officers, and specialists on how to manage a serious political-military crisis of the sort that we now face. Over the years, officials in Beijing and Washington alike have been briefed on the many lessons we have drawn from this undertaking. Unfortunately, thus far, it doesn’t look like many of them are being put to use at this perilous moment. Failing to do so risks propelling us from crisis to conflict.

The first principle of effective U.S.-China crisis management is to stop digging the hole by continuing open-ended, tit-for-tat saber rattling and develop a path toward a face-saving exit for both sides as soon as possible. This will be difficult, as Beijing and Washington view the stakes in Taiwan as sky high and thus place a premium on showing high levels of resolve without offering much in the way of credible assurances to one another.

Read the full article in The National Interest.