Crisis Management and the Taiwan Situation: Chinese Views and Conflict Avoidance 

As the United States and China continue to clash over the contentious Taiwan issue, the likelihood of serious diplomatic and military crises between Washington and Beijing is poised to grow in the years ahead. Tendencies to overreact on both sides, reinforced by their deepening mutual hostility and suspicion, could make a dangerous escalation more likely in a crisis. It is increasingly crucial for Washington and Beijing to possess more reliable and effective bilateral crisis management mechanisms and procedures that can help them avoid crises and prevent escalation when crises occur. Despite some progress over the years, the U.S.-China crisis management system remains largely fragile and insufficient. The existing limits and deficiencies stem from a broad array of factors in Chinese and American crisis management views, approaches, and practices that drive both sides to engage in less credible and often escalatory behavior before and during a crisis.

As many observers have stated, by far the most likely source of a serious political-military crisis between the United States and China resides in their differences over Taiwan. The Taiwan situation presents many conditions that might generate a major crisis.

First, it involves very high stakes on both sides: for China, the nationalist legitimacy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) regime in preventing what is seen as the loss of Chinese territory and in supporting the “sacred” task of national reunification; for the United States, the credibility of U.S. security commitments to allies and partners and its general support for a democratic friend. 

​Second, the defense of such stakes would inevitably involve the use of military instruments to convey high levels of resolve and to deter unacceptable actions, thus posing a high level of danger.

Real the full piece in China Leadership Monitor.