Taiwan is home to a modern technologically advanced democratic society of almost twenty-four million people. In the context of renewed Sino-US rivalry, its contested status makes it not just a potential flashpoint in the Indo-Pacific, but a pivot of global security and economic stability.

The communist leadership in Beijing insists Taiwan will become part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and refuses to renounce the use of force to prevent de jure independence. The authorities in Taipei faithfully represent the preferences of the island residents, who prefer their own form of government.

The security of the Republic of China (Taiwan) exists in a finely balanced equilibrium balancing de facto sovereignty and an ambiguous form of international isolation. The possibility of conflict over Taiwan is foremost a humanitarian concern, but it has profound implications for global norms of peaceful settlement of disputes and self-determination, the balance of regional and global power, and economic security. Deterrence stands partly on the calculation that war would be unbearably costly, but also the reassurance that the status quo is tolerable, and neither forced unification nor unilateral independence is inevitable.