Why Taiwan? Geostrategic Rationales for China’s Territorial Integrity

by Alan M. Wachman

Studies in Asian Security

Publisher: Stanford: Stanford University Press
Available From: Stanford University Press
Publication Date: 2007
ISBN: 978-0-8047-5554-2
Binding: paper












Why has Taiwan retained its salience for more than half a century as the principal unresolved territorial claim of the People's Republic of China? The author presents the official perspective of the current Beijing government, its predecessors in the Republican period, and the last imperial dynasties. He demonstrates that a careful look at the historical record casts doubt on the incontestability of Taiwan's status as part of China, and that the general principles used to justify the claim to Taiwan could just as well be applied to other peripheral territories that China no longer attempts to rule. Rather, he argues, Taiwan's distinctiveness derives mainly from its critical geopolitical location.



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  1. Introduction
  2. Reframing the Cross-Strait Dispute: Geography and the Strategic Salience of Taiwan
  3. The People's Republic of Qing?
  4. Shifting Salience (I): From Nationalist Indifference to Geostrategic Imperative
  5. Shifting Salience (II): From CCP Indifference to Instrumental Indignation
  6. Shifting Salience (III): From Civil War to Cold War
  7. Taiwan in the "Imagined Geography" of the PRC
  8. Why Taiwan? The Great Confluence








"Wachman's exemplary narrative demonstrates Taiwan's increasing geostrategic importance to Chinese regimes. This book will change the way Chinese strategy is viewed and will do much to integrate studies of the China-Taiwan contest with broader questions of Chinese military-political strategy in East Asia."

--William C. Kirby, Harvard University


"The cleverness of this highly readable and convincingly argued volume is its simplicity. It is as if Wachman is intent on stripping away some of the more cumbersome theorizing and returning to some basics of international relations... Placing into historical context contemporary Chinese thinking on sea power, expansionist aims and the centrality of Taiwan to these ambitions [Why Taiwan] is highly instructive and presents some ominous implications for those interested in peace in the Taiwan Strait... This volume offers a thought-provoking contribution to the study of the direction of China's ambitions and the attendant dangers for Taiwan."

--Taiwan Review


"Wachman draws on his extensive knowledge of Chinese history and politics to provide an explanation as to why the People's Republic of China has been so determined to bring Taiwan back under Chinese mainland sovereignty. Wachman supplies careful documentation and develops his thesis with care and conviction."



"Why is China's position on Taiwan so unyielding, to the point that responsible analysts take seriously Beijing's threat to use military force if necessary to prevent the island's independence? Alan Wachman's answer to this puzzle is the most persuasive I have seen."

--Political Science Quarterly


"This is a good book in that the author addresses with careful research one of the issues of war and peace in our time: Why the island of Taiwan is worth fighting for. Alan M. Wachman, professor of international politics at Tufts University, touches on most of the reasons the PRC wants to conquer Taiwan but emphasizes its strategic location. A particular strength of the book is the author's reliance on authoritative Chinese sources, letting them tell their own story."



"China's desire to establish itself as a sea power is a development worthy of a great deal of attention from those hoping to preserve the status quo in East Asia, and this volume offers a thought-provoking contribution to the study of the direction of China's ambitions and the attendant dangers for Taiwan."

--Taiwan Review


"Alan M. Wachman's exemplary narrative in this book demonstrates his comprehensive grasp of China modern history and insightful analysis of the changes in China's foreign strategy. Not only is this book a must-read for those scholars studying Chinese foreign policy, but it should be assigned as a required reading for all upper-level courses on Chinese foreign policy."

--Journal of Chinese Political Science