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What You See Is (Not) What You Get? The Taiwan Question, Geo‐economic Realities, and the “China Threat” Imaginary

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Abstract:  Despite emergent trends of geo‐economic integration between nation‐states, the role of realist‐driven geopolitical calculation appears highly enduring. This paper explores the potential contradictions between state‐centric geopolitical concerns and transnational geo‐economic formation through an exploration of China–US tensions over Taiwan, a territory of indeterminate geo‐legal status and which China regards as its own province. I consider how the Taiwan Relations Act, a domestic public law of the US that frames US–Taiwan relations and has a major influence on East Asian geopolitics, could contradict emergent “China region”, and possibly even China–US, geo‐economic integration. This is because the US‐sustained arms sales to Taiwan rest on imagining and containing China as a “threat”, while geo‐economic integration entails enrolling China as a strategic partner, if not an ally. Consequently, the Taiwan issue could stifle the enhancement of Sino‐American relations at a historical juncture when the Chinese and American economies are more intertwined than ever.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada;

Publication date: 2012-09-01

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