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America's Coming War with China: A Collision Course over Taiwan Hardcover – January 5, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An intractable and dangerous international confrontation gets a sobering reappraisal in this provocative study. Cato Institute analyst Carpenter (The Korean Conundrum) gives a lucid, evenhanded diplomatic history of the China-Taiwan standoff and the recent rise in tensions as China's growing determination to reclaim Taiwan meets increasingly defiant Taiwanese assertions of independence. Exacerbating the problem is America's approach of "strategic ambiguity," which he considers a euphemism for "confusion" and "incoherence." Influenced by business interests eager to court China and conservatives loath to see Taiwan's plucky democracy swallowed by the Communist Leviathan, Washington placates Beijing with an official One China policy while selling arms to Taiwan and conveying a tacit promise to defend her against Chinese attack. These mixed messages, Carpenter argues, invite the two sides into miscalculations that could embroil America in war, a possibility he fleshes out in a scenario for a 2013 conflict between China and the United States. He proposes that America cut the Gordian knot by firmly renouncing any military commitment to Taiwan while continuing arms sales, thus signaling Taiwan's status as a " 'peripheral,' not a vital, American interest." Carpenter's realpolitik will stir controversy, but his incisive analysis of the Taiwan standoff and America's contradictory policy toward it makes a convincing case for a change of course. (Feb.)
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Review

America's Coming War with China is a timely and important book. Although 9/11 and the subsequent Iraq war pushed it off the foreign policy center stage, recent events have put the spotlight back on the complex Sino-American relationship. Ted Galen Carpenter forcefully reminds us that, because the unresolved Taiwan issue could trigger a military showdown between the United States and China, relations with Beijing constitute perhaps the most important long-term strategic challenge for Washington. America's Coming War with China is must-read for anyone interested in contemporary American foreign policy. (Christopher Layne, Associate Professor, Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A & M University, and author of The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Cornell University Press))

In America's Coming War with China, Ted Galen Carpenter explains with unique insight how the misjudgments and false assumptions of Washington's policy of strategic ambiguity on China and Taiwan are putting the United States on a collision course with China. This book is a must read. (Clyde Prestowitz, author of Three Billion New Capitalists)

America's Coming War with China is a thoughtful, even-toned, deeply disturbing book. Ted Galen Carpenter has long been one of the wisest, most far-seeing foreign policy voices in Washington. His quiet, careful documentation of an on-rushing, potentially catastrophic confrontation between the United States and China over Taiwan, which can still be avoided, but may not be, is far more troubling than the hysterical claims from other sources that brand China as an inevitable, mortal enemy of the United States. This is clearly one of the most important books on U.S. foreign policy in years. It is essential reading for everyone who cares about the peace of the world. (Christopher Layne, Associate Professor, Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A & M University, and author of The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Cornell University Press))

Ted Galen Carpenter's America's Coming War with China provides the ground-shaking wake-up call to U.S. officials who favor inertia over sensible policy in managing the U.S-China-Taiwan relationship. Carpenter's brilliant book jumps ahead to 2013 and makes the case that we are facing a train wreck with China over the Taiwan issue if we do nothing to resolve dangerous and exploitable ambiguities in U.S. policy. American views of China tend to swing from paranoia to over-indulgent trust. Carpenter calls for consistent strategy and a realistic assessment of this crucial East Asian relationship in this must-read page-turner. (Steven Clemons, Executive Vice President, New America Foundation)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (January 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403968411
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403968418
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,888,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A. Morillo on March 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The content of this book runs a bit contrary to its title in that it is not a military book, but more of a political and strategic one. A more appropriate title could have been `The China-Taiwan Stand Off.'

Given the title of the book, a military analysis of a possible war with China is expected. But as it stands, the book is a bit short and a bit general when it comes to military matters. The work could have been better served by a group of experts, or two authors. The writer is a member of the Cato Institute, and should have had colleagues at the institute available and willing to work with him. As it stands, the finished work it is a small book (216 pages).

As for the Cato Institute, it is known for supporting `hands-off' politics, both at the economic and international level. Therefore it is not surprising that the author advises on a hands off approach to Taiwan by emphasizing that the US should end all defense obligations while simultaneously free up all weapons sales.

The author warns of a possible conflict with China, but does not excuse US policy as a co-contributor. Contrary to most other books on the subject, the author does not exclude US provocations against China (the sudden sale of high-tech weaponry to Taiwan, the reneging on supposed agreements with China, the tentative air defense shield for Taiwan etc) instead of exclusively focusing on Chinese provocations.

This book makes it obvious the US is talking through both sides of its mouth on the Taiwan issue. Unlike China, who has made its stance crystal clear, the US position on Taiwan borders on the nebulous. Herein lies the danger.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on February 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book claims that the American alliance with Taiwan will lead to a war with China in 2013 because of America's committment to defending the island. However the author then proposes cutting the U.S off from Taiwan. This is a strange proscroption. Just because an alliance with a democracy might mean there is a chance of war with the dictatorship doesnt mean every alliance should be ditched. That would be like claiming that since America's alliance to England in the 1930s might lead to war with nazi Germany that therefore the U.S should have cut herself off. Alliances are part of foreign policy, China must also fear that an invasion of Taiwan will lead to war and this is thus a balance of power, a key to diplomacy. Kissinger has shown this in Diplomacy (A Touchstone Book).

This book is both far fetched and draws the wrong conclusions.

Seth J. Frantzman
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By readfreak_downunder on July 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
An excellent primer on the 'Taiwan problem', although those who follow the issue won't find much new here. The first chapter sets out a scenario for a war in the Strait, the rest trace the problem from its origins and explain why it's heading for crisis in the near future. The book is short on military details, as another reviewer noted - the chapter on PRC military capabilities is its shortest. The concluding chapter setting out policy recommendations for the US govt is also a little brief. The author also suffers from the chronic inability of western polsci writers on China to get historical details right (Taiwan was not occupied by the 'Ming dynasty' in 1661, Mr Carpenter), though it's a minor beef given the subject matter. The book is strongest in its analysis of the contemporary politics and strategic thinking on this most dangerous of global hotspots. A refreshing change from the fear-mongering polemic that usually passes for American popular writing on the PRC.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By twchang on March 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
American is full of intelligent experts on China, but it doesn't seem to have a lot of experts on Taiwan. Taiwan might not be as big or as important as China to the US, but it is an important elements in the situation. Without the understanding, there will be no accurate conclusion and no good proposition of solutions.

I think Taiwan should be allowed to defend itself, if it is under attack. I agree with the author on that the US should really reconsider its policy, and sell Taiwan weapons other than defensive ones when necessary because there is no way Taiwan can defend itself properly just by taking a pounding. Defensive weapon are usually more expensive, and it can't help detering China's attack, China will just keep attacking. If Taiwan has the ability to defend itself then the US wouldn't need to worry too much if it will get drag into the war.

I disagree with the previous poster on encouraging Taiwan to reunify with China. That will be a big strategic mistake in the long run I believe. The US should clearly state that "we do not support indepedence, and we do not support reunification." This way it makes the US neutral on this matter. (which it should be, because ideally the fate of Taiwan should rest on the hand of Taiwanese, not the US or China, since they are the one that live and die on it.)

Despite the US discouragement of indepedence and China's threat and coercion, Taiwan's recent poll seems to show that the percentage of people who support independence is actually growing over past few years. Perhaps the US should wait a bit more instead of just rushing in and push Taiwan to China's embrace.
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