By Patrick Tyler
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The plain is broader on the western side of the island than on the east, where the deep blue of the Pacific sucks the light from the sky with a vacuum of unquenchable depth. On the western side, the shallow waters glow aquamarine. A little more than 100 miles across the Taiwan Strait, mainland China fills the horizon, spreading out in all directions. If the eye pulls back, as if viewing the western Pacific from space, Taiwan becomes a barely perceptible salient in the latitudes of China's sweeping coastline, a captive of China's geography and gravitational pull.
He did not want any of the terrifying scenarios in Shali's briefing to come to pass, he said. Clinton did not have to mention that 1996 was an election year and that the specter of an unpredictable military confrontation with China—with the possibility of American casualties—was not his idea of an attractive backdrop to the coming reelection campaign. Everyone in the room remembered the wreckage the Somalia mission had turned into during their first year in office. Clinton said, someone was going to have to get the message to Lee Teng-hui to back off, because Clinton was not going to risk taking die United States to war every time the president of Taiwan wanted to attend his class reunion in upstate New York or play golf in Hawaii.
The history that follows in these pages is that of America's opening to China and of the long struggle ever since—by six presidents and a host of interested diplomats, spies, and politicians—to find a formula for coexistence, to defer the issue of Taiwan to the future, to bury the enmity of the past, and to construct the basis for a beneficial relationship between the world's most powerful nation and the world's most populous. It is a history littered with false expectations, dashed hopes, and a strong sense of betrayal on both sides, which has led many experts to assert that China and the United States will be enemies in the future.
A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China by Patrick Tyler