"The Taiwan problem is not only a problem between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait; its overall development trend will also be decided by the East Asian-Western Pacific region's great power relations, and by the region's geopolitical situation."

Many seasoned observers of cross-strait relations might be surprised to know that the above quote comes from the study materials of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) Central Party School — but they should not be. In an age where Beijing controls the narrative surrounding Taiwan as solely the domain of China's internal affairs, it is important to remember that Chinese strategists have soberly assessed the geostrategic significance of Taiwan for hundreds of years, fully cognizant that it sits but 130 km off China's coast and straddles both the East and South China Seas.

The late U.S. scholar Alan M. Wachman reminded the West of this in his influential 2007 book "Why Taiwan?" In that work, Wachman explains that Chinese dynasties viewed Taiwan as a protective barrier against foreign invaders, and as a threat to China's security once controlled by outside powers. History shows that the danger posed to China from Taiwan was not merely symbolic: Ming loyalists used the island as a springboard for inciting rebellion in Qing China during the 17th century, the Japanese military launched operations against China from Taiwan during World War II, and Republic of China (ROC) raids were unleashed from Taiwan against Communist China during the Cold War.