There is for China no issue more sensitive or important than Taiwan. Since it seized power, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has insisted that the island is a renegade province that must one day be reunited with the mainland. That date has never been set but that goal has never wavered. Beijing identifies Taiwan as a “core interest,” one that is nonnegotiable and about which other governments can have no say.

Beijing conditions diplomatic relations on its partners’ acceptance of a “one China” policy — there is only one China and Beijing is the capital — and insists that they cannot have normal diplomatic relations with Taipei as well. The result is the near-isolation of Taiwan as the number of countries who recognize it shrinks to a handful — they prefer economic exchange with the mainland — and near-comical diplomatic contortions among countries that want to maintain ties with the island but also don’t want to anger China.

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