Erupting or Bluffing:The 1995 -1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis





Published date: 

六月, 2007


Jung-Hsiang Tsai


The 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Missile Crisis was the most serious military and diplomatic conflict among the U.S., China and Taiwan in recent years. The worst possible scenario during the crisis was that China would wage a war with Taiwan that might drag the U.S into the war. The best possible scenario was that the Chinese military exercise was just a bluff. Why did a rising power (China) adopt a strategy of brinkmanship (military exercise) that targeted Taiwan? What were the reasons and international implications behind China’s military actions? Why did China choose to initiate the second missile exercise in 1996? Why could a superpower (the U.S.) not deter China from engaging in military exercises targeting Taiwan (deterrence failure)? This paper aims to answer these questions. The main findings are that the reason why China chose to show force was in order to enhance China’s own international status, the reason why the U.S. failed to deter China was because of its overcommitment in cooperating with China and low credibility in defending Taiwan, and the reason why China deliberately brought about the crisis was in order to increase its diplomatic influence.