Strait talk: Taipei Times review of ‘War and Peace in the Taiwan Strait’

The following review appeared in today’s edition of Taipei Times:

How likely is war in the Taiwan Strait? What kind of conflict might it be? What circumstances would be most likely to trigger it? And how can these circumstances be averted? These are the central questions of this penetrating and perspicuous work.

Having examined various aspects of cross strait relations and tensions in the book’s first half, which includes chapters on economic integration, military disparities, the role of the US, and domestic dynamics in Taiwan and China, author Scott L Kastner presents a “highly simplified” model based on bargaining theories of conflict used by scholars of international relations. Most notably, he draws on James D Fearon’s influential 1995 paper “Rationalist Explanations for War,” in which the Stanford political scientist examines “the inefficiency puzzle of war” — namely the reasons why wars occur even when peace would be more beneficial for all parties.

Through this lens — or “baseline,” as he calls it — Kastner analyses the various potential sparks of a conflagration. He is at pains to stress that the model “necessarily ignores a range of factors that could serve as explanations for war.”

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