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Ted Galen Carpenter, America's Coming War with China: A Collision Course ove. , $26.95 (216pp) ISBN 978-1-4039-6841-8

An intractable and dangerous international confrontation gets a sobering reappraisal in this provocative study. Cato Institute analyst Carpenter (The Korean Conundrum ) gives a lucid, evenhanded diplomatic history of the China-Taiwan standoff and the recent rise in tensions as China's growing determination to reclaim Taiwan meets increasingly defiant Taiwanese assertions of independence. Exacerbating the problem is America's approach of "strategic ambiguity," which he considers a euphemism for "confusion" and "incoherence." Influenced by business interests eager to court China and conservatives loath to see Taiwan's plucky democracy swallowed by the Communist Leviathan, Washington placates Beijing with an official One China policy while selling arms to Taiwan and conveying a tacit promise to defend her against Chinese attack. These mixed messages, Carpenter argues, invite the two sides into miscalculations that could embroil America in war, a possibility he fleshes out in a scenario for a 2013 conflict between China and the United States. He proposes that America cut the Gordian knot by firmly renouncing any military commitment to Taiwan while continuing arms sales, thus signaling Taiwan's status as a " 'peripheral,' not a vital, American interest." Carpenter's realpolitik will stir controversy, but his incisive analysis of the Taiwan standoff and America's contradictory policy toward it makes a convincing case for a change of course. (Feb.)