The Taiwan Strait: Trust Fall or Death Spiral?

Tensions over the Taiwan Strait have hit a recent high, as Beijing has sent record numbers of warplanes into Taiwan’s air-defense zone. The latter’s defense minister warned that China will be capable of a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.

As for how this will play out—and how the US should react—opinions vary widely.

To deter Chinese aggression, the US should make explicit its insinuated promise to defend Taiwan, Gordon Chang argues at 1945, expressing well the argument for a hard line.

Others say that would only make things worse, as China sees the US and Taiwan as the provoking parties. At Responsible Statecraft, Michael D. Swaine references growing support in the US Congress for Taiwan’s outright independence—an absolute red line for China, which considers Taiwan a rogue province—“[d]eepening mutual distrust,” and a “long-standing Chinese belief that Washington deliberately maintains the Taiwan situation at a steady boil to keep Beijing focused close to home and to justify ever larger forward-deployed US forces in Asia.”

“There’s a thin line … between establishing a credible deterrent and destabilizing the fragile equilibrium in the Strait,” Shelley Rigger writes for ChinaFile, in a roundup of expert commentaries. In the same collection, Chas W. Freeman, Jr., a former high-level US diplomat in China, agrees; not so encouragingly, he also suggests that if Taiwan ever seeks true independence, war will be inevitable.

South Dakota as an Offshore Tax Haven

With the so-called Pandora Papers reviving interest in global wealth and how it hides, Casey Michel writes for The Atlantic that low-tax, low-disclosure states in the US are overlooked as parking lots for international cash.

“Offshore once meant far-flung islands beyond the reach of major economies, but the U.S. has brought those same services back onshore,” Michel writes—”and, in so doing, evolved into one of the world’s greatest havens for financial secrecy.” South Dakota earns Michel’s particular attention for having “introduced a brand-new tool to pull in as much anonymous wealth as it can”: trusts that can obscure asset ownership.

Hiding and Waiting as Afghan Women Face Taliban Rule

At New Lines Magazine, women’s-education activist Pashtana Durrani writes that she now lives in hiding in her country, as women’s education has yet to return in most places and as “space for people like me has been erased overnight.” Durrani blames both the Taliban and a failure of international efforts in the past 20 years to make durable gains.

“Afghanistan’s needs are practical,” Durrani writes. “It doesn’t need more feel-good campaigns or hashtag activism … Those of us who remain—and resist for as long as we can—do so out of a sense of responsibility for this land and our communities.”

At The New York Times, Amanda Taub suggests the Taliban may be restricting women so harshly for practical, not ideological reasons; Taub cites a conservative society, a lack of overall resources for education, and the notion that “restricting women’s freedom serves as a powerful demonstration of the Taliban’s power.”

Good News, Finally, on US Inequality

Inequality has been the story of the US economy in recent decades, but The Economist notes that data from the JPMorgan Chase Institute show a reversal of late. Though the pandemic “has served up a reminder … of how deeply unequal America is,” starting in 2019 incomes for the bottom three quartiles of households have grown faster than those of top earners. The Economist credits the hotly run, low-unemployment, pre-pandemic Trump economy and Biden-era unemployment benefits and pandemic stimuli.

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