Kastner, an assistant professor in the department of government and politics at the University of Maryland, goes far beyond the general, albeit contested, view that increased trade between two states reduces the likelihood of armed conflict. Rather, he argues that the more important question is when conflict affects trade. His main hypothesis is that national leaderships that are more accountable to “internationalist economic interests” are less likely to act in ways that threaten economic stability.
To make his case, Kastner looks at three protracted hostile political relationships, or dyads — Taiwan-China, India-Pakistan and South-North Korea — with emphasis on the Taiwan Strait. What follows is a fascinating exploration of the cross-strait paradox, whereby despite serious political conflict, trade between the two sides from the 1980s on has accelerated.
While prior to the mid-1980s economic interaction between Taiwan and China was extremely limited, democratization in Taiwan, added to a revaluation of the New Taiwan dollar that made domestic manufacturing less competitive, brought gradual changes in Taipei’s policies on investment in China. Democratization meant that the authorities became more accountable to the people and could no longer ignore business associations, or the “internationalist economic interests,” which gained clout as the size of the businesses investing in China grew. As liberalization intensified, the cost to the national leadership of ignoring those interests, or of preventing their expansion, increased.
Full review is available in the Taipei Times here.