The Taiwan Strait

Six days before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Beijing last Sunday, China's National People's Congress adopted an antisecession law aimed at Taiwan. The legislation, which authorizes a military attack to prevent the island from seeking independence, has heightened regional tensions and raised a question diplomats would rather not confront: Would China really pull the trigger?

That may depend upon how good Beijing thinks its chances are of winning a military confrontation that could pit China against the U.S. On paper, the mainland's 2.5 million-member People's Liberation Army (P.L.A.), the largest force in the world, holds...

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