Hrm. Consider the following scenario:
China, for various reasons, decides that the situation with Taiwan is no longer bearable. It must be resolved immediately. Taiwan must be absorbed back into the mainland NOW. To accomplish this its mobilizes its million-man+ army and its billion citizens into a military effort to blockade and then conquer Taiwan.
Now, if you're the US, what do you do?
Most likely answer: absolutely nothing.
I think this is the simple truth and the reason why so many people are cursing Bush for making such stupid comments. This is why all the 'calm' and 'progressive' rhetoric is tossed around no matter what China does. The US has been traumatized by Vietnam and similar interventions like Bosnia. Taiwan would make Vietnam look like a walk in the park. Imagine the sacrifice in human life required to stop a concentrated Chinese attack upon Taiwan. You're talking about a billion people! Imagine the sacrifice in American lives. You're talking about an army of millions supported by a billion people!
Now, how much do you think the average American really cares about Taiwan? Very close to zero. The average American knows Taiwan is Democratic and thus Good (TM) and China is Communist and thus Bad (TM). The average American thinks about Taiwan ... almost never. So really, how do you justify to the average American, the immense cost in human life required to defeat a concentrated Chinese assault upon Taiwan?
I'm pretty damn sure that if push come to shove and China said 'We want Taiwan by any means ' the US would do little more than sponsor a US resolution against them. You're not going to see World War III -- Taiwan simply isn't worth it.
But then again, if your China, you ask yourself the same question. Does it make sense to take Taiwan by force? Sure, you're talking about what is potentially a tremendous loss of human life ... but who cares, you've got a billion people. Plus, there's a very good chance that the US would not go to full scale war over Taiwan -- you're a nuclear capable country after all. But there is something the US would do: trade sanctions. If you took Taiwan by force, you'd have so many trade sanctions slapped at you that Iraq would look like a favored nation. And trade sanctions lead to economic stability -- and it's not like your economy is that robust anways -- and economic stability leads to revolutions. So if you did take Taiwan by force, there's a relatively good chance that the US would do everything in its power to simply topple your government.
Again, it's simply not worth it.
This is why there's an impasse. Neither side is willing to accept the sacrifices of an armed conflict over Taiwan. The truth is you have nothing to worry about it. World-War III, no matter what the stupid news stations say, is not gonna happen next week. What will happen next week is more hand waving.
But in politics, as we all know, handwaving is everything. Which is why Bush is such an idiot for declaring armed support for Taiwan, something no other President has emphasised because, as noted above, everbody knows Taiwan is not worth an armed conflict with China. This is what's called dangerous and pointless rhetoric. All Bush has managed to do is setback the peaceful reconcilliation process by a few years. The entire world agrees that Taiwan is part of China, even Taiwan itself which has declared 'One nation, two governments', so it's only a matter of time. But Bush, by making these comments, has just made the process harder. And this is dangerous because he's prolonging instability.
This is never a good thing.