At their closest point, the beaches of mainland China and what Beijing regards as its renegade province of Taiwan are less than a couple of kilometers apart. On one side is the expanding Chinese megacity of Xiamen with its high-rise hotels and office blocks -- and on the other, the bucolic Taiwanese-controlled island of Kinmen.
For 68 years, Taiwan's separation from China has been a key focal point in the regional strategic balance that could -- at any time -- involve American military support for a vulnerable government under threat. In that respect, this area has been a gauge for the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific.
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