The new year has brought no respite from tensions over Taiwan. On January 13th its people elected an independence-minded candidate, William Lai Ching-te, as their next president, infuriating China. Two days later it was China’s turn, with its officials announcing that little Nauru was cutting ties with Taiwan in favour of China. On January 24th the US navy sent a warship through the Taiwan Strait, which China described as a “provocative act”. Amid this drama a new diplomatic battle is intensifying that risks setting the stage for war.