The foreign policy dynamics of Taiwan are complex and multifaceted. Taiwan is a self-governing democratic island nation located off the coast of China. The Communist Party of China (CCP), which currently has an iron grip over the Chinese people, as well as Hong Kong, claims Taiwan as part of its territory. The United States, along with most other countries, does not officially recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state but maintains unofficial relations with the island and provides it with defensive support.
Foreign policy experts Robert D. Blackwill and Philip Zelikow have argued that “The U.S. strategic objective regarding Taiwan should be to preserve its political and economic autonomy, its dynamism as a free society, and U.S.-allied deterrence—without triggering a Chinese attack on Taiwan.”
But how does the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine factor into the dynamics between the CCP, the U.S., and Taiwan? Here are a few considerations.
In light of the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, there has been increased concern about the possibility of China attempting to invade Taiwan. Some experts believe that the Russian invasion may embolden China to take similar action against Taiwan, while others argue that it may make China more cautious due to the international backlash against Russia.
According to an article by ABC News, “In recent months, China’s tacit support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only fueled speculations over Beijing’s intentions with Taiwan, raising questions about how the world might react should China launch an attack.”
Conservative foreign policy expert Elbridge Colby has “warned for months against the United States overextending itself in Ukraine, while sleeping on the potential threat China may pose to Taiwan.”
While America continues to support Ukraine (something that has grown increasingly unpopular amongst many America First conservatives), it will be important to factor in our commitments to Taiwan as well.
The United States has long been committed to helping Taiwan defend itself against potential aggression from China. This commitment is spelled out in the Taiwan Relations Act, which was passed in 1979 and includes the requirement to provide Taiwan with the arms it needs to defend itself. According to an article by the U.S. Department of Defense, the law also puts “considerable focus on the non-materiel side, which includes training, civil-military integration and society wide efforts.”
In terms of American military capabilities for defending Taiwan, the United States has a significant military presence in the region and recently announced a $345 million military aid package for Taiwan.
According to an article by NBC News, “Washington will send man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS, intelligence and surveillance capabilities, firearms and missiles…The package is in addition to nearly $19 billion in military sales of F-16s and other major weapons systems that the U.S. has approved for Taiwan.”
As Blackwill and Zelikow maintain, “The U.S. strategic objective regarding Taiwan should be to preserve its political and economic autonomy, its dynamism as a free society, and U.S.-allied deterrence—without triggering a Chinese attack on Taiwan.”
Foreign policy experts have differing opinions on the likelihood of China attempting to invade Taiwan and on the effectiveness of American support for Taiwan’s defense. Some experts believe that China is unlikely to invade Taiwan due to domestic political and economic circumstances, while others argue that China may be emboldened by recent events and may attempt to take military action against Taiwan.
Writing for Foreign Affairs, Oriana Skylar Mastro suggests that, in recent months, “there have been disturbing signals that Beijing is reconsidering its peaceful approach and contemplating armed unification.”
But while the threat does loom large, other experts report that the Taiwanese maintain good spirits. Angela Köckritz, at The European Council on Foreign Relations, reports:
“‘Ukraine today, Taiwan tomorrow’ is an oft-heard phrase nowadays on the island of Taiwan. Following Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine, many ordinary Taiwanese citizens began taking survival training courses. There, they learn first aid and where to seek refuge should Beijing attack. Some courses even offer firearms training. But this does not mean that panic has broken out in Taiwan. In fact, the atmosphere on the courses is often joyful. People use the expression ‘wan’ – Chinese for ‘play’ – to describe what they are doing: ‘Let’s play survival training.’”
While it is difficult to predict what actions China may take in regard to Taiwan, it is clear that the United States is committed to helping Taiwan defend itself against potential aggression from China. Ultimately, only time will tell how these complex dynamics will play out.
The geopolitical landscape surrounding Taiwan is a delicate balance of power, with the United States playing a crucial role in maintaining Taiwan’s security against potential aggression from Communist China. The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has added a new layer of complexity to this dynamic, potentially emboldening China or, conversely, making it more cautious.
The United States’ commitment to Taiwan’s defense, as evidenced by the Taiwan Relations Act and the recent military aid package, underscores the importance of Taiwan to U.S. foreign policy in the region. However, the effectiveness of these measures in deterring potential aggression from China remains a topic of debate among foreign policy experts.
Ultimately, the future of Taiwan will be shaped by a multitude of factors, including the evolving geopolitical landscape, China’s ambitions and strategy, and the continued support of the United States. As the U.S. navigates these uncertain times, it is crucial to continue monitoring these developments and their implications for Taiwan, the region, and global stability.
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