Is Taiwan Next?
US President Joe Biden said during his recent visit to Asia that America will defend Taiwan militarily in the event of a Chinese invasion. Although White House officials were quick to state that US policy toward the island had not changed, some think that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s increasing regional assertiveness necessitate a tougher approach.
In this Big Picture, former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō calls on the US to end its longstanding policy of strategic ambiguity vis-à-vis Taiwan and make clear that it will defend the island against aggression by China. Brahma Chellaney of the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research agrees, warning that a Chinese takeover of Taiwan would upend the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific and irreparably damage America’s reputation as a reliable ally.
But Bonnie Glaser of the German Marshall Fund thinks America’s best course of action is to maintain the status quo by deterring China from acting aggressively while reassuring it that the US does not support independence for the island. And the University of Chicago’s Chang-Tai Hsieh fears that Taiwanese leaders are so focused on gaining international recognition that they are recklessly ignoring the threat of a Chinese invasion.
Ultimately, argues Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations, while the US must underscore to Chinese leaders the economic and military costs of aggression, Taiwan’s status is an example of a frequent phenomenon in international affairs: a situation that must be managed, not a problem that can be solved.