hsieh5_SAM YEHAFP via Getty Images_pompeo in taiwan SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

Taiwan’s Fatal Attractions

By eagerly embracing foreign politicians who “stand with Taiwan” even as they undermine democracy elsewhere, the island’s leaders are flirting with disaster. The central goal of Taiwanese foreign policy should be to deter China from taking the island by force, and that calls for restraint, not reckless grandstanding.

CHICAGO – In the same week that Taiwanese took to the streets to repudiate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Taiwan’s leaders rolled out the red carpet for a visit by former US President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. This is the same man who, together with Trump, withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure its government to initiate a bogus investigation into Joe Biden’s son, and who then fired the US ambassador to Ukraine when she refused to go along with the extortion attempt.

The jarring juxtaposition of these two events – the Taiwanese people supporting a fellow democracy while their leaders lavished praise on the man who undermined that democracy’s security – reflects a reckless willingness to embrace any foreign politician who will “stand with Taiwan.” Taiwanese leaders are focused so intently on gaining international recognition that they ignore the key threat Taiwan faces: an invasion by China similar to what Russia has done in Ukraine.

Taiwan’s development over the past few decades has been truly miraculous, even in a region with some of the most successful countries in the world. Within the span of a generation, Taiwan has grown from a poor, primarily agrarian society with an authoritarian regime into a vibrant democracy boasting some of the world’s most important companies, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). Even more remarkably, this transformation occurred in the absence of formal diplomatic ties or participation in international organizations such as the United Nations.