The Big Ideas

The United States, China, and Taiwan: A Strategy to Prevent War
The United States, China, and Taiwan: A Strategy to Prevent War
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February 14, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘We believe that a crisis is building over Taiwan and that it is becoming the most dangerous flashpoint in the world for a possible war that involved the United States of America, China, and probably other major powers.'

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‘We believe that a crisis is building over Taiwan and that it is becoming the most dangerous flashpoint in the world for a possible war that involved the United States of America, China, and probably other major powers.’

  • ‘We think this danger is half understood intellectually, but it is downplayed in the invariable human tendency to assume that whatever the commotion, tomorrow will be pretty much like yesterday.’

‘The U.S. government is not obligated by treaty to help defend Taiwan from attack but it is required by the Taiwan Relations Act to help Taiwan defend itself.’

  • ‘But if the United States did not meaningfully respond to PRC military action against Taiwan with U.S. use of force and allowed Taiwan to be conquered by China, would U.S. treaty allies Japan and South Korea, not to say the Baltic states, already racked with doubt because of the Trump presidency, conclude that Washington could not be counted on to defend them?’

‘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.’

  • ‘To the uninitiated, this may seem a straightforward and mechanical process. It is not.’
  • ‘It would depend on Washington’s accurate and enduring estimate of China’s sufferance for such U.S. policies toward Taiwan, and the strength of Beijing’s commitment to its existing and perhaps future red lines.’

‘Regarding its tolerance for Washington’s rhetoric and actions concerning Taiwan, China is far from transparent.’

  • ‘Thus Washington could inadvertently misread the public and private statements from Beijing, not to say the pressures within the Chinese leadership and PRC domestic events, which could trigger aggressive PRC behavior regarding Taiwan.’
  • ‘In respect to China’s current red lines, we deduce that they are: no declaration of independence by Taiwan and “no external interference,” which we interpret to mean no U.S. troop deployments in Taiwan and no security pact between the United States and Taiwan.’

‘We would like to be wrong about the possible seriousness of a coming Taiwan crisis.'

  • 'We hope we have exaggerated the danger.’
  • 'We just cannot persuade ourselves that the ominous clouds we see gathering are not really there.’

My Take

Taiwan is not becoming the most dangerous flashpoint in the world; it is the most dangerous. By far the biggest challenge for the Biden administration is continuing to strengthen relations with Taiwan without going so far as to push China to attack