A Balancing Act: What to Do About Taiwan

China’s control of Taiwan has been shorter and patchier than Beijing’s Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian said in a series of misleading claims. And although past Chinese dynasties like the Ming and Qing exercised incomplete influence and control over Taiwan, the island has never been ruled by the PRC, analyst Benjamin Herscovitch writes for The Sydney Morning Herald.

There is a strong moral case for helping Taiwan to defend itself, Diamond and Ellis add. A Chinese military conquest (or coerced surrender) of Taiwan would not bring anything like the promised “one country, two systems,” which was never fully honored in Hong Kong but has been completely eviscerated in the last few years. Taiwan would be directly ruled by Beijing as the 23rd province of the PRC, with its extraordinary democratic pluralism crushed and its most prominent and outspoken democrats thrown in prison, they write for The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

As we work to strengthen our ability, and Taiwan’s, to respond to and defeat (and thus hopefully deter) a Chinese attack, we must also move with extreme caution to avoid triggering the development we are trying to deter. One element of this is ensuring that the next Taiwan government doesn’t take gratuitous symbolic steps (however modest) to alter the status quo, in ways that Beijing would judge as confirmation that Taiwan is “drifting toward independence.” We should strongly encourage the next Taiwan government to rigorously adhere to the status quo, as Taiwan’s current president, Tsai Ing-wen, has done with admirable restraint.

Jane Corbin’s documentary film, Inside Taiwan: Standing Up to China, is a gripping analysis of potential nuclear Armageddon, The Guardian’s Stuart Jeffries writes:

Ever since democratic Ukraine was invaded this time last year by an authoritarian superpower, the numbers of Taiwanese people paying to train at private military camps has risen exponentially, compulsory military service has been increased from four to 12 months, and Taipei’s “porcupine strategy” now involves stocking up on anti-air, anti-tank and anti-ship weapons so that a smaller force can frustrate a larger (Chinese forces are 12 times bigger than Taiwan’s, Corbin tells us) in line with Kyiv’s example.

Tsai Ing-wen’s two-term presidency, which comes to an end later this year, is predicated on retaining Taiwanese democracy in the face of Beijing’s offer of reunification under an approach of “one country, two systems”, Jeffries adds. That principle which, as the relatively recent crushing of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong demonstrated so clearly, means nothing in practice.

We do not favor a formal change in the policy of strategic ambiguity, Diamond and Ellis add. Rather, we think the right course of action is to increasingly make it clear to Beijing’s leaders, and to Taiwan’s society and government, that the United States is prepared to fight to help Taiwan defend its democracy and autonomy if it should be attacked without provocation, and that we are steadily increasing our military readiness and resolve to do so.

This article is published courtesy of theNational Endowment for Democracy.