Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen recently confirmed reports that US Marines and special operators are training local troops on the island, reflecting growing concerns in Washington over the state -Chinese relations. In her statement, President Tsai said she had faith that the US would come to Taiwan’s defense in the event of a Chinese invasion, which is what, according to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations Chris Maier, the Americans are training the forces to do.
Taiwan Becomes a Point of Strategic Ambiguity
While President Joe Biden said in an October town hall that the US was committed to defending, his administration later walked back his statement as it clashed with Washington’s official policy of strategic ambiguity vis-à-vis Taipei. Strategic ambiguity, or not publicly declaring how the would react in the event of a Chinese invasion of , has guided US- relations for over 40 years.
The policy has recently come under scrutiny as relations between Tapei and Beijing continue to deteriorate and as the prospect of an invasion, according to some analysts, becomes more likely.
Admiral Philip Davidson, who led the US Indo-Pacific Command until April, testified in March to the Senate Armed Services Committee that annexing is “clearly one of [China’s] ambitions” and that the threat will likely materialize within six years. Taiwan’s defense ministry reported last month that Beijing would be able to launch an attack against the island with minimal losses by 2025.
Despite sending nearly 150 fighter jets, alongside nuclear-capable bombers and anti-submarine aircraft, into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone in early October, coinciding with the anniversary of the declaration of the , President Xi Jinping said that Beijing was committed to pursuing peaceful unification with . According to John Culver, a former CIA analyst, Xi has framed unification as a requisite to achieving the “China Dream” by 2049, adding that Xi may take risks that his predecessors would not in order to secure unification.
notes, is an amount similar to that of Singapore, which has a population a quarter of the size of Taiwan’s and lacks the existential threat facing Taipei. Pottinger added that neglected national defense for the first 15 years of the 21st century, spending too much on equipment that would be quickly destroyed in an invasion.is likely not prepared for a Chinese invasion. It spends just over $11.5 million on defense. This, as former Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger
The readiness of its military was also called into question by a Wall Street Journal article published last month reporting low-quality basic training and a widespread unwillingness to defend the island. The article quoted US Marine Colonel Grant Newsham as stating that while Taiwan’s military has well-trained troops and “superb officers,” it lacks adequate funding and could benefit from more training with the US and its allies. The Wall Street Journal also reported that many expect the US to intervene in case of kinetic military action by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
While the US supports policy document declassified near the end of President Donald Trump’s tenure, recommends that the “enable to develop an effective asymmetric defense strategy and capabilities that will help ensure its security, freedom from coercion, resilience, and ability to engage China on its own terms.”through arms sales, it remains committed to strategic ambiguity. Instead, the US Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, a
While the framework has not been formally implemented, the Biden administration has not replaced the document, and officials within the administration have acknowledged a degree of continuation of Trump-era policies vis-à-vis China and.
As Washington readies itself for escalation with Beijing, others are less convinced that rising tensions between China and argues that the threat is “nothing new,” and that the growing perception of China as a threat to the is what has led to greater alarm regarding -Chinese relations.will result in violence. Project 2049 research associate Eric Lee, for instance,
According to Bonnie Glaser, former head of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, China’s aim is to prevent independence, not to seek forceful unification. She adds that every leader since Mao Zedong has projected determination to unify with the mainland, and that while some Chinese have come to believe that time is no longer on China’s side and that it should use force to compel unification, Xi has resisted such pressures. The latest five-year plan that came into effect in 2021 describes China’s policy vis-à-vis as a “peaceful development of cross-strait relations.”
Those who believe that China is unlikely to use kinetic action against largest trading partner, which gives the mainland leverage over the island. China has isolated by pressuring countries not to sign free trade agreements with Taipei and has pushed for the island’s exclusion from the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, two major trade agreements in the Indo-Pacific Region.think that it will instead pursue unification using economic and political means. is heavily reliant on China’s economy: Beijing is Taipei’s
China has also restricted tourism to double or triple the wages available on the island.and has pressured international businesses to label the island as a Chinese province. also faces a brain drain to China as hundreds of thousands of well-educated opt to work on the mainland instead of their home country, with Chinese firms offering
Glaser argues that China’s goal is to “constantly remind” theof its increasing power to instill a pessimism about Taiwan’s future and deepen cleavages within its political system. While pursuing unification through this gradual, nonviolent approach will likely take longer than kinetic action would, it will also be less costly and risky for the .
As tensions betweenand China grow, the possibility of a Chinese invasion is considered by some as more imminent than ever before. Taiwan’s military is not prepared for kinetic action against the PLA, and calls to assist by increasing arms sales and conducting joint exercises with its military are consequently growing in the US.
However, not everyone is convinced that thewill pursue unification through violent means. Some argue instead that Beijing is more likely to use economic and political coercion to achieve unification. Regardless of the means, the will likely continue to pursue unification with as it is a crucial step toward the ’s future dreams.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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