One of the foreign policies that US President Joe Biden has indicated he would continue and strengthen is the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy, reassuring Washington’s commitment to leading the maintenance of a balance of power against China in the region and beyond.
Undoubtedly, one country that has assumed importance in the Indo-Pacific strategy is Taiwan. The administration of former US president Donald Trump adopted a slew of measures toward transforming ties with Taipei, and the Biden administration has reiterated that it would “support Taiwan, a leading democracy and a critical economic and security partner, in line with longstanding American commitments.”
Of course, Taiwan’s security and independence as a country are largely dependent on US policy toward the region. At the same time, in making this assessment, Taiwan’s importance in the success of the India-Pacific strategy equally cannot be ignored. Since global major powers, led by the US, have adopted identical policies toward the Indo-Pacific region, it is imperative for them to ensure the existence of Taiwan for several reasons.
First, one of the major objectives of the strategy is to respect the sovereignty and independence of all nations. Consequently, if the US and other countries do not succeed in protecting Taiwan’s freedom to self-rule, China’s assertive posturing would intensify security concerns for several countries in the region.
Second, while Taiwan is a living example of democratic ideas and values, China is known for its autocratic rule and suppression of freedom. Taiwan’s commitment to democracy, women’s rights, religious freedom and others must be seen as a vital asset in promoting liberal value systems in Asia and other continents. Unfortunately, no efforts have yet been taken to include Taiwan as a part of the liberal international order.
If other powers within the US sphere of influence are truly interested in managing China’s antipathy toward the existing world order, Taiwan’s inclusion in global governing institutions must be considered a priority. As the US Senate has passed a bill asking the Biden administration to formalize strategies to help Taiwan regain its observer status in the WHO, the time has come for the US, India, Japan and the EU to facilitate Taiwan’s UN membership as well.
Third, since the Indo-Pacific strategy aims to promote free, fair and reciprocal trade based on open investment, transparent agreements and connectivity, Taiwan holds the key to the success of this objective, given its track record in implementing rules and regulations in international trade and commerce. Sadly, the US’ exclusion from the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and its failure to form a comprehensive multilateral economic grouping have emboldened China, and Taiwan continues to face exclusion from the global supply-chain system.
While Taiwan’s exclusion from the global supply chain will in turn hamper its capacity to strengthen its security, it also underscores the need to overhaul the structural problems facing Taiwan’s effective inclusion into international trade and commerce. In this regard, one step that the US, India and other countries should immediately take is to have a free-trade agreement with Taiwan.
Of course, it is heartening to see US Secretary of State Antony Blinken talk about the resumption of the suspended trade dialogue with Taiwan. The US administration should prioritize this issue before it is too late. However, it is not only about the US, other countries should also speed up the process of concluding similar trade agreements with Taiwan.
Fourth, Taiwan’s strategic location allows it to play a pivotal role in promoting freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. China’s control over Taiwan would enable it to dominate the Pacific region and thus pose security threats to the Philippines, Japan, Guam and Hawaii.
Defense analyst Loren Thompson wrote last year in Forbes: “If Taiwan fell under the sway of Beijing, either peacefully or by force, the strategic balance in the Western Pacific would be irreparably changed. Other nations in the region would see it as the end of US military dominance in the region, and their interpretation would be correct.”
The onus is now on the Biden administration and other governments to take corrective measures enabling Taiwan to contribute to managing peace, security and development in the region and beyond as an integral and sovereign part of the international liberal order.
If the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) nations of the US, Japan, Australia and India, as well as the EU, are truly concerned about Taiwan’s cause, they must give up their half-hearted and guarded policies toward this country. This would send a clear message that the political fiasco in Afghanistan should be seen an isolated development.
For the success of the Indo-Pacific strategy and for the cause of Taiwan’s independence, the Quad countries should make calibrated efforts to foster defense ties and enhance economic relations with Taiwan.
However, the million-dollar question is: Will they act, or only make gestures to appear to be standing with the Heart of Asia — Taiwan?
Sumit Kumar is a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs Visiting Fellow and a post-doctoral fellow at the Indian Council of Social Sciences, New Delhi.
The US intelligence community’s annual threat assessment for this year certainly cannot be faulted for having a narrow focus or Pollyanna perspective. From a rising China, Russian aggression and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, to climate change, future pandemics and the growing reach of international organized crime, US intelligence analysis is as comprehensive as it is worrying. Inaugurated two decades ago as a gesture of transparency and to inform the public and the US Congress, the annual threat assessment offers the intelligence agencies’ top-line conclusions about the country’s leading national-security threats — although always in ways that do not compromise “sources and methods.”
Let’s begin with the bottom line. The sad truth of the matter is that Beijing has trampled on its solemn pledge to grant Hong Kong a great deal of autonomy for at least fifty years. In so doing, the PRC ignored a promise Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) made to both Great Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the wider world back in the early 1980s. This was at a time when Beijing, under Deng and his successors, appeared to be seeking an equitable accommodation with the West. I remain puzzled by China’s recent policy shift. Was it because Hong Kong was perceived
The recent removal of items related to Japanese Shinto culture from the Taoyuan Martyrs’ Shrine and Cultural Park has caused an uproar. The complex was built as a Shinto shrine by the Japanese during the colonial period, but was transformed into a martyrs’ shrine commemorating veterans of the Chinese Civil War after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Figurines of the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu Okami were allowed into the shrine for a cultural event last year, attracting throngs of visitors to see the Shinto decorations and practices. However, some people accused the Taoyuan City Government of
The recent meeting in New Delhi between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov — the first such high-level interaction since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — suggests that diplomacy might no longer be a dirty word. The 10 minute meeting on the sidelines of the G20 gathering occurred after US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reportedly urged Ukraine to show Russia that it is open to negotiating an end to the war. Together, these developments offer a glimmer of hope that a ceasefire is within the realm of the possible. The