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The U.S. Should Build Closer Relations With Taiwan to Preserve the Peaceful Status Quo 

The U.S. Should Build Closer Relations With Taiwan to Preserve the Peaceful Status Quo 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupts decades of peace on the European continent. It challenges the current international order. But Putin’s Russia is not the only country using conflict for its own gain. On the other side of the world, China is monitoring how the west responds to Russia to better prepare for its own plan against Taiwan. If China is adjusting its strategy, the U.S. should do the same.

The United States should build closer relations with Taiwan. Taiwan is already a crucial ally for the U.S in promoting free trade and providing security in the region. Building closer relations with Taiwan, both diplomatically and militarily, will benefit the United States. Positive change in those relations will preserve the peaceful status quo and bring benefits to the on-going, even intensifying, U.S-China competition. 

The military balance across the Taiwan Strait is eroding. According to assessments from the Pentagon, the Chinese military has evolved from a large but ineffective force into a potential rival to the United States military. Beijing’s growing military, along with its increasing political and economic influence, allows it to assert its control over the region. 

On the other hand, the United States and Taiwan limit their bilateral relations. Communication between top national leaders remains limited; training between the two militaries remains limited; even diplomatic relations between the two governments remain limited. 

The current limited relationship does not permit the U.S and Taiwan to effectively fend off a potential Chinese threat, and this has to change.

The United States should establish closer relations with Taiwan. This should include building closer diplomatic ties, forming a bilateral trade agreement, and conducting joint military training.

Closer diplomatic ties with Taiwan will lead to greater cooperation on issues beyond security. Take the South China Sea dispute for example.  Currently China is expanding its presence in the South China Sea, one of the world’s most important maritime trade routes. China argues it has a historical claim over the majority of the islands scattered across the South China Sea. This historical claim, however, requires Taiwan’s support.  The government of Republic of China that still exists today in Taiwan established this claim, known as the nine-dash line. By working with Taiwan, the United States can deny China’s claim over this territory so China cannot justify its action if it chooses to take over the islands in the South China Sea.

Closer relations will also foster greater trade. Taiwan is the U.S.’ 10th largest trading partner. Its advanced semiconductor production is vital to the global high-tech industry. While Taiwan’s companies are seeking to diversify their international investment, China still remains their top trading partner. It would not be in the U.S interest if Taiwan’s economy become increasingly dependent on China given Taiwan’s vital role in the global high-tech supply chain. A bilateral trade agreement between the U.S and Taiwan would give Taiwan an alternative and would also give the U.S a more trusted and secure trading partner in the advanced technology industry. 

Closer relations will benefit the U.S. military as well. Two different militaries with different political and cultural backgrounds require regular combined training and exercise to effectively work together in times of conflict. Through routine interactions and operations, trust between two militaries will begin to form. Trust is necessary in an alliance, and joint military training will provide a start.

Some worry that this approach is too provocative, and conflicts with U.S support for a One-China policy. It does not. China’s commitment to a peaceful resolution with Taiwan in exchange for the U.S. break in diplomatic relations with Taiwan was the basis for U.S backing of the One-China Policy. While the U.S is upholding its part of the bargain, China is not. China is repeatedly threatening and using force in an attempt to coerce Taiwan to meet its political demands. Thus, the U.S is within its right to update its relationship with Taiwan to meet the current challenge. 

Maintaining the status quo in peace does not imply maintaining the status quo in policy. If the other side changes its strategy, so should we. The United States cannot let Taiwan become the next Ukraine.  The United States cannot let another democracy suffer again.  Building closer ties with Taiwan will preserve peace in East Asia, and promote democracy and freedom.

About the Author: Hung-Yeh is a graduate student from the George Washington University currently studying international affairs whose interest lies in conflict resolution in Asia.