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Avoiding War in the Taiwan Strait

Updated: May 15

Big Picture

The 2020s are proving a pivotal moment in recent history. Since the end of the Second World War, America has enjoyed unchallenged dominance on the global stage. Its unrivaled economic and military might have provided the U.S. with the tools necessary to craft a unipolar, American world order. The U.S. has enjoyed nearly eight decades of free reign across the globe, trying our hand at various projects of statecraft and nation-building. That era is coming to a close. No longer is America the sole arbiter of global affairs. The post-war era of globalism is showing serious cracks in its structure. A multipolar world is quickly emerging in its place, with China spearheading this global transition. 


Taiwan is America’s majority supplier of semiconductor chips with uses in both household electronics and military equipment. The continued supply of semiconductor chips is critical to the health of the U.S. economy. However, one of America’s prevailing responsibilities is to avoid a military conflict with China and, by extension, a third world war. America must learn to navigate this precarious situation in a way that ensures the continued flow of semiconductor chips to the U.S. economy while excluding any possibility of conflict. This means preparing to do business with a Chinese-controlled Taiwan.  


Operative Definitions

  1. One China PolicyU.S. One China Policy acknowledges that there is only one sovereign Chinese state, and that state is governed by the Chinese Communist Party. While both China (The People’s Republic of China) and Taiwan (The Republic of China) claim the title of “China,” the U.S. recognizes the mainland Chinese government as the official Chinese state. However, it does not state anywhere in its One China Policy that Taiwan is part of the single, sovereign China. 

  2. Taiwan Relations Act: The Taiwan Relations Act, enacted in 1979, ensures the United States maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan, including providing defensive arms to the island. However, it does not challenge the official policy of a single, sovereign China outlined by the Chinese Communist Party. 

  3. Unipolar world order: A world order where only one “great power” profoundly influences global affairs.

  4. Multipolar world order: A world order characterized by more than one “great power” capable of shaping global affairs.

  5. Globalism: A system of the interdependence of the world's economies, cultures and populations, facilitated by the cross-border movement of goods and services, technology, flows of investment, people and information.


Important Facts and Statistics

  1. The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) produces 90% of the world’s advanced semiconductor chips.

  2. China has the world’s largest armed forces with roughly 2 million active-duty personnel. 

  3. China’s military has undergone substantial modernization efforts in recent decades and is now among the world’s cutting-edge militaries.


Three-Point Plan

  1. Adjust America’s One China Policy to secure America’s semiconductor needs and to avoid bloodshed in the Pacific, the U.S. should rescind the Taiwan Relations Act if China attempts to reincorporate what it views as a “rogue province,” rather than initiate a full-scale war against China. In such an event, America should amend its One China Policy to reflect relations with a single, sovereign China rather than maintaining separate relations with both China and Taiwan. This effort would also involve America’s Western allies adjusting their economic and foreign trade agreements to reflect this new stance on China. This diplomatic gesture would go a long way in courting Chinese trust, which will be crucial as the U.S. seeks to navigate the new multipolar world order. This order will formally recognize the global influence of China and the United States, each holding the other in mutual respect. In this way, the U.S. can show genuine sentiments of respect and a willingness to cooperate in return for avoiding war and negotiating fair trade deals on semiconductor chips. 

  2. Open a dialogue to establish a Sino-American non-aggression pact to treat China as an equal partner would involve U.S. recognition of China’s national security concerns. Taking a new approach to relations in East Asia should reflect America’s willingness to recognize a Chinese Monroe Doctrine of sorts, where other great powers recognize and respect separate spheres of influence. Prompting the Chinese to sign a non-aggression pact in return for scaling back America’s military presence in the region could prove instrumental in avoiding war and promoting wider cooperation between the U.S. and China. Signing a non-aggression pact would boost America’s credibility as a sincere and trustworthy partner while easing Chinese concerns about American encroachment in East Asia. 

  3. Lift sanctions. As part of a broader shift in relations with China, the U.S. should lift sanctions to indicate America and China’s new relationship as joint leaders of the global community. Lifting sanctions would further showcase a willingness to engage in constructive cooperation as equals rather than enemies. Furthermore, it would elicit a sincere response from the Chinese in negotiations. This would ensure the uninterrupted supply of semiconductor chips to America's economy and foster a greater understanding of the mutual benefits of cooperation between the two powers while emphasizing the magnitude of losses both sides would face in the event of a war.


Why This Initiative is Important

The radical restructuring of U.S.-China relations is the only feasible alternative to war; a scenario that is not in the best interest of the American people. Americans have grown tired of endless war, and the American public is unlikely to support a full-scale war with China to protect Taiwan. America can still secure its national interests while avoiding conflict in the Taiwan Strait. However, it involves a radical reevaluation of America’s image of itself. No longer can the U.S. issue dictates around the globe without reprisal. China is a rising power. America can either accept this reality and work to responsibly incorporate China as a joint leader of the new multipolar world, addressing Chinese concerns while balancing American interests, or it can plunge the world into war for the sake of maintaining America’s monopoly on global influence. 


Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources

Zablocki, Clement J. “H.R.2479 - 96th Congress (1979-1980): Taiwan Relations Act.” Www.congress.gov, 10 Apr. 1979, www.congress.gov/bill/96th-congress/house-bill/2479.


Szmigiera, M. “World’s Largest Armies by Active Military Personnel 2019 | Statista.” Statista, Statista, 2019, www.statista.com/statistics/264443/the-worlds-largest-armies-based-on-active-force-level/.


Maizland, Lindsay. “China’s Modernizing Military.” Council on Foreign Relations, 5 Feb. 2020, www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-modernizing-military.


Green, Michael. “What Is the U.S. ‘One China’ Policy, and Why Does It Matter?” Csis.org, 13 Jan. 2017, www.csis.org/analysis/what-us-one-china-policy-and-why-does-it-matter.

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