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Plan to Prevent War Over Taiwan

Big Picture:


As a multipolar world order emerges, the U.S. relationship with Taiwan has become more complicated. Ostensibly, the U.S. does not officially recognize Taiwanese independence, yet it signals that it would come to the island's defense in the event of a Chinese invasion. The Chinese government regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that will inevitably reunify with the mainland, one way or another.

 

The hesitancy of the U.S. to recognize Taiwan and its impulse to defend it are the results of China's growing strength. This ambiguous American approach to the sensitive situation has become a source of increased tension with China in recent years. To prevent a spontaneous outbreak of conflict, we must increase military communication and make clear a line in the sand, wherever it may be. 


Operative Definitions:


  1. PRC: The People’s Republic of China. The modern Chinese state is a communist state established in mainland China after the civil war in 1949.

  2. PLA: People’s Liberation Army. The title/acronym for China’s armed forces.

  3. ROC: Republic of China, also known as Taiwan. Was once the democratic ruling power in China, but lost the civil war in 1949 and fled to Formosa (Taiwan) under ruler Chiang Kai-shek and established a government in Taipei City under martial law on the island. 

  4. Taiwan Relations Act (TRA): After officially recognizing the PRC in 1979, Congress established the TRA to support the ROC economically, politically and potentially militarily–yet it is officially undiplomatic.  

  5. Multipolar: The circumstance in geopolitics where there are two or more hegemons or great powers. After the Cold War, the U.S. had been leading a unipolar world order. However, since around 2010, China, and to a lesser degree Russia, have challenged that status quo–hence a dawn of multipolarity.

  6. One China Principle: A policy principle upheld by the PRC which looks to reunify all historically Chinese regions and defines Taiwan and other breakaway regions as unalienable parts of China. 

  7. APEC: Acronym for the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation, which has 21 member nations that work together to foster and support economic development in the Pacific Rim.  

  8. ADB: Acronym for the Asian Development Bank, a regional bank modeled on the World Bank which includes many nations all across Asia and some from outside it including the U.S. and much of Western Europe. It has 68 members which cooperate to promote social and financial development across Asia and the Pacific.    


Important Facts and Statistics:


  1. Taiwan is ethnically and culturally Chinese.

  2. Taiwan has never been a part of the modern Chinese state.

  3. There was an on-and-off civil war between the communist faction and the democratic faction that ended in 1949 with a communist victory. The democratic faction fled to Taiwan and established an autonomous state there. This is the foundation for both the modern Chinese and Taiwanese states.

  4. The U.S. supports Taiwan via the Taiwan Relations Act (1979) and by inclusion in the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Asian Development Bank. 

  5. Taiwan is the world superpower of the semiconductor chip industry. These chips are essential to many modern-day electronics, both common and advanced use.

  6. Xi Jinping wants the One China Policy to be completed by 2049.   

  7. According to a poll by Chengchi University, 4.5% of Taiwanese want immediate independence, 1.3% support immediate unification and 93.9% support the status quo.

  8. China views Taiwan as a breakaway region that must be reunited. Reunification has been pursued via economics. This has not achieved the goal, however, so the PLA is ramping up offensive capabilities and military force is being considered.

  9. China will have greatly expanded its naval capacity by 2025. 

  10. Taiwan had a presidential election on January 13, 2024. There were three parties: the pro-independence DPP, the KMT which is pro-unification with China and the TPP which considers itself a third position, a middle-of-the-road option. With 40% of the votes, DPP candidate Lai Ching-te won. This is the third election the DPP has won in a row.


2 Point Plan:


(1) Hold annual summits between Chinese and U.S. military officials to de-escalate tensions and address mutual suspicions. Despite having recently met in Washington, the communication between the militaries is not regular and only happens following a meeting between the heads of state. The last time there was an in-person meeting between Chinese and U.S. military officials was before the pandemic. Since then, events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a visit to Taiwan by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have ratcheted up the tensions between the nations.  


(2) Amend the Taiwan Relations Act, specifically Section(s) 2.5 & 3, to accord with the current geopolitical realities. These sections both focus on the provision of defense ‘articles’ and services but leave the degree to which these will be provided up to the discretion of U.S. military and political authorities. In other words, defense is desired and will be pursued, but the circumstances surrounding the extent of an intervention are intentionally unclear. This leaves the world guessing where the line in the sand is. The U.S. is the most powerful nation in the world and therefore should be able to explicitly state a clear position to prevent unwanted conflict. Whether it be hawkish or dovish, a military position should be proclaimed rather than subjective clauses that ambiguously imply potential intervention. 


Why This Initiative is Important:


A war between the U.S. and China could be unprecedented in scale and destruction. Both nations are nuclear powers with massive militaries. The fate of Taiwan is far and away the most likely cause of a military exchange between the two superpowers. The U.S. has been a global hegemon for nearly a century and possesses the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen. The newly emerging superpower, China, has the world’s largest military. In recent decades, the country has seen a steady increase in the development and production of advanced weaponry and now wields modern and formidable defense technologies such as stealth aircraft, hip-fired anti-air weapons and hypersonic cruise missiles. This conflict would reshape modern geopolitics, as China has signaled a willingness to preemptively strike U.S. forces in Guam, the Philippines and Japan to attack Taiwan. A regional conflict between the two powers could easily escalate into a global conflict—spilling into Africa, Eastern Europe and the greater Pacific. The future of Taiwan is a watershed moment for the 21st century, and the settling of ardent political differences on either side of the Pacific will determine the degree to which a war will be avoidable. This initiative will pave the way to peace and economic stability for decades to come. 

 

Acknowledgements:


Note: Not all participants agree with every aspect of this proposal. To arrive at a proposal that takes multiple views into account requires compromise and difficult decisions. For individual commentary on this proposal and more detail, go to JoinONC.com. We invite you to add your comments as well.


Sources:

93 Stat. 14 Public Law 96-8—Apr. 10, 1979 Public Law 96-8 96th Congress ..., www.congress.gov/96/statute/STATUTE-93/STATUTE-93-Pg14.pdf. Accessed 20 Jan. 2024.


“Election Study Center, NCCU.” Taiwan Independence vs. Unification with the Mainl, esc.nccu.edu.tw/PageDoc/Detail?fid=7801&id=6963. Accessed 19  Jan. 2024.


LaGrone, Sam. “Pentagon: Chinese Navy to Expand to 400 Ships by 2025, Growth Focused on Surface Combatants.” USNI News, 30 Nov. 2022.                news.usni.org/2022/11/29/pentagon-chinese-navy-to-expand-to-400-ships-by-2025-growth-focused-on-surface-combatants.


 "US, China Conclude Two Days of Military Talks in Washington," www.reuters.com/world/us/us-china-conclude-two-days-military-talks-washington-2024-01-09/. Accessed 20 Jan. 2024.

 

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