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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Taiwan’s faith in US for deterrence

Taiwan’s faith in US for deterrence

Taiwan’s Detractors often refer to comments tossed casually by heavyweights in Washington as proof of the US’ lack of trustworthiness.

US President Joe Biden, in response to a reporter’s query about Taiwan’s presidential elections and in an apparent attempt at pacifying Beijing, stated that he does not support Taiwan independence. This was interpreted as a sign of wavering from his previous, multiple statements that Washington would defend Taiwan if China attacked.

What has been intentionally overlooked is that traditionally, no US president would use US military forces to support freedom or democracy per se in a foreign land. Biden’s utterance did not deviate from that.

A greater brouhaha rained down on former US president Donald Trump’s TV interview in which he said that Taiwan stole US chips and other semiconductor businesses while ignoring the pointed question of Washington’s military commitment to Taiwan.

The logical interpretation should be that Trump, like all national political figures in Washington, recognizes the security imperative for US interests of defending Taiwan. However, the issue he has is that Taiwan should contribute much more to funding its own defense, rather than piggybacking off the largesse of the US.

This sort of interpartnership give-and-take echoes those he bestowed on all US allies while he was in power. True to a business owner’s values, he is always mindful of the costs. His critics who reshaped his comment to criticize him for being soft on China might be off the mark.

Doubts regarding whether Washington would militarily come to Taiwan’s aid in the case of China’s invasion has long been a subject exploited by many political actors, both internal and external. It is a given that China would seize it as a major weapon in its misinformation toolkit to convince Taiwanese that resistance to Beijing is futile.

What is unconscionable is that Taiwanese politicians, including former president Ma Yin-Jeou (馬英九), would harp on the same myth with clear ulterior motives. They seem oblivious to the enormous damage they are doing to the nation’s security.

The two hostile groups, one on either side of the Taiwan Strait, joined hands to wreak havoc on Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections, the most important democratic exercises.

One key to making a grand theft on this outwardly prosperous democracy seemingly rests with the frequently adroit use of an antiquated legal system, which has long been immune to any meaningful reform regarding sovereignty and cross-strait interactions on account of a Constitution that still defines Taiwan, mainland China and Mongolia parts of the Republic of China.

At the most basic level, matters harmful to national security have to be dealt with kid gloves or else tolerated.

No wonder a much confused electorate, further exhausted by constant information warfare and nearly daily reports of air and sea incursions by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, would lose sight of civic duties to the extent of putting morally dubious individuals, repeat criminals or even known traitors in local offices and the legislature.

In those institutions, pro-China forces now hold the upper hand. Pro-Taiwan forces can only count on the Presidential Office and a handful of counties/cities in the southwest portion of the nation.

To say that Taiwan’s democracy is hanging by a thread might be an exaggeration, but it is definitely not in the utmost health. There was a reason why the concerted sigh of relief among free nations was almost deafening when the Democratic Progressive Party managed to win the presidency in last month’s election.

Still, Taiwanese must toil on.

Taiwan’s deterrence against China continues to stand on two pillars: faith in Washington’s immutable defense commitment, and the buildup of Taiwan’s own self-defense into an impenetrable fortress.

The first one is obvious yet the second one contains long-lasting implications.

Taiwanese’s will to fight for their own freedom will be the most important measure for people around the world, including Chinese, to evaluate Taiwanese for many generations to come.

Huang Jei-hsuan is a Taiwanese American residing in the US.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2024/02/02

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Vice President William Lai (賴清德), the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate, yesterday said that he would maintain the “status quo” and pursue peace through strength if elected, remaining open to engagement with Beijing under the preconditions of equality and dignity.

Lai pledged to try to engage with China, as dialogue could decrease cross-straits risks, and said peaceful development is in the best interests of both sides and the rest of the world.

“Peace is priceless and war has no winners,” Lai said at a news conference in which he appeared alongside DPP vice presidential candidate Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴).