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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Taiwan and the international order

Taiwan and the international order

President-elect William Lai (賴清德) is to accede to the presidency this month at a time when the international order is in its greatest flux in three decades. Lai must navigate the ship of state through the choppy waters of an assertive China that is refusing to play by the rules, challenging the territorial claims of multiple nations and increasing its pressure on Taiwan.

It is widely held in democratic capitals that Taiwan is important to the maintenance and survival of the liberal international order. Taiwan is strategically located, hemming China’s People’s Liberation Army inside the first island chain, preventing it from threatening US military bases that have been the bedrock of prosperity and security in the Asia-Pacific region since the end of World War II.

Taiwan is a democracy with shared values with the West, and a lesson of history is that liberal democracies must bind together to defend their way of life.

Since coming to power in 2021, US President Joe Biden’s administration’s policy on Taiwan has been to build collective support from US allies and partners. This strategy — the US plus its allies, partners and Taiwan — marks a change from previous US administrations which have treated Taiwan’s security as primarily a bilateral issue. The collective strategy reminds China that Taiwan is about more than US-China relations and it concerns a concert of democracies willing to defend the rules-based order.

However, despite Taiwan’s importance, the nation has been conspicuously absent from US-led institutional initiatives. Taiwan has not been included in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) or the AUKUS agreement. While the democracies have made great strides in rhetorically supporting Taiwan, more could be done to facilitate Taiwan’s more substantial participation in regional affairs.

In a recent article titled “US-Taiwan Relations and the Future of the Liberal International Order” published in the US Army War College Quarterly: Parameters, Academia Sinica Institute of Political Science research fellow Christina Lai (賴潤瑤) offers a suite of policy prescriptions for how Taiwan can make more substantive contributions to the US-led international order in the Asia-Pacific region. Of course, outright membership might risk conflict with China, but the US could better navigate China’s red line by facilitating a Taiwanese regional presence through participation as a dialogue partner.

For example, Christina Lai said that the US could encourage Taiwan to become a dialogue partner of the Quad. No longer only about security, the Quad has expanded its scope to address emerging technologies and COVID-19 vaccines, and Taiwanese excellence in health and technology could help boost the group’s expertise. To get around any Chinese complaints, she says the US could draft a white paper elaborating on the legal basis for Taiwan’s participation. Taiwan could also make a huge contribution to trade cooperation in the IPEF, whose members value connection, cleanness, technology and resilience.

On the security front, Christina Lai said a “trilateral security network” could be built on existing US-Japan relations and the Quad to help address policy coordination issues. This could start with Taiwan’s involvement as a “dialogue partner” for contingency planning and logistics support. Moreover, the Quad could consider inviting Taiwan to join Quad-plus meetings and initiatives to help improve economic resilience in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The more Taiwan participates in US-led institutions and the more diplomatic presence it enjoys in Asia, the more likely this strategy is to prevent Beijing from starting a military conflict or attempting to occupy Taiwan by force,” Christina Lai said.

When William Lai takes office on May 20, leveraging the nation’s strengths and promoting its meaningful participation in the liberal international order should be a top priority.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2024/05/02

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From left, Minister of Finance Su Jain-rong, National Development Council Minister Kung Ming-hsin, American Institute in Taiwan Director Brent Christensen and Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu attend a news conference on Taiwan-US infrastructure cooperation in Asia and Latin America in Taipei yesterday.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

Taiwan and the US are to collaborate on infrastructure funding in Asia and Latin America, which would boost Taiwan’s clout in the international community, Minister of Finance Su Jain-rong (蘇建榮) said yesterday.