Relationships between the United States and Taiwan present a complicated and multidimensional phenomenon. Therefore, controversies of Taiwan and China raise a question concerning the possible intervention of the United States in a potential conflict and its readiness to act as an ally of the former. The survey shows the existence of a particular trend in terms of Taiwanese attitude toward the respective issue. For instance, in 2017, 43.4 percent of Taiwanese think that the United States will not support Taiwan in a case of China’s attack. At the same time, 40.5 percent of them, by contrast, believe that the United States will be ready to intervene. In 2019, the allocation of opinions changed, and the rate of Taiwanese believing in Washington’s intervention has increased to 48.5 percent, while the percentage of those who do not consider it has considerably declined to 35.3 percent. Such changes in a population’s opinion illustrate the growing relevance of an issue and its ambiguity.
This paper firstly will examine a brief history of relationships between both countries, and then it provides an explanation for the readiness of the United States to go to war for Taiwan. The report will rely on scientific evidence and other credible information to find reliable arguments regarding the topic under consideration. The analysis of the identified data demonstrates that the United States can go to war for Taiwan because the U.S. has legal, and economic commitments to Taiwan and a challenging relationship with China.
Brief History of U.S.-Taiwan Treaty
Historians usually trace the establishment of specific commitments between both countries back to Korean War. Despite Truman’s state concerning the U.S. non-intervention commitment, at the beginning of the war, Taiwan became an outpost for the U.S.; the latter provided military and economic support for the former. Afterward, in 1954, the U.S. and Taiwan signed a mutual defense treaty, and the U.S. confirmed its readiness to defend Taiwan in a case of Chinese aggression. This treaty resulted in various consequences, one of which was the deployment of American nuclear weapons on the island. Therefore, after the Korean War, Taiwan has become an outpost for the U.S. to confront and constrain China in terms of a conflict of capitalist and socialist blocks.
Despite a shift in the Cold War’s allocation of powers and rebuilding relationships between the U.S. and China, the former continued to develop previous strategies toward Taiwan. The U.S. Taiwan Relations Act claimed that, although the U.S. had no right to have an official alliance with Taiwan, it still committed to supporting the latter with a weapon. Thus, the treaty does not oblige the U.S. to intervene, though it has an agreement to provide Taiwan with means for defense. This policy was China’s cause of concern and confrontation with the U.S., and although Washington declared a gradual reduction of arms supply in 1982, real restraint has not taken place. However, a turning point was a political change in Taiwan in the 2000s. Mainly, the rise of the Democratic Progressive Party to power in Taiwan and the promotion of strategies to establish independence provoked opposition from the U.S. side. As a response to China’s technological breakthrough, Taiwan kept purchasing advanced weapons. These events significantly affected the development of the U.S.-Taiwan treaty.
Moreover, such a treaty has allies among other states, especially those having geopolitical complaints to China. Firstly, it concerns Japan, South Korea, and Australia, which are threatened by expanding China’s maritime power. Additionally, the U.S. has allies in terms of the United Nations, including the United Kingdom and France. However, China can get support from its direct and indirect partners; the first group includes Iran and Russia, with which China maintains a military partnership. The second group consists of states which can be among allies of the U.S., but at the same time, be dependent on particular economic commitments to and linkages with China. Thus, both sides have strong partners who have either directly supported a treaty or potentially could stand up for it in an extreme case, but allies of China are mostly related to the second category.
Rationale Behind the Treaty
Today, Taiwan presents a territory of geopolitical importance for both the U.S. and China, and, therefore, it is a cause of increased tension and, subsequently, the confrontation between them. For China, Taiwan is an opportunity to expand its influence in the Pacific Ocean. It is perceived as a threat from the side of the U.S. and other countries because China intends to expand control to island chains and “expand its maritime defense area.” Thus, in the case of the U.S., Taiwan is a means to restrain China and maintain its hegemony. In a potential conflict of China and Taiwan, the U.S. accordingly has an interest in the latter’s defense.
Based on the history of relationships of Taiwan, the U.S., and China, Lin highlights three primary reasons for such a treaty. First of all, the author underlines China’s increasing degree of aggression in the Taiwan Strait, which has taken place since the middle of the 2010s. This notion can be referred to above China’s concerns with the South Pacific region and its plans to expand control there. The second reason appeals to the interests of Taiwan; particularly, Lin recognizes a “growing sense of self-identity” among its population, which is inevitably linked to striving for the consolidation of state independence. Therefore, China’s intentions contradict Taiwan’s interests, and the latter is more inclined to cooperate with the U.S., which is historically established and allows Taiwan to ensure its self-defense. The third reason is the U.S.’ adherence to “the status-quo in the Taiwan Strait,” which is dictated not by concern with the independence of Taiwan but rather with the maintenance of peace in the region. In other words, restraining China, the U.S. also restrain Taiwan’s ambitions because the latter depends on American supplies. Thus, the U.S. regards the treaty as a compromise preventing a conflict between China and Taiwan.
The U.S. Services that Are Provided to Taiwan
Various legal acts, including the Taiwan Relations Act, organize a cooperation framework between the U.S. and Taiwan. Thus, the partnership of both countries is multidimensional and takes place in different spheres. However, due to historical circumstances and the necessity of avoiding direct opposition with China, these relationships can hardly be identified in a transparent way. According to the Taiwan Relations Act, it does not present precisely formal diplomatic ties; therefore, it is more profound to recognize a list of specific policies and services provided by the U.S. to Taiwan.
The cooperation of both countries can mainly be divided into two large spheres; the first one is a partnership in economic dimension and technologies, the second one takes place in defense and security. Taiwan is a significant ally of the U.S. in the economic sector. According to 2019’s statistics, it is U.S.’ “tenth-largest trading partner.” Subsequently, one of the services provided by Washington is a direct investment into Taiwan’s development. In 2017, it was $17.0 billion, while in 2018, total export services composed $10.0 billion. Another essential feature of both states’ relationships is the significance of Taiwan’s technological sector for the U.S. The United States are typically encouraged to invest in Taiwan’s economics. This scientific information demonstrates that robust connections tie the American and Taiwanese economies.
Another sphere of U.S.’ aid to Taiwan is defense and security. Since some high-ranking American officials consider Taiwan as a way to confront China, it is no surprise that the United States invests some resources into Taiwan. In particular, the United States provides “defense articles and services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.” This assistance can be considered an adequate response to numerous military exercises that China organized close to the Taiwanese borders. In addition to that, the U.S. Taiwan Relations Act stipulates that the American President and Congress are to determine and take appropriate action if there is a threat to the security of people in Taiwan. However, it is necessary to understand that this formulation is not the same as the commitment to defend Taiwan in case of a military attack. Instead of it, many experts believe that these statements were only made to deter China.
Since the topic under analysis is significant for the involved parties, it is not surprising that many news articles are regularly published. One of them focuses on how high-ranking American officials comment on the topic. For example, President Joe Biden made a significant statement during a CNN interview. He explicitly mentioned that the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense if China attacked. Even though these words seem a clear signal for China, there is an ambiguity between what Washington says and does. The rationale is that the U.S. does not promote direct statements regarding the fact that Taiwan needs independence. One can suppose that this strategy is necessary to deter China and Taiwanese internal radicals from starting a conflict. It is worth admitting that Biden’s words during the CNN interview were not the first on the topic. Earlier this year, he stated that the United States is committed to protecting its allies, including Taiwan. This information shows that American officials follow a consistent strategy toward Taiwan.
Simultaneously, China does not stand on the sidelines of the situation. The Chinese government makes an effort to gain control over Taiwan and limit its connection with the United States. That is why Zhu Fengilan, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office, criticized the Taiwan Relations Act. In particular, this official states that the law is illegal and invalid because it brings hostility and insecurity in the Taiwan Strait, which violates the communiques that governed U.S.-China relations. This information reveals that Chinese mass media resources also draw sufficient attention to the triangular relationship between China, Taiwan, and the United States.
Other Countries Involved
Even though the focus is on the Taiwan Strait, it is impossible to state that the issue only affects neighboring states. In fact, the crisis is essential for the whole world because it can have dramatic international effects. In addition to the role of Japan, South Korea, Russia, and Iran, one should explicitly emphasize the AUKUS Pact, “the three-year-old defense treaty between the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.” This document obliges the three countries to become involved in war if the interests of any of them are endangered.
Smaller European countries also provide Taiwan with some support. This statement refers to the fact that Lithuania agreed to host a Taiwanese representative office, while the Czech Republic took an 89-member delegation of Taiwanese politicians. Simultaneously, the European Union was concerned with China’s military use to influence Taiwan and offered to strengthen diplomatic and economic relations with the latter. Some experts believe that the European states are engaged in the situation because they are afraid of China’s growing authoritarian behavior.
The given report has gathered sufficient evidence to answer the question of whether the United States will go to war for Taiwan. The two entered a close relationship in the mid-20th century when the U.S. decided to support Taiwan economically and with military resources during the Korean War. One can state that the connection between them was strengthened with the adoption of the Taiwan Relations Act. This legal document resulted in the fact that the United States provided Taiwan with various resources even though China opposed and criticized these actions.
It is worth admitting that the U.S. provides numerous services to Taiwan. The two cooperate in multiple spheres, including politics, economy, technologies, security, and defense. The existing connections demonstrate that the United States is interested in developed Taiwan. Furthermore, recent news articles and releases provide explicit statements that the U.S. is ready to enter a military conflict if China attacks Taiwan. Even though Washington did not take any specific measures to escalate the situation in the Taiwan Strait, it will act decisively to defend its interests. That is why one can suppose that the United States can go to war for Taiwan.
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