Assistant Secretary for East Asia Kurt Campbell’s testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on “Why Taiwan Matters” yesterday is the most comprehensive statement of U.S. policy toward Taiwan since James Kelly delivered similar testimony in April 2004. It is a timely and welcome reminder of the depth and breadth of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship and the importance of those ties to U.S. interests. Interaction and cooperation between the Taiwan and American peoples, as well as our governments, continue to expand in the economic, political, and security realms.
Two points are especially salient. Secretary Campbell states that how the U.S. manages the U.S.-Taiwan relationship “will have a great impact on the way our partners view us across the Asia-Pacific region.” Indeed, many countries in the region who have concerns about U.S. staying power are observing how the U.S. carries out its commitments to Taiwan. Nations in Northeast and Southeast Asia would likely interpret a weakening of U.S. support for Taiwan as a signal of U.S. capitulation to Chinese interests, and eventually follow suit. For this and other reasons, in the current issue of The Washington Quarterly, Nancy Bernkopf Tucker and I argue against U.S. abandonment of Taiwan.
Second, Campbell highlights the contradiction between China’s desire to build greater confidence and trust and its massive military buildup opposite Taiwan. It is indeed time for the extensive cross-Strait economic relationship to be matched by a drawdown of China’s more than 1,400 missiles targeting Taiwan and a renunciation of the use of force by Beijing against the island. China is obviously incensed over continued U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. The solution lies not in an understanding between Washington and Beijing, but rather in China’s recognition that winning the hearts and minds of the people of Taiwan cannot be achieved through threats, intimidation, or coercion.
Bonnie Glaser is a Senior Fellow in the Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS. This post originally appeared on the CSIS Asia Policy Blog, cogitASIA.