Despite recent warnings of a potentially imminent war between China and Taiwan the reaction from the Taiwanese public has been rather temperate. The Taiwanese people are certainly aware of the threats that China poses, but do not see the situation as dire. For many in Taiwan, the Chinese military threat is real and increasing, but it is China’s intensifying pressure on Taiwan below the threshold of conflict that is more pressing.
China’s threat to Taiwan is political by nature, as it seeks for national unification. As such, Taiwan’s security and deterrence posture cannot be viewed from a purely military lens, although the military dimension is a crucial part of it.
- Use of force is certainly one of China’s options, and the gap of military strength between Taiwan and China keeps widening. To take over Taiwan, however, China needs to enhance its amphibious capability, and this provides Taiwan with a window of opportunity.
- China also uses means below the threshold of conflict to intimidate and coerce Taiwan, pushing the latter to a defensive position. Taiwan lacks effective countermeasures, and deterrence by defense or resilience (i.e. to absorb and adapt to the challenges) is the option at hand.
- The US has adopted a strategy, which seeks to deter both sides from altering the status quo, while providing Taiwan with a certain degree of assistance.
- The US-China strategic competition has its own dynamics and is not entirely driven by the Taiwan issue. The US support for Taiwan’s international participation may serve as a leverage to deter and counter China’s intimidation and coercion in the military domain and others.
Author: Jyun-yi Lee
This is the third short paper of a new HCSS series on deterrence for small and middle powers, edited by Paul van Hooft and Tim Sweijs.
Find the other papers from the series here:
- Pick Your Poison: Comparing the Deterrence Problem in Asia and Europe‘ by Eric Heginbotham and Richard J. Samuels of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
- ‘Raising the Costs of Access: Active Denial Strategies by Small and Middle Powers against Revisionist Aggression‘, by HCSS analysts Paul van Hooft, Nora Nijboer and Tim Sweijs.
- Deterrence in the Baltic Sea Region – a View from Poland by Wojciech Lorenz (Polish Institute of International Affairs)
- Deterrence and War Initiation Decisions, by Dr. Jeffrey H. Michaels