Shine the Light on Taiwan

With the growing tensions between Taiwan and China, the United States finds itself at the forefront of this issue.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Over the past few decades, Chinese pressure on Taiwan has steadily increased. As a Taiwanese person in America, I fear for Taiwan’s safety, considering China’s presence on the island. In recent years, China has been sending planes over Taiwan and underwater vehicles containing missiles and cameras to Taiwanese shores. These threats show China’s growing urge to conquer Taiwan. To prevent this outcome, the United States, a long-time ally of Taiwan, must use its military and diplomatic power to intervene.

China and Taiwan have been ruled by separate governments for nearly a century, leading the two nations to develop different cultural makeups and political systems. The Taiwanese have a unique system of government, which in recent times has been independent of China’s. Linguistically, the Taiwanese have their own dialect of the standard Mandarin spoken in mainland China, one that is noticeably different in sound and writing.

Taiwanese inhabitants are generally adverse to China. According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, only 35 percent of Taiwanese respondees have a positive view of China. Meanwhile, Taiwanese people tend to have a positive association with the United States. Eighty-five percent and 79 percent of survey respondents prefer close economic and political ties with the United States, respectively. It is clear that the vast majority of Taiwan isn’t appeased by the idea of unification with China and wants its own identity.

The United States, a longtime bystander, needs to start thinking about its economic stance with Taiwan and how it will be affected if China were to take over. Though it may seem surprising considering Taiwan’s size, Taiwan is the U.S.’s ninth largest trading partner in goods, with the U.S. importing $60.4 billion worth of goods and exporting $30.2 billion worth. If the U.S. allows China to seize Taiwan and its economic assets, Chinese power in the Asia-Pacific region will grow at the detriment of neighboring countries such as Japan and India, and much of Asia’s economy will move into China’s hands.

Politically, the U.S. has almost always been on positive terms with Taiwan. When North Korea invaded South Korea in June of 1950, the U.S. began taking measures to prevent widespread communism. One of these measures was strengthening relationships with Taiwan in order to prevent China from using its power against the small nation. During the Vietnam War, Taiwan provided the U.S. with economic and technical assistance, further strengthening their bonds.

As it becomes increasingly difficult to both please China and defend Taiwan, the U.S. needs to start publicly supporting Taiwan. China is clearly hoping to control the smaller island, evident in the increasing number of their warplanes flown over Taiwan. While the Chinese government has never explicitly stated they will use military force, they have also not ruled it out as an option as they vow to reunify the island. The presence of China looming over a small nation is a daunting threat.

While China arguably possesses one of the strongest militaries in the world, the U.S. has the power to form alliances with countries that neighbor China, such as Japan, India, and Australia. In the past century, the U.S.-Japan relationship has strengthened, which could help both parties come to an alliance in supporting Taiwan. When it comes down to military strength, China does have the upper hand, boasting nearly double the United States’ tally of active soldiers, but with the help of other Asia-Pacific countries and the U.S., the threat of China invading is less likely. Four-star General Mark Milley believes that the U.S. has more than enough power to defend Taiwan if China were to invade.

The United States finds itself near the forefront of the conflict between China and Taiwan. While the island may be thousands of miles away, the fight for Taiwan’s autonomy has never been more important. The U.S. has the power to shape the narrative: peace in the Asia-Pacific region or an era of Chinese dominance. As a nation of great military and diplomatic strength and one of the few nations China fears, we, the United States, need to support Taiwan.