For Taipei, the question of U.S. reliability is an existential matter. Beijing is pressuring Taiwan’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, hinting at the use of force if necessary to achieve unification with the island. This is no time for America to go wobbly on support for democratic Taiwan.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s penchant for unpredictability and the smattering of prominent voices in academe suggesting that the United States should barter Taiwan for other concessions ensure that China will keep probing the limits of America’s political resolve. But regarding Taiwan as a bargaining chip would be antithetical to the U.S. national interest.
Fortunately, there is remarkable bipartisan support for strengthening U.S.-Taiwan relations, if only as a response to President Xi Jinping’s ambition to secure China’s central position in the world order. The Taiwan Travel Act, which Trump signed into law in March, supports closer official U.S.-Taiwan engagement at all levels. Likewise, the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act urges the United States to participate in “appropriate Taiwanese military exercises, such as the annual Han Kuang exercise” and encourages high-level defense and military exchanges.
As Washington dials up pressure on Beijing, mainly to address unfair Chinese investment practices and leeching of U.S. intellectual property, it should not view Taiwan simply as a lever in its diplomatic toolkit. Instead, it should advance an affirmative vision, strengthening Taiwan’s ability to compete economically and militarily for the long term and remain a bastion of democracy in the Chinese-speaking world.
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