SSI

US Army War College

Dr. Jared M. McKinney, Dr. Peter Harris, and Mr. Eric Chan – China and Taiwan (Part 1)

Released 9 March 2022.

Deterring a Chinese invasion of Taiwan without recklessly threatening a great-power war is both possible and necessary through a tailored deterrence package that goes beyond either fighting over Taiwan or abandoning it. This podcast explores cutting-edge understandings of deterrence with empirical evidence of Chinese strategic thinking and culture to build such a strategy and offers counter-arguments as well. Click here to read the original article.

Episode Transcript:

 

Stephanie Crider (Host)

Decisive Point introduces Conversations on Strategy, a US Army War College Press production featuring distinguished authors and contributors who explore timely issues in national security affairs. The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the podcast guests and are not necessarily those of the Department of the Army, US Army War College, or any other agency of the US government.

The guests in speaking order on this episode are:

(Guest 1 Jared M. McKinney)

(Guest 2 Peter Harris)

(Guest 3 Eric Chan)

 

Host

Today we welcome Dr. Jared McKinney and Dr. Peter Harris, authors of “Broken Nest: Deterring China from Invading Taiwan,” featured in Parameters Winter 2021–22 issue. We are also pleased to welcome Mr. Eric Chan.

Dr. McKinney is the chair of the Department of Strategy and Security Studies at the eSchool of Graduate Professional Military Education—Air University, and reviews editor of the Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs. Dr. Harris is associate professor of political science at Colorado State University and Indo-Pacific perspectives editor of the Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs. Mr. Chan is the senior Korea/China/Taiwan strategist with the Headquarters (Department of the) Air Force’s Checkmate Directorate and a reviewer for the Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs. He also serves as an adjunct fellow with the Global Taiwan Institute. Welcome to the inaugural episode of Conversations on Strategy.

Let’s talk about the China and Taiwan conundrum. Jared and Peter, your article, “Broken Nest: Deterring China from Invading Taiwan,” proposes an unconventional approach to China’s relationship with Taiwan. The article garnered worldwide attention, including from the (Chinese Communist Party or) CCP, which condemned the strategy. Jared, Peter, please give us a brief recap of your article.

 

(McKinney)

Thanks for having us here today, Stephanie. The Taiwan conundrum is how to have great-power peace without abandoning Taiwan to Chinese domination and how to preserve Taiwan’s independence without a great-power war. Is there a way out of this conundrum? Peter and I have argued that there is, and we’ve termed this approach “the broken nest.” Chinese leaders, even pathological ones like Mao, have long understood that grand strategy is all about balancing different vital interests. We took some inspiration for the strategy from a 1975 meeting Henry Kissinger had with Mao Zedong, in which Taiwan was discussed. Kissinger asked Mao when Taiwan would return to the mainland. Mao said, “In 100 years.” Kissinger replied, “It won’t take 100 years. Much less,” and then Mao then responded, “It’s better for it to be in your hands, and if you were to send it back to me now, I would not want it because it is not wantable. There’s a huge bunch of counterrevolutionaries there.” This is the bottom line of the broken-nest strategy, to make Taiwan, given the (People’s Republic of China’s or) PRC’s broader interests, “unwantable.” The phrase “broken nest” comes from a Chinese proverb that asks, “Beneath a broken nest, how can there be any whole eggs?” We designed this approach according to what political scientists call “deterrence by punishment” and the literature on tailored deterrence, which asks analysts to try to match techniques to a specific adversary. We proposed a tailored deterrence package composed of four elements. We argued, first, that Taiwan should invest more money in weapons designed to make the island costlier to invade. Second, that Taiwan should threaten China with a preplanned resistance campaign to demonstrate to the mainland that subduing Taiwan would not be cheap, quick, or easy. Third, we called for a targeted scorched earth strategy, whereby Taiwan’s semiconductor industry would be destroyed in the event of a Chinese invasion. And, finally, we proposed that regional actors such as Japan and Australia threaten Beijing with massive military buildups in the event of force being used against Taiwan. While none of these elements can stand on their own, together, we suggest that they’re sufficient to make Taiwan “unwantable.” The bottom line is that we think this could be the beginning of a solution, at least for now, to the Taiwan conundrum—and, although one might proffer this or that objection, to our knowledge, there is no more realistic or credible option in the current marketplace of ideas. But if there’s a solid alternative, we want to hear about it, and so we’re looking forward to the conversation today.

 

Host

Wonderful, thank you. Shortly after we published your article, Parameters heard from Eric Chan from the US Air Force’s Checkmate Directorate, who took issue with some of the main points in the “Broken Nest: Deterring China from Invading Taiwan” article. What’s your perspective, Eric?

 

(Chan)

Hello Stephanie, thank you for having me. This is a very good discussion, and I’d like to thank the authors for making a very interesting point and a lot of very interesting ideas about how to do a tailored deterrence theory. However, the main issue that I have with this tailored theory is that it’s really designed to deter a pre-Xi Chinese Communist Party. This doesn’t really cover the aggressiveness of Xi Jinping and his ideological bent in terms of finishing what he calls a Taiwan problem. Because there’s such a focus on the ideological portion of this conflict, many of the proposed solutions to this deterrence theory fails against this newly aggressive China. For instance, scorched earth, especially targeting things like (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company or) TSMC, fails primarily because the economic portion is not as important to Xi as it was to party leaders from a generation ago. And, moreover, this imposes significant political costs on Taiwan, on any Taiwanese political leadership that would advocate for such a strategy. And I think if we have learned any lessons from Afghanistan, that is that we shouldn’t be proposing military solutions that are disconnected from the political realities. So, when you talk about deterrence against Xi’s China, because deterring an aggressive power is really hard to do, especially when they’re bent on ideological confrontation with the United States, that means the US really has no other choice than to be able to threaten a great-power war against China, and especially because we’re looking at the party entering what we can deem as the most dangerous decade. This really means that the US needs to be able to propose realistic methods of deterrence that aren’t really limited by either economic deterrence or even by Taiwan being able to advocate for a bloody insurgency campaign. Economic deterrence alone isn’t enough to properly deter the party, nor is insurgency campaign raged by Taiwan; that would not be sufficient to deter the Chinese Communist Party. Instead, the US must be able to credibly threaten a massive, great-power war. Taiwan needs to be able to pose the tactical and operational problems to the party that makes the US threats even more credible. So, unfortunately, despite the very clever ways that we’re trying to tailor deterrence here, it is likely insufficient to properly deter the party of today.

 

Host

Thank you for your thoughts on that. Jared and Peter, back to you for a brief response before we dig a little bit deeper into this topic.

 

(Harris)

Thanks Stephanie, and thanks to you, Eric, for engaging with our argument. You make some very good points—points that we agree with, some points that we have honest disagreements about, and then some points that we look forward to exploring with you further today. The first thing I want to clarify, a point of agreement between the three of us, is that nothing in our article should suggest that we absolve Beijing of responsibility, the heightening tensions across the strait. We agree that China has become more aggressive. We agree that China has become more assertive, and it’s the root cause of the problem or the urgency that the problem now has. I’m in print elsewhere as arguing that China is responsible for worsening the security environment, for empowering hawks here in the United States, and that Beijing should take steps to reassure Taipei and Washington that it has no plans to invade. We take China’s increase in power and its increase in assertiveness as context where a challenge to be overcome. The second point I’d like to clarify is that we do not argue that China wants Taiwan so that it can control the island’s semiconductor industry. From your written response, I took that that’s what you understood our argument to be, and that’s been a common misperception in some of the other commentary that we’ve seen since our article’s publication. But we do not argue that China wants Taiwan to control its semiconductor industry. Rather, our argument is that China has become dependent on Taiwan’s semiconductors to a nontrivial degree, so that Beijing can now be threatened with the withholding of those technologies. To be clear, we are open to debate about how costly it would be to China to lose access to TSMC chips, but we need to see some logic and evidence to convince us that the threat of disablement would truly be water off a duck’s back. We think that even ideologically motivated leaders like Xi can be dissuaded from taking irrational choices, and we think that the threat of disabling those chip factories could constitute such a threat. We know The New York Times has reported that US intelligence officials have reported that Xi is in fact concerned about the security of access to Taiwanese manufacturing chips, and that is a component of his thinking when it comes to deciding a policy toward Taiwan. Right now, Taiwan’s chip industry already comprises a part of the island’s defense policy. We view it as a commitment device to keep the free world in. And, if you look at statements made by political and economic elites in Taiwan, it seems clear to me that the industry is treated as a commitment device to encourage an intervention on Taiwan’s behalf in the event of a Chinese invasion. What we’re proposing is that the industry be turned into a commitment device to keep China out, that the threat of the foundries’ disablement might be enough to stave off an invasion. If I could just conclude real quick, and I think there’s one question that would be useful for us all to clarify our answers to inform the discussion—that is, what would it take to deter China from invading Taiwan? What I gathered from your remarks and from your written response is that your position is the only thing that will deter China from invading Taiwan is the prospect of complete national annihilation at the hands of the United States. Is that correct framing of your position—that only complete annihilation at the hands of the United States—the prospect of that—is enough to deter an invasion, or is there something short of that that might be threatened that would succeed at upholding the status quo? I think if we can understand the answer to that question, we’ll understand each other a little better and we could have an informed discussion on that basis.

 

(Chan)

Okay, so to address the point here, I would say that national annihilation, of course, it’s a bit of a stretch. The PRC . . . one of the main issues that we have with deterring China today is that many of our leaders don’t really quite believe that the US is going to escalate to the use of nuclear weapons in a Taiwan contingency. So, the US does not necessarily need to threaten national annihilation to make credible deterrence against the party. Rather, all it has to do is to be able to threaten sufficient levels of disruption to where the party would feel that its grip on power would be threatened. In the case of a Taiwan invasion, the reason why I say that threatening TSMC by itself isn’t really much of a particular threat to Xi is because there’s so many other factors—economic factors even—that Xi needs to consider in terms of an invasion. Fuel and food—those two basic things much more important than semiconductors, especially given that the semiconductors that China uses, much of it is already largely homegrown because of the TMC foundries and also the Shanghai foundries that already exists on the mainland. And when you’re talking about Taiwan targeting that, that becomes a much more complex version of deterrence by punishment—one of the weaker areas that Taiwan has issues in being able to credibly deter the CCP with. I would argue that much of these economic costs are already baked into the calculus of the CCP. That’s one of the reasons why Taiwan hasn’t been invaded yet. Not only is there the high economic costs involved, but also Xi is just not sure whether or not he can complete the job of an invasion prior to a massive US response. I would argue here that yes, even when you’re talking about the defensive use or thinking around these semiconductors that Xi is afraid of the semiconductor supply disappearing, I would say that a good deal of it has already been baked in. They’re considering it as a threat, but not really to the extent that they really fear things like food and fuel, oil supplies being cut off in terms of a great-power war.

 

(Harris)

You say that national annihilation might be a stretch, but then, in your written response to the article, you did call for credibly demonstrating an inability to systematically grind the (People’s Liberation Army or) PLA to dust. So, when I read those words, it seems to me that you think to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, what the United States needs to do is threaten, essentially, World War III because the PRC would not respond to, you know, an effort to grind the PLA to dust without retaliating in kind. I guess we have a disagreement between Jared and I and you where we think there’s a package of deterrence that could be put in place, including economic threats, semiconductors, one—but, other, economic threats, the threat of armed insurgency on the island of Taiwan, etc., could be enough to deter an invasion, whereas it does seem that, for you, that the threat needs to be cataclysmic proportions to deter an invasion. I mean, I have some questions about that strategy if that’s truly where you think the United States needs to be to deter an invasion, but I just kind of want to clarify that there is dividing line between those, unless I’m misunderstanding in some way?

 

(Chan)

Peter, I would say, “Just somewhat.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say “national annihilation,” but, rather, sufficiently being able to threaten the ability to destroy large parts of, say, the PLA Navy, of being able to knock out much of the rocket force to the extent that the party has serious doubts about being able to continue a military operation to a useful degree against Taiwan; being able to threaten them with just being able to cut off these fuel supplies, food supplies. So, you’re not really talking about nuclear war here, but you’re talking about the ability to let the party know that if this war stretches out over into the long term, then this will get increasingly bad for the party, that this will start threatening a significant political instability. So yes, you’re talking about World War III, which is bad enough, but I just want to make clear that it’s not like I’m looking for, you know, a massive nuclear strike on China.

 

(McKinney)If I could, I think it might be worth discussing the basis for the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy today. I mean, if you pick up yesterday’s copy of the People’s Daily or the day before’s copy, almost every day, a few issues are talked about, and they all center around China as a moderately prosperous society in 2021 and achieving the China Dream and becoming a modern, socialist, successful, democratic state by 2049. According to current Chinese discourse, these issues have essentially become the basis for the CCP’s legitimacy, and the party is saying we can deliver these things; in exchange, you should essentially legitimate us as the governing authority. The bottom line, I think, is if you can threaten these goals, then you have a perspectively effective strategy in order to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Now it gets a bit tricky because one of the China Dream goals is, in fact, the reunification of the Chinese homeland. And so, then, this raises the question: Is that the only China Dream goal? It is not. And could that goal be accomplished without decisively failing on other performance metrics? My view is that Beijing would absolutely fail to achieve other metrics of the Chinese Dream were it to be cut off from the world semiconductor industry, to suffer massive casualties in the event of serious Taiwanese resistance to an invasion, to face the informational and publicity costs of a long-term and costly insurgency backed by nations of the world sanctioning Chinese goods and other US allies and partners in the region—South Korea, Australia, Japan, say—doubling their defense budgets and forming a strengthened coalition against Beijing. So that’s essentially what we proposed. And it’s really not clear to me how the party would be legitimate under these conditions according to the standards that they themselves have set out.

 

(Chan)

Thanks for bringing up those great points. How I would address this is that it’s very clear to me that Xi is willing to take a significant number of political risks and economic risks in the service of what you would consider a very severe ideological competition with the United States. There’s been a significant amount of economic damage that Xi has imposed on China all by himself in terms of being able to fund that ideological purity. When he did his crackdown on Hong Kong, he did it fully knowing that this would impose serious economic costs on China itself. Same thing with his crackdowns on the tech(nology) industry. Same thing with his crackdown on, say, the private education sector and all these regulations too regarding what can and cannot be done during this time of (coronavirus disease or) COVID as well. It’s clear that he’s willing to pay a significant economic cost, and he’s doing this because he feels like the party itself needs to be able to credibly demonstrate its power and to be able to make sure that the populace is ideologically unified along the party lines. So even this talk of legitimacy, this is the talk of, say, the 2009, 2010 era when the party itself was undergoing a massive crisis in legitimacy right before Xi himself came into power. And with Xi’s ascension now, a lot of these old legitimacy issues have been dealt with in a very harsh way by Xi. This is what I mean by the ability of the party to absorb fairly significant amount of economic damage in service of these political goals. And for any leader to be able to take Taiwan and, in so doing, being able to say that they’ve completed the job that Mao himself could not finish, the Chinese people would take a significant amount of economic pain to be able to credibly say this. By itself, threatening the China Dreams, economic goals itself, there is some level of deterrence. I would say it’s significantly less than where it was 10 years ago or 20 years ago when the level of prosperity and the level of economic, domestic economic growth within China was lower than it was today. Just to summarize here, I like to say that China—and, especially, Xi—views the unification of Taiwan—with Taiwan—as something that is absolutely crucial to his policies and his dreams that the communist party make a world safe for autocracy. They’re willing to take a significant amount of economic damage to do so, and they feel confident that the Chinese population would make that type of trade.

 

(McKinney)

If I could just bring a few things up. The first is that this strategy is not fully economic. In fact, there’s four different levers, and, for some reason, everyone focuses on the economic one as if it’s the only one, which is not really what we’ve argued. There are military aspects focused on Taiwan, informational aspects focused on how the world and America would respond to a Chinese invasion, diplomatic and military aspects directly relating to how regional states would respond. In terms of the economic aspects, you mentioned in your opening remarks just a bit ago that China produces most of its own semiconductors. That’s not true. According to the latest industry report, China accounts for one third of all global semiconductor demand, but Chinese suppliers only supply 10 percent of that command. Now it is true that some foreign companies have semiconductor manufacturing in China. These manufacturers, however, are dependent on the importation of parts and supplies from their home companies and countries, and also one of the military instruments of power that are part of the plan is that, as part of the disabling of TSMC and Taiwan’s semiconductor industry, there would be targeted strikes on the mainland against major production facilities in China, limited though they are. There is not a scenario in which a modern state can exist in the digital age without reliable access to semiconductors. China has the capability to produce semiconductors on its own—right now, up to 14 nanometers—but this is not the cutting edge of semiconductor design, and TSMC, Intel, and Samsung are generations ahead of China’s capabilities. Now, everything can be resolved, probably eventually, if you want to spend enough money on it, but this goes back to the fact that, you know, Mao said, “You fight your way, I fight my way.” I think in our strategy, what we’re saying is, “Yes, we will fight our way, and we’re going to fight in the ways in which we’re competitive. We’re gonna draw on our strengths, and, right now, our strengths are global, they’re economic, they’re not necessarily air superiority over the Taiwan Strait, they’re not missile superiority over the Taiwan Strait. The US has geographical disadvantages that make that prohibitively costly.” So, this is a way to really draw on American comparative advantages and impose really significant costs.

 

(Chan)

Thanks for bringing up those points. I think the reason why I focus most—and why most people focus most—on the economic portion of it is that, by itself, those represent the highest levels of deterrence mentioned in your tailored deterrence theory. The other measures of deterrence aren’t really all that strong. Being able to threaten an insurgency campaign on Taiwan? Well, the People’s Armed Police have had decades of experience in dealing with various levels of insurgencies within China itself, and you’re talking about a place that’s island nation. So, supplies easily cut off; very easy to be able to attack people, most people are located in huge population centers, which ironically make it easier for the party to target people; and also the Taiwan people itself you know, no real experience in being able to wage an insurgency. Right now, the Tsai government is looking at ways of being able to increase the strength of the Taiwanese populace. On that there’s new, all that mobilization agency, and there’s some resiliency camps run by Taiwanese Americans. But in terms being able to credibly threaten long, deadly guerrilla campaign, Taiwan is just not there, and it’s really not going to be very convincing against the strength of the People’s Armed Police, especially once the party feels that the war has already been won. Then it’ll just settle down to what would be optimistically termed as just a “pacification campaign.” So that’s not really much of a deterrent at all. And, regarding the idea of allies and partners, being able to arm up against China after a threat—well, it’s not really all that much different from what they’re already doing right now. Yes, they can certainly accelerate their defense spending and so forth. But if Taiwan is taken, this would be a huge blow against American credibility and a presence in the region. We’ve made so many unspoken promises to Taiwan over the years. It was an American ally some generations back, so China taking over Taiwan now would simply reorder the strategic environment for the US presence. Japan might still be on board, but Korea would probably start drifting a lot closer to the China orbit. There would be significant questions in the Philippines, and even Australia might be looking at a more independent policy if it was very clear that China had gotten ascendancy in the region. I would argue that, yeah, the economic portion of this and the semiconductor portion is probably the most deterrent portion against Xi, but, as I did argue earlier, that there are some significant other costs, more basic costs, that the party fears precisely because semiconductors aren’t all that fully developed within the PRC itself. In the end, legitimacy for the party will be based on their ability to provide food and fuel to the nation, and, in the case of any war, this would already be in question. Even the idea of blowing up, say, TSMC foundries—making that threat itself isn’t all that strong because in the war, it’s going to be really hard to make sure that those foundries aren’t blown up anyway, even if Taiwan isn’t targeting them deliberately. Shinto itself is literally seven miles away from one of the perspective party landing areas. So, if there’s any invasion there, the foundries, TSMC headquarters, all likely going to be hit, even if Taiwan isn’t targeting them deliberately. So the massive disruptions in the supply chains and the economic costs from any sort of war is already enormous, and the semiconductors would just be some more straw on top of that camel. By itself, I don’t think it’s that huge of a threat to the party as compared to other things like food and fuel.

 

(Harris)

Eric, I think you make some points that we agree with, and, there’s, like, areas of convergence here among the three of us. I think you’ve said a couple of times that the economic costs of war constitute a deterrent or one of several reasons that Taiwan has not been invaded today. The PRC fears economic costs of an invasion, among other things, and that’s one deterrent. What we’re saying is that those costs should be heightened as the credibility of US military reprisals decreases and we take seriously experts in the United States and, I’m sure you know, many of these people who argue that the credibility of US military reprisals has decreased over time. The economic costs should be emphasized and heightened and not just the chance of incidental damage to foundries, but the guaranteed disablement in the event of an invasion. We also agree that Taiwan is not ready today to fight a guerrilla campaign protracted insurgency against the PRC. We argue it should become ready. We agree that US allies and partners in the region are not quite there in terms of threatening credible punishments against China in the event of an invasion, but we argue they should get there, they should become ready, and that, together, these deterrents could constitute enough to maintain the status quo. What we’re interested in doing is taking US policy seriously. The US government is committed to upholding the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. One concern I have with your counterargument or suggestion is that it would come very close to constitute in a de facto alliance between the United States and Taiwan; that the United States would de facto guarantee the security of the island; it would extend the security umbrella across the island as existed in the 50s, and 60s, and the 70s; and that that would constitute not just a recalibration of deterrence aimed at upholding the status quo, but it would, in fact, be a radical change to the status quo. It would be a pretty radical departure in US policy if the United States was to unambiguously guarantee the security of Taiwan in the way that you suggest, talking about World War III, as you say. I think there’s some areas of convergence between us where we see areas where China could be dissuaded from invading Taiwan without threatening a great-power war, but there’s a big area of disagreement between us, I think, that this threat that you propose I think is far more radical than what we proposed, and I’m open to the suggestion that maybe what the current situation needs is a radical change in US policy. We didn’t tackle that in our article, however, but it seems to be what you’re suggesting. I don’t know if I got that right.

 

(Chan)

On the issue of strategic clarity, I certainly lean more toward the strategic clarity camp, especially because Xi himself has made a number of fairly radical changes both in the PRC legal military and gray zone of warfare against Taiwan itself. Yeah, I would argue that some format of some increased strategic clarity would certainly be useful. I wouldn’t view this as radical in any sense. One of the reasons is the party itself has baked in US coming to Taiwan’s aid anyway; that’s part of the uncertainty involved. The big issue that I wanna just say here, though, is that I think in terms of being able to deter the party, they certainly don’t view Taiwan itself as much of a deterrent threat anymore. This covers the whole gamut of things that Taiwan can do all by itself. Whether it’s, let’s say, targeting the TSMC foundries or being able to wage an insurgency campaign or whatnot, they would be able to fairly confidently say that they would eat those costs and be able to finish a campaign against Taiwan fairly quickly if Taiwan was fighting by itself. The main issue that the party has is whether or not it can do this and tackle the possibility of US intervention and deal with the international economic costs afterwards, and at the same time of any fighting. And I think that’s a big unknown and that’s part of the reason why Xi hasn’t acted.

 

(McKinney)

I think one of the points worth clarifying . . . so I actually really appreciate what you just emphasized, Eric—how, in your analysis, the PRC doesn’t really respect Taiwan’s deterrent anymore. I think that’s pretty much what you just said. And so that is a really serious problem, so it raises the question, “Why is Taiwan’s deterrent so weak, relatively speaking?” You know, as a percentage of (gross domestic product or) GDP, Taiwan spends less than Greece on its military. In terms of building the possibility of a resistance, this is well known how to do this, and deterrence is part of a resistance operating concept. If you look at the ideas being developed out of Joint Special Operations University and the US special operations community, there is huge amounts of knowledge on how to build a robust society to resist invasion, not just in the hope that someone will come rescue you, but also so that you can deter invasion in the first place. This is being practiced today in by Swedish special forces in Eastern Europe, and it really raises the question, to my mind, “Why isn’t a robust resistance operating concept being developed in Taiwan?” alongside “Why is defense spending so low as a percentage of GDP as part of the status quo?” and, even beyond that, “Why isn’t Taiwan really pushing these sort of deterrents and cost imposition strategies that have been recommended across multiple US administrations?” I’m afraid that all of this, this weak state of deterrence, would be exacerbated by the US saying, under all conditions, we would fight World War III over Taiwan. Burden sharing is well researched in the political science literature, and, empirically, the studies show that the clearer the defense commitment, the less burden sharing occurs. In the past, when US presidents have pushed allies and partners to do more with the threat of abandonment, they’ve listened: South Korea in the Cold War, the Federal Republic of Germany in the Cold War. In these cases, defense spending as a percentage of GDP—say, in the Nixon administration—could increase multiple points in Germany. That’s only possible, though, if there is something short of an absolute commitment. I think the sort of strategic clarity that you’re implying would eviscerate the possibility of a serious Taiwanese deterrent.

 

(Chan)

So that’s been an ongoing debate among Taiwan defense watchers for a long time now, and I have to say here that you can’t just look at this from the simple angle of defense spending alone, and I would also argue that this, by itself, the current situation that we see here, is also a product of Taiwan history as well as American history, all the way up until, say, the 2016 time period. It’s certainly true that the Taiwan military went through a period of atrophy during that period of engagement with the PRC. But, it’s also very clear that, in the last four or five years, especially under this Tsai administration, that this has undergone a significant level of change; that, with the threat of gray-zone warfare, that Taiwan has now looked at new ways of asymmetric defense and has looked at new ways of empowering their civilian population. But it’s also important to note that this is not just an issue of Taiwan anymore because Xi has made it very clear that Taiwan itself is simply just another subset of what he views as a ideological confrontation between the US and China in between, you know, the so-called “American view of democracy” and the PRC view of the commentary and society. The idea that we should be focused, above all things, on making sure that Taiwan is appropriately carrying its burdens as allies—yeah, there’s some importance there, but on the other hand, even if you imagine a world where Taiwan was spending, say, North Korean levels of defense spending, I don’t think you would really find too many observers who say that Taiwan would be able to credibly deter and be able to defend against an invasion all by itself. So, there’s some sort of middle ground to be had. We can certainly press upon Taiwan to do more, and they should do more for their own defense—but, also, doing this in the knowledge that China under Xi is making a significant number of moves to undermine Taiwan to undermine our democratic ideals. This is actually a part of the issue that I had with the broken nest piece, was simply because we talk about the idea that the CCP was having . . . the costs of restraint was becoming higher. I certainly completely disagree with that statement, especially because Taiwan has bent over backwards, and same with the US has bent over backwards to try to make it clear that you know independence simply isn’t on the table. Yes, I certainly agree that Taiwan should be spending more on its defense, but, on the other hand, I wouldn’t pooh-pooh the fact that they have done a significant amount over the last few years and that, given their trajectory, that they will do more. It’s also clear that no matter what it is that they do, it probably isn’t going to be sufficient without some level of very significant US and international cost opposition on the PRC.

 

Host

I’m afraid we have to end it there. It was wonderful hearing from all of you, and thank you for sharing your time with us and your expertise as well.