Almost anyone who has grown up in traditionally Abrahamic religions is aware of the lesson of David and Goliath. The small and weak, if resolute, will defeat the strong and violent. The future of Taiwan, however, does not follow this story. If the United States ignores Taiwan’s sovereignty and the right of Taiwan’s people to choose democracy over the authoritarian rule of the mainland Chinese Communist Party (CCP), this “David” will be washed away in the history books.
Lest the United States forgets, Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China (ROC), is literally an island of democracy in a region that is rapidly falling into authoritarian rule. With the exception of Japan and South Korea, the continent of Asia, especially East Asia, is swiftly shifting to nationalism, military dictatorships, and one-party rule. The international organization Freedom House ranks the ROC 94 out of 100 in its quality of democracy for its effective and transparent government, while the rest of East Asia ranks far below this number. Taiwan’s Freedom House score is higher than even the United States’. With Chinese expansionism on the rise throughout Asia and the world, it would be foolish for the United States to abandon such a close ideological ally as Taiwan to the mainland and Xi Jinping’s hegemonic ambitions. If the United States wishes to preserve freedom of navigation, global stability, and its own interests in Asia, then it must defend Taiwan and immediately recognize Taiwanese independence.
The United States has just recently observed the horrific costs in Afghanistan of a unilateral withdrawal from a protectorate nation without the capabilities to defend itself. The situation in Taiwan is eerily similar. The ROC faces China, officially the People’s Republic of China (PRC), an enemy which is politically and militarily dedicated to the annihilation of their state. The PRC has vowed to bully the “rebellious province” into its Communist-domineered mainland government, even if this requires violence. As cross-strait tensions rise and the PRC’s economic growth continues to decline, the CCP will be forced to compensate for the Party’s failure in other sectors with military success. Mainland China’s military budget is sixteen times that of the ROC, and according to many military observers, Taiwan’s military is nothing more than a “hollow shell” made up of rustic equipment and raw recruits. The reader has only to look at Xinjiang and Hong Kong to know what a successful intrusion of Taiwan’s sovereignty would look like; it could have near-genocidal implications for the Taiwanese. Furthermore, the United States would continue to lose its global political capital and would be defamed by its allies for not protecting a sovereign people from foreign aggression. The stability of the world would decrease as refugees flee and authoritarians everywhere watch eagerly while the United States does nothing.
By contrast, if the United States validates the ROC as a sovereign and free nation, other nations would surely follow (as Paraguay, Guatemala, Haiti, Vatican City, and others have already done). This would mean Taiwan would be afforded the rights of the international community and the United Nations Charter, protected from foreign interference and equipped with the freedom to pursue diplomatic and commercial relations with other states. And as the ROC is home to the largest producer of semiconductors in the world, the recognition of the state would allow countries to begin formally trading with Taiwan, without Chinese interference. This would allow consumers across the world access to cheaper electronic devices and would contribute to a boom in Taiwan’s economy, while timeously destroying companies’ dangerous dependence on China for electronic products. In short, recognizing Taiwan’s sovereignty would benefit Taiwan and the world.
United States policy makers should think of the benefits their Indo-Pacific policy could gain if the United States recognizes Taiwan. The United States would be able to finally establish legal ties with Taiwan and create treaties between the two nations, which could include improving public health relations, cultural exchanges and most importantly, from a security perspective, military exercises and bases. These efforts would do tremendous harm to the PRC’s dream of a CCP-dominated unipolar Asia.
The prescribed scenario above, the recognition of the ROC, is thus far only a scenario. The United States must immediately recognize the ROC as a sovereign and free state, with all the entitlements and privileges that the title provides. This admission will not only frustrate the CCP’s designs of hegemony and ensure the protection of the Taiwanese people, but it would also guarantee the preservation of United States’ economic and geopolitical interests. The United States should not allow its rivals to intimidate and threaten it into silence. The status quo is no longer sufficient, and therefore, the United States must act.