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Would the U.S. defend Taiwan?

Plamaneuvers Here’s the $64,000 question: Under what circumstances would the White House send the U.S. military in to defend Taiwan?

I’m going to wade into a minefield today. Bear with me. You may see me get blown up.

It’s an eternally pertinent question, one on which East Asian stability may depend. Chinese ask it of me all the time. Taiwan’s leader, Chen Shui-bian, revived the question this week in Anchorage, of all places, a venue that holds meaning. Chen couldn’t win permission from Washington to refuel his plane in sunny California, where he likes to stop, getting the tundra instead, as he headed to Central America. Metaphorically speaking, Alaska is symbolic of his status in Washington.

He didn’t always get the frosty treatment. If Taiwanese believe that the Pentagon would come to their defense at any sign of threat, they have reason. In April 2001 President Bush said his government would do “whatever it takes” to defend Taiwan against Chinese attack.

In fact, there’s a bit of law involved. It’s called the Taiwan Relations Act, and it states responsibilities that Washington has on Taiwan. I’ll parse that law in a sec.

Back in Anchorage, a reporter asked Chen about U.S. protection guarantees. I’ve boldfaced the key part of the transcript if you want to skim past:

Question: If, as you say, the military balance has shifted towards China, in China's favor, this makes it all the more important for Taiwan to know what America might do. Are you confident that the United States will defend Taiwan in the event of an attack from China?

Answer: According to the Taiwan Relations Act, which is part of the U.S.' domestic legislation, the U.S. is obligated to help Taiwan defend itself in the event of war with China. Furthermore, the U.S. and Japan have signed a security treaty. Japan also has related legislation regarding situations in its surrounding area. And such situations include security in the Taiwan Strait. So we think that as long as Taiwan is not the one inciting a military conflict, both the U.S. and Japan will make their concern known--especially the U.S. because of its obligation, as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act, to come to Taiwan's aid in the event of a conflict.

Of course, we cannot rely on others to fight for us. We ourselves need to be prepared for a surprise attack from China. Therefore, it is vital that Taiwan can sustain itself militarily before the U.S. comes to our aid. So, whether and how long we can last out are crucial considerations. We will not place the responsibility for defending our own country on the U.S. That is why we deem it imperative that we strengthen our defense capabilities. By engaging in military reform and modernization, we aim to achieve this goal.

In so saying, however, I must point out that we do not intend to engage in an arms race with China. What we want to achieve is our strategic goal of “effective deterrence and resolute defense” for Taiwan. That is why we think it is important that we make enough effort in beefing up our defense capabilities and ensuring that our exercises, routine trainings, and drills are carried out properly and thoroughly. The enemy's fighter jets could attack us at any time, and our readiness is of the essence.

We do not seek to engage in war. But we must be prepared for war if we wish to prevent it and work towards achieving lasting peace.

Question: Do you know exactly, though, what the United States would do if you came under attack?

Answer: It is entirely up to the US government to decide on their course of action. But let me give you an example from the 1996 Taiwan Strait Missile Crisis. Between the second half of 1995 and March 1996, the month of our first-ever direct presidential election, China test-fired two waves of missiles, with one missile landing just 55 kilometers off the coast of Taiwan. In response to China's maneuvers, the U.S. government sent two aircraft carriers through the Taiwan Strait.

Chen is a lawyer and his answer is quite skillful. But he gives the impression that he believes the U.S. military is obligated to defend Taiwan if it is attacked.

In reality, any attack is likely to be a decapitating blow. China has nearly 1,000 short-range missiles pointed at Taiwan. A strike would likely be designed to win a war within 24 hours before the U.S. Seventh Fleet could arrive from its base in Japan. The Taiwanese stock market would collapse. China likely would block telecommunications. 

So let’s see what the Taiwan Relations Act actually says. It does not obligate the United States to defend Taiwan, nor is it a security treaty. In the area of defense, it says Washington is:

1)  to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character;

2)  to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan;

3) The President is directed to inform the Congress promptly of any threat to the security or the social or economic system of the people on Taiwan and any danger to the interests of the United States arising therefrom. The President and the Congress shall determine, in accordance with constitutional processes, appropriate action by the United States in response to any such danger.

While President Bush said he’d do “whatever it takes” to defend Taiwan, the reality is that the only binding legal obligations are for Washington to sell weapons to Taiwan, maintain its own capacity to come to Taiwan’s aid, and thirdly for the president to tell Congress when Taiwan is under threat and set a route of action.

They might decide to issue diplomatic protests or take actions short of sending in the Marines. Who knows? That’s why the policy is said to have “strategic ambiguity.”

Some Taiwanese think that Washington has done too little in the face of China’s military buildup across the Taiwan Strait. They say the White House helped let the military balance become lopsided, thus making the U.S. military umbrella even more vital. Moreover, they say the White House must defend a fellow democracy under attack.

But then there are “facts on the ground,” as people in the Middle East like to say. With the U.S. military stretched to capacity, fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is there a stomach for a new conflict? How many parents of U.S. military personnel would be eager to see their sons and daughters die for Taiwan if there were a sense that its leader hadn’t done his utmost to avoid a confrontation with China?

I personally think that even a limited war with China, a nuclear power, in defense of Taiwan would be a hard sell to the U.S. public.


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I hope the US helps Taiwan, i would hate to see another country fall under the hands of the commies. I could care less if China says that the Island belongs to them. No body has the right to claim land as their own. This world belongs to all of us in some way or another. China needs to get off its high horse grow some balls and get over their loss. HMMMMM Acctually I hope China trys to invade, that way the US and (Nato...maybe) will stop china. China will be defeated and as well as embarssed (something that would hate so much), and as a last ditch effort they (China) will try something stupid like giving nukes to Iran or use them aganist us targets. That way the us will have to retaliate aganist main land china. In the end, china will go back to being "the poor man of asia" and as well as humilated.
China is my home but my so called leaders are from a different world


... as I have said, I'm not willing that my country (US) and CHINA would collide because it will going to give the terrorist Al-qaeda and muslims Jihadist in middle east a very big breathing space to recover and save Osama Bin Laden. It took Osama a year before he able to produce his propaganda video: A proof that Al_Qaeda was hurt badly and that the efforts of our troops in IRAQ and Afghanistan is not in vain. Only a media of muslims supporters had explain it other wise that Osama is still strong.

About China and US, again... China and US will not dare to push the button because it will be their first and last.

About Taiwan, China is the key player here. If he let Taiwan exist then there will be no more problems.

I know, US will help Taiwan and China will never make a provocation moves anytime even in the future. As I said if China will going to invade Taiwan,... he have done it a long time ago since US is very busy in the middle east (2003).

If the reason is good relationship with China that will prevent US to intervine. US also have a good relationship with Taiwan... and Taiwan is not communist.

If this will be the only bases for the US not to intervene against any China’s aggressions. Then, the Spratlys issue of Philippines against China or The North Korea advance to Seoul Korea will be on the same scenario.

“The only time evil reign in this world is for a good man to do nothing”.


Kyle is not crazy, but what Kyle just said IS CRAZY ! The
US and China are two rational countries and more than 90% of the people in both countries are also sensible.
Most of us, Americans, are not "redneck" type who just want to "nuke" them without considering the consequences or if the action is right or wrong.
Just think about the consequences: IF we give 20 "nukes" to Taiwan, China will then have the "right" to give 20 "nukes" to N Korea, 10 "nukes" to Iran & syria EACH, and EVEN 5 to the evil "BL" & his followers. OF COURSE, CHINA DOES NOT WANT TO DO SUCH CRAZY & EVIL THINGS, but she may be forced to do them if WE do the crazy & evil things FIRST.
No, we are NOT crazy people. Actually, we, Americans, STOPPED Taiwan's "nuke bomb" program(s) 30 years ago - then, Taiwan was only 1 or 2 years away from developing her first atomic bomb.


Actually, conventional weapons are what deterring China from provoking a disastrous move for Taiwan. America (in reality) will never let a Communist regime like China to farther its agenda in the name of DEMOCRACY. No matter how good they seems to be chatting in a cocktail party. That's politics... The truth is: The age of conventional weapons had deterred China from forcing its will against a tiny Taiwan. If the threat grow... and US provide at least 20 nukes for Taiwan using the Dolphin Sub. tech. What good is the 100 nuke of China or its 100 millions soldiers and hardware.... nothing. Entire China will be wiped out too as much as Taiwan. Nothing big or small. China understand that...


Actually, conventional weapons are what deterring China from provoking a disastrous move for Taiwan. America (in reality) will never let a Communist regime like China to farther its agenda in the name of DEMOCRACY. No matter how good they seems to be chatting in a cocktail party. That's politics... The truth is: The age of conventional weapons had deterred China from forcing its will against a tiny Taiwan. If the threat grow... and US provide at least 20 nukes for Taiwan using the Dolphin Sub. tech. What good is the 100 nuke of China or its 100 millions soldiers and hardware.... nothing. Entire China will be wiped out too as much as Taiwan. Nothing big or small. China understand that...

Robert D.

As a foreign resident(Canadian)in Taiwan for the past seven years,I've come to realise the simple fact that China would certainly invade Taiwan if it wished to,regardless of American rhetoric to the contrary.The idea that the U.S.would come galloping to the rescue is sheer nonsense.Logically the U.S.will not go to war against China to protect Taiwan's semi-independence because it is not in the best interests of the U.S. to do so.Undoubtedly,China will decide the future of Taiwan in time to come.Perhaps after the olympics.After all,Taiwan isn't going anywhere and China has more pressing matters to attend to.But I would say to the U.S.-Stop the ridiculous posturing,no one really believes it,including China.


I can’t imagine the U.S. would risk being wiped out by involved in a war with China for one single idiot. For China, this is a war it has to fight regardless who tries to intervene. If the U.S. chooses to bring the war to China’s doorstep, so be it. There will be no chance for the U.S. to win a conventional war with China. If the U.S. chooses to use nukes, neither side would survive. My guess is that the U.S. sell weapons to Taiwan, basically telling that idiot you are on your own if you try to provoke a war and we are going to sacrifice for you.


TAX? Who is really worried about taxes when a critically
important issue such as independence is being considered- it's life and death. I think the guy in LA
is worried about his life and hundreds of millions of American and Chinese lives who will be lost if the US and China go to war (including those of the Chinese and (a few) American people in Taiwan). During our civil war, the people in the north did not really worry about their taxes when they supported President Lincoln in his efforts to KEEP THE UNION. That's exactly what the Chinese are trying to do - and for anyone who is not familiar with Chinese history,
they have been doing it for
3000 years (or at least 10 times in their history). They have been always successful in keeping the UNION intact, albeit the effort may, sometimes, take 100 or 200 years and many, many millions of lives. Let's see if we, Americans, can DO BETTER
(so far, we only had one REAL civil war in our short history and we were lucky the last time that the UK did not REALLY sent troops to FIGHT along with the south for her independence). Another interesting thing: IF
the UK did send troops to fight for the south and the north still won, WILL WE today
still be such good "friends" to UK? The real question is: The 1.3 billion Chinese want to be our "friends". If we fight for Mr. Chen, we will have 1.3 billion "enemies" for another, say, 1000 years! The Chinese did have
tremendous "goodwill" toward us due to the fact that we did not REALLY join other European powers to try to "divide up" China in the 19th century (We could not have China all for ourselves - laugh!). Let's do not squander this goodwill completely away.


Every person that has commented has missed one very important detail. That detail? Culture. Simply put, Chinese culture is playing a large part in the debacle otherwise known as the Taiwan Strait conflict. We apparently are aware of the scenario: China wins civil war in 1949, Republic of China (ROC) government retreats to last held piece of land (AKA Taiwan) and sets up shop until the mainland can be retaken. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) becoming a prominent political party in 2000 is only a side note to the equation. Sure, it has helped by pluralizing the conversation in Taiwan, but it has done little to resolve the situation. I do not fault the DPP, however, because the world now "respects" self-determination as a universal right (the United Nations has surely not helped to defuse the conflict).

So, back to the problem. You have the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the mainland saying "We won, join the party that we've started." China's viewpoint is clearcut because there is but one, I repeat, one voice. Taiwan, on the other hand, is rather complex. Decades of Nationalist Party (KMT)rule have left the current generation with an antiquated and hopeless policies that leaves the island in a virtual no man's land.

Back to Chinese culture. The problem is simply as follows:

China undoubtedly cannot allow Taiwan to achieve de jure independence. Doing so would be a slight to the "face" of the CCP. In other words, it would amount to admitting that they "lost" the war, simply by allowing there to be a separate Taiwan (KMT- or DPP-run, it doesn't really matter; just the fact that it's not "China" is the issue).

On the other hand, allowing China (i.e., CCP) to swallow up Taiwan and formally make it part of the mainland would amount to the KMT loosing face (i.e., the "lost" to the CCP). It is for this reason why the KMT's has persisted in supporting reunification. With the DPP gaining popularity in the late 90s, and remaining a political force in the 2000s, the KMT has had to change (i.e., adapt) to remain relevant in Taiwan politics. Does anyone find it odd that the same party (KMT) that outlawed the usage of Taiwanese (the langauge) for decades now uses it to campaign in the south of the island? The KMT's stance on reunification has changed from "absolute necessity" to "only if those guys (i.e., CCP) meet our requirements (i.e., democracy, freedom of speech, et cetera)". The KMT's policies have changed to maintain relevance amongst Taiwan's youth. If Taiwan was ever swallowed up by China without China first becoming a democratic, without an independent judiciary, without an equivalent respect for the rule of law, the KMT would simply be disgraced and would lose face.

This issue of losing face is not prevalent in Chinese culture, but it is so powerful that it is able to change actions and attitudes, simply because of the inability to say "I'm/we're wrong" or "we lost".

Maybe Chen Shui-bian has unnecessarily provoked China. I do not claim to be a Chen Shui-bian or DPP supporter. The KMT, however, is at the source of the conflict. Years of KMT rule have left such a volatile situation in the Taiwan Strait.

Let's all think for a minute. Would we have this problem if the KMT in 1949 simply said, "Hey, we lost the mainland, but we'll set up our own country in Taiwan. Not just some shadow state waiting to return to the mainland." The KMT had decades to decide whether or not its policies were worthwhile. Claims over Chinese territory persisted up until the 90s, even though such claims were down right laughable.

Therefore, everyone look back at history, and look for the reasons why this conflict exists. Anyone can buy 1,000 missiles, but it doesn't explain why the conflict exists. The fundamental issues (i.e., culture, democracy, et cetera) are why this conflict exists, no a bunch of missiles on either side of the Strait.

The SAR setup (i.e., one country, two systems) is irrelevant here. Hong Kong was a colonized territory, held by a foreign power. I agree with an earlier post that Britain did not necessarily have to forfeit the "actual" island of Hong Kong. I do not think they necessarily had to forfeit the entire territory, but that is for another discussion. But Taiwan's government is local. There is no lease of territory. There are no agreements between either side. In addition, Hong Kong didn't--and still doesn't--have a democratic government. They didn't have a choice in staying British or becoming Chinese. They didn't have the right to vote for their future. I think people sometimes underestimate the right to vote as a powerful tool of self-expression. Would anyone that has previously posted a comment insist that our forefathers (sorry, this comment obviously directed towards Americans) done a bad thing by basically committing treason (i.e., Declaration of Independence). Sometimes, people must act extraordinarily to do what they believe is just. They must act extraordinarily to choose their own future. I see a fundamental problem with any insistence that refusing to succumb to another powers' will is the right thing to do, especially when the other power is so black-and-white in its pursuit.


If there is a war between China and USA, it is a huge diplomatic failure between the two countries. I just don't see it.


If China decided to act against Taiwan by the time we "woke up" and smelled the coffee, the Red Chinese would be comfortably sitting down to Peking Duck in Taipei with the rest of the country safely controlled and taken over. And what could we do after the fact? Whine, grumble but by no means would we make an aggressive act against the Mainland. Do you think we are going to bite the hand that creates the goods that are sold here and the hand that also buys our debt?


If China attacks Taiwan, I believe the US would defend it. However, if Taiwan declares independence, I don't believe the US would defend them. The Taiwanese know that a declaration of independence is their own declaration of war. I don't see Americans willing to shed blood for someone else's war.


If China attacks Taiwan, I believe the US would defend it. However, if Taiwan declares independence, I don't believe the US would defend them. The Taiwanese know that a declaration of independence is their own declaration of war. I don't see Americans willing to shed blood for someone else's war.

Mekhong Kurt

This is an incisive article, particularly in its underscoring the unique position Taiwan holds in this part of the world.

Though I didn't first take a genuinely serious interest in China until I got employment there in the 1980's, in the run-up to my departure I certainly started reading all I could. (And as an American about to move to this part of the world, I began reflecting on the enormous changes in the Sino-U.S. relationship since the Vietnam War.)

Though there's a heckuva lot I don't care for that comes from the Old Men of Zhongnanhai, on the Taiwan issue, they have been surprisingly restrained, despite their massive military buildup on the mainland's southeastern coast -- i.e., they haven't brought that power into play. True, were there a land connection, the story might be very different, but the strait itself provides some mutual assurance.

It's sometimes difficult for people who haven't been to China or Taiwan (I've only visited the latter, not lived there, as I did in the mainland for a number of years) to imagine the pace of change on both sides of the strait and how much impact that evolution appears to be having.

The many people in the mainland I got to know well enough to be able to freely discuss the issue -- ordinary folks -- don't want to see a military conflict. Neither, according to Western friends who live in Taiwan so have their own contacts with the everyday people there, do the people of Taiwan. Yes, some on Taiwan would like to go their own way -- but not all.

The language of the speech was indeed extraordinary. No doubt it is getting close scrutiny in both Taipei and Beijing -- not to mention other capitals around the world.


Carl Z,

why don't you say it strait that you're pushing for China to invade Taiwan...

don't divert our attention with your sympathetic bogus... if you're concerned with your tax... packs your thing and fly to Hongkong or Macau...

Taiwan is rejecting any ruled by China... if China want to respect that there will be no problems and confrontations....

if China used its might that aggression....

same picture of Saddam Hussein for invading Kuwait which is originally a province of Iraq...


Hang Chen Shui-Bian. The outcome is that there is no war and no innocent lives will be sacrificed. Peace is what the World wants. Think over it.

Carl Z

Michael Turton and other supporters of American intervention in Tawain,

I would like to ask you a question.

As a Chinese-American living in Los Angeles whose tax dollars would presumably be used to finance such proposed American intervention in Taiwan Strait, why would I support a war where my tax dollars would be spend to prosecute a war that would expose my home in Los Angeles to possible nuclear retaliation, expose my relatives in China to grievous harm, exposing myself and family to harm in US (I remembered what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II), presumably to protect your @ss in Tawain? I am against any Chinese military action against Taiwan as any War scenario in Taiwan Strait would have most dire consequences for all parties involved. Unfortunately I hold no sway over Chinese government, but I could raise my voice in US because it's a democracy. IF China invades Tawain, that's terrible. But fundamentally China has beef with Taiwan not US. China doesn't claim Los Angeles and China wants to trade with US. I do not believe it's in America's best interest to bleed for Taiwan, it's certain not in my best interest. Why should American Blood and Money be spend to defend Taiwan? Does Michael Turton's interest represent American interests?



if Saudi Arabia can spend millions from oil cartel to compensate the recruiting of "suicide bomber" making the Islamic demonic agenda alive..

...and the Opium of Afghanistan for training of "Islamic JihAdist and head cutter...

those offer and money to fight an Evil Ideology of ISLAM is just and necessarry...

one day the Crusader of middle east will leave but it will not be on the same scenario of 11th century, because we armed Israel enough to sustanied itself against the army of Muhammad.



There have been stories recently about the problem the Pentagon is having recruiting enough soldiers to do the fighting that we're committed to do in Iraq.

They have reduced the educational standards, for example, so that they're getting more soldiers who didn't go to high school, let alone graduate from high school.

Recruiters are granting thousands of what they call "moral waivers". A "moral waiver" it turns out means they'll take someone who has committed a crime or even someone who has been in prison. Last year, a total of 8,129 "moral waivers" were volunteered for the Army.


In addition, there are up to $25,000 signup bonus as well....


If there will be sector pushing a US to have a confrontation with China. Surely it is the muslims Jihadist and Al-qaeda.

...they want Americans to collide with China to save the degrading status of muslims after the fall of Osama Bin Laden (Afghanistan) and the hanging of Saddam Hussein (Iraq). They know that part of war in middle east is for protection of Israel, who receive gravious attacked and threats from aboves Jihadist personality for many decades.

First they try to divide the attention of war when (muslims Janjawed) systematically attack, rape, and hostage the poor Darfuris in Sudan. Leaving only news of astrocities to millions people and have already claims hundred of thousands of civillians (not combatant) lives.

When, America did not bite the bait. They hope for North Korea... when it seems to fail... they went back to original plan of arming IRAN of nuclear weapons using its deceiving Energy-Nuclear programs.

Every muslims are conniver. So, it is not an accident that Saudi Arabia selected China to flood its market with low grade, cheaper and substandard products as a protest to make Europe and America irritatd with China.

They have done that succesfully with their non-popular allied but famous killer of Jews in Europe Adolf Hitler. To prevent the execution of "Balfour Declarations" of 1917, a bill pushing the return of the Jews in their homeland Israel which is in the heartland of muslims longing to wipe them all.

Read your history book: who's in the side of muslims during WWI and WWII. How many muslims did Hitler (a cold blooded murderer)intentionally killed in Europe? Or how many muslims country did he invade?

You know the answer...


This whole argument is ridiculous. China holds $1 trillion of US debt. Because of them we get all our cheap money to buy more Chinese goods and build even bigger McMansions. They lend us the money to dig ourselves into a deeper hole in the mortgage market/Afghanistan/Iraq/Iran/...

If there is war with China, no more cheap loans. No more big houses. No more plasma TVs. No more F22 Raptors and M1A2 Abrams tanks. Nothing.

There will be no war with China. Period. End of discussion.

Otto Kerner

If China were involved in a war with Taiwan that lasted any length of time, what are the chances that there would opportunistic rebellions in Tibet and Xinjiang as well?


What's a matter Arty?

Is that a comment or an propaganda statement from Iran? What the hell (too) do you think with us. We were born yesterday?

China has enough Nuke to wipe us all? Are you sure that China would do that? You're exaggerating something you don't understand.

In the event that China, make a insane moves of firing its missiles (ICBM) to the mainland. There's no way he will never receive a retaliation from remote locations like a Dolphin Sub which is nuke capable as well and from other Allied Nations which is also capable of launching Nuke.

If Sarkozy, (French) warned a confrontation with Iran if it continue to do its proxy Nuclear program. At least, the French this time is finally up for something stable after being criss-cross in Iraq. It will going to give Americans troops enough rooms to finish Osama Bin Laden.

China is waiting for a right time to invade Taiwan? Are you making your diverting gimmick to alter the operations in middle east against muslims terrorist and Al-qaeda.

If China will going to invade Taiwan he have done it a long time ago since Americans and its allied is very busy in Iraq and Afghanistan (2003 & 2004).

During the "Taiwan strait missile crisis" of 1995. Pres. Clinton immediately, dispatched a US Carrier to assist the situation then China immediately stop its target shooting frenzy.

A single US Carrier is no way can stop an invading forces or intercept any missiles to hit Taiwan but it sends a clear message to Chinese regimes to reconsider their actions and not to make provocations or something "Stupid".

China get the message clearly even they don't speak too much english.


We will not defend Taiwan.

1. No way in hell unless we want WWIII. China has enough ICBM to wipe us out.

2. China is not like Russia. She talks tough to the US but she always gets what she wants from the US. US and China economy is join to the hip together these days and even more so day by day.

3. Did Sarkozy, yes the French, just told Iran that it will be attacked if they don't solve the nuclear problem. French is not going to attack Iran, guess who is he talking about. You think we will have time or the money with fight a three front war. Man if we really attack Iran, I think China should just invade Taiwan becuase there will be no help for sure.

And don't forget, China can always use nuke on Taiwan. Also, CCP is really good at collectively punish any uprising i.e. killing or jailing anyone who is related to opposition in Taiwan because all you have to do is calling them "terrorists." Plus, China rarely cares what Western nations think about its policy.


"All of the discussion is good and imformative"

Militarily, economically and strategically"

I believe, America and its Allied will defend Taiwan for whatever cause and reason if its due so. Meaning even for status que or for the sake of humanity, America will defend Taiwan.

Remember, America is not about 50 nation state with "superpower" tag line, Nuclear Arsenal from Satellite and sub-marines or but also a NATO of Allied country (not just with promised of support from its member) but also goverened with treaty of alliance. Like the 74 nations who bombed Afghanistan.

What i'm saying is China, with its military (Nuclear Capability) as well, is not stupid enough to provoked America just for Taiwan. As well as America understood the consequencies. Since China is not "suicide behaviorism like muslims". Everyone understand where their feet is sitting.

The rest where just media circus of threat and provocations.

Like Russia and US... The China and US wouldn't dare to push the button... for it will be their first and last.

Finally, the only time Taiwan will be annexed to China is if US allowed it too...

Michael Turton

The thought process of the Taiwan independence force cannot be understood. What can be achieved by declaring independence?

Dunno. Why don't you ask George Washington and Simon Bolivar?

Really, it's the thought processes of people who must dominate and control others that are a mystery. What does China get out of annexing Taiwan? Nothing it couldn't have by peaceful trade, except, of course, the joy of domination.


Probably not within this decade. Whether this thing goes down in 2008, 2015 or 2025 is huge difference in terms of China's capability. The exact detail is not known, but only one thing is clear: not in favor of Taiwan.


Dont worry.
Washington DC is never short of Bush-alikes. They will quickly forget about the pain of Iraq and move on to the next war just like what their predecessors did before.
So the answer is yes.


Actually, if mainland China is really wise, it should know that whatever Taiwan does, even declaring independence now, it will amount to nothing useful for Taiwan. There is simply no chance that any major country, any country decent enough not to send Taiwan to the inferno, would recognize any Tiawan declaration of independence. Taiwan would be shun even more. Why would a country of 1.3 billion people, growing at 10% a year, fear a single man Chen Shui Bian? He can achieve nothing unless mainland China allows him by over- reacting.

The thought process of the Taiwan independence force cannot be understood. What can be achieved by declaring independence? If mainland China over-reacted, then there would be war and Taiwan will suffer. If mainalnd China is confident and just declares that war is "imminent" and just accelerates military development, get into a state of heightened preparation for the next two decades, Taiwan will have to become another Hong Kong sooner, not later.


Honestly, there is only one person who can suddenly precipitate a chain of event that lead to a crisis, and that is Chen Shui Bien.


Honestly tho, the biggest X factor in this 3-way fight between Taiwan, China and US is the Taiwan independence force. From as far as I can see China feels time is ultimately on their side just by keeping the status quo alive. Just the same for US, a war with China over Taiwan Strait is fundamentally undermines US core interest everywhere.

Only the independence zealot will feel that the time is "running out" so to speak in terms of international relation. They might feel desperate enough to jump the gun and do something risky to truely upset the status quo.

In that case, how US and China will respond will be highly unpredictable.

Tim J

I'm gratified by the high level of this discussion.

Michael brings up a good point that I'm sure gives huge pause to the mainland. What happens if things can't be tidied up in 24 hours and there is simmering rebellion? Worldwide public opinion would sharpen and intensify in a flash.


I don't think mainland China has any reason to used great force now or within 20 years to attack Taiwan.

Mainland China will wait until threat without execution will win Taiwan back, with a modified Hong Kong arrangement, with Taiwan's right to bear some arms to prevent mainland troops from landing.

Mainland China will almost certainly control Taiwan remotely by manipulating Taiwan's energy supply, creating an enveloping cloud of energy uncertainty on the island. There isn’t much that Taiwan could do then. By 2020, its economy will suffer if it does not accept a Hong Kong deal.

I think in time it will be a sure win for mainland China, as long as it is still amenable to giving Taiwan autonomy. Taiwan will not be independent due to its geography, but will have a high degree of autonomy.

In the long run the USA will do nil to thwart Taiwan becoming another Hong Kong. In fact, Taiwan becoming another Hong Kong is best for the USA. Taiwan as another Hong Kong will have the best impact on mainland China that fits the USA’s long term broad based objectives in Greater China.


How the US will respond depends on at least three factors: when does mainland China act decisively, what force is used, and what is happening at that moment.

If mainland China now or within 5 years used great force and a lot of people in Taiwan die, then US military interference is quite likely.

One the other hand, if in 2020, mainland China just increases threats and pressure, like harassing Taiwan's energy supply, and Taiwan suffers economically but not in life, then the chance of US interference, military or economic, is nearly nil.

In time, the US will accept Taiwan peacefully coerced into another Hong Kong, likely with some arms for defense so that mainland troop cannot easily land on the island.

What else is there? The Taiwan problem will eventually have to be solved, in view of a more and more economically and militarily developed mainland China.

The USA will avoid conflict, not just military but also economic, with mainland China.



Michael Turton

In other words, the public in the US couldn't have "a sense that the Taiwan president hadn't done his utmost" without substantial cooperation from the international media in framing and shaping the behavior of said President.

Aargh! That should be "framing and shaping THE PERCEPTION of the behavior.....


Michael Turton

How many parents of U.S. military personnel would be eager to see their sons and daughters die for Taiwan if there were a sense that its leader hadn't done his utmost to avoid a confrontation with China?

You can see how your question assigns the blame to Taiwan. Taiwan is not the problem. Desire for freedom and democracy is not a problem. Opposition to those values causes the problem. It is China, not Taiwan, that will decide when to invade.

Except as media theatre, the behavior of the island's leadership really has very little to do with China's decision on whether to annex the island by force. That will come down to long-term demographic and sociopolitical trends (few in Taiwan see themselves as citizens of a state centered in Beijing), the ability of the pro-China parties to keep democratic development here at bay, the shifts in the military balance, and similar. The behavior of particular individuals in Taiwan might make a convenient excuse, but they will not be the reason China invades.

In other words, the public in the US couldn't have "a sense that the Taiwan president hadn't done his utmost" without substantial cooperation from the international media in framing and shaping the behavior of said President.


Michael Turton

I'd also be curious to hear you explain how Japanese leaders could defy their own constitution to engage in a fight over Taiwan. Last I heard, Japan's fighters are not equipped with supersonic air-to-air missiles like the Chinese aircraft. How would they stay in the air?

Huh? Mitisubishi makes three different types of supersonic AAMs (-3,-4,-5). The AAM-4 does mach 4 or 5, and Japan has equipped F-15s with it.

As for "defying the Constitution" that seems to be no problem for Japan's leaders, who have already committed Japanese military forces to overseas operations "in support of" the US military. Beginning in the Korean War, though it is not generally known.....

Also, the idea that China could take Taiwan in 24 hours is fun to think and speculate about, but it is highly unlikely. The island has 2,000 Hawk surface to air missiles that would have to be put out of service (it's possible if they can suborn key people). Good luck trying to take out the base for 200 fighters in Hualien, carved out of a mountain. As for the vaunted 1,000 missiles, they are nice terror weapons, and will probably kill lots of innocent people, but as war winners they are not so hot -- think how many bombs were dropped on Germany, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, and other places in various wars -- many times those thousand missiles. They are useful as propaganda for each side, but as military threats, the PRC's aircraft and navy is the more serious threat. There are scenarios for taking it out, but they hinge on large amounts of cooperation from within the Taiwan military. That threat will recede as the mainlanders retire and die off and Taiwanese come into positions of authority.

Also, the Taiwanese have a long history of resistance to occupation -- years of revolts against Qing colonialism, followed by more fighting against the Japanese, followed by armed resistance against the KMT that flared up briefly in 1947, though the government was still turning up weapons caches in the 1950s. Taiwan might be taken in a lightning assault, but whether it can be held is another question. And how will the Chinese rule it? Even if the Chinese knock off the government, failure to consolidate might well encourage the US to intervene.


Michael Turton

The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) mandates nothing -- indeed, it does not even permit Taiwan to have a say in the situation. The decision is solely the President's, in consultation with Congress. What it does is mandate a political calculus, but that would have happened anyway. Chen is playing games with the media.

The US decision will depend on how the US perceives the situation. China has been very successful in controlling the way the foreign media presents its claim to Taiwan, and its view is also widely accepted within the State Department, though thankfully not universally so. Hence, the gatekeepers of perception, the media and State, are likely to shape US government perceptions in ways that serve Chinese needs.

While China makes noises of "anger" at Taiwan, these are media events that play out in the media, and almost never have real world consequences. China never restricts investment, arrests Taiwanese, slaps bans on trade, restricts travel, etc. The same situation occurred when Chris Patten "angered" China and UK commentators fretted that China was going to restrict trade with the UK. Nothing happened, of course. A similar situation occurs today, whenever Taiwan "provokes" Beijing -- the reality being, of course, that being provoked is a policy choice that has served Beijing well. Not only does it shape the media discourse about Taiwan, it also has acquired strong influence over US policy.

So the first test of the situation will be whether US perceives, correctly, that China is moving because it wants to, and not because it is "provoked." If China can say it was "provoked" and convince key US decisionmakers it has cause, then the US might not move.

A second issue will be the attitude of the State Department, which lately has been opposing arms sales to Taiwan, undermining US relations with the island, and taking Beijing's side most of the time.

A third issue will be the attitude of Japan. It has slowly dawned on the island's leaders that Taiwan is a key component of their security arrangements. If Japan pushes the US to intervene and signals that it will back the US play, that will go a long way toward pushing the US to defend Taiwan. If not.... China's continued military expansion will only drive Japan and Taiwan closer, fortunately for Taiwan.

A fourth issue will be the US economy. Can the US sustain an intervention? With our current criminal stupidity in Iraq, probably not.

A fifth issue will be the Taiwan government. A government run by the pro-Taiwan parties, the DPP and its allies, will probably defend the island. A government run by the pro-China parties, the KMT and its allies, will probably hold the door open for the Chinese. That perception alone is one huge reason that the KMT will probably lose the Presidential election here.

The sixth issue will be the US military situation -- what forces are available, etc. The State Department has been systematically strangling US military exchanges with Taiwan, and that lack of understanding on both sides may well be a factor as well. If Japanese forces are available and in play right away, well, that will make a huge difference.

Yet another issue will be the US president. Who would want to be the Party that lost Taiwan? Not the Republicans -- conservatives especially are pro-Taiwan. But the Dems wouldn't want to be that party either. Congress is strongly pro-Taiwan but they usually stop short of interference in foreign affairs....

As an American and as someone who has lived in Taiwan most of his adult life, I'd like to think we'd honor our ethical and political obligations and defend the island. And speaking on a media worker's blog, I hope the world's media will substantially improve its usually mediocre, Beijing-centric coverage of the island, and contribute to a the development of a positive consensus on the issue in the US.



"Why is there not more worldwide sympathy for Taiwan's situation?"

Complicated history attribute to the overall situation, but basically power politic dictates other nation choosing their own bilateral interest with China over the well being of Taiwan over some "universal principles." US makes the same calculation and it is only going to get harder and harder for Taiwan as times goes on. China puts political capital behind their insistence on "One China" policy. For others this is at best just another curious Hollywood movie to watch but fundamentally none of their business to jeopardize their own interest in.


Foo bar makes a valid point. Why is there not more worldwide sympathy for Taiwan's situation? I've been to Taiwan a few times and it's a remarkable place. My own opinion, though, is that the Taiwanese are far from united on how to respond to China. Many are busily making money on the mainland. I have never felt a sense that Taiwanese en masse would be willing to die to defend the island. More often, I get a sense of, 'Let the Americans die to defend us. They are stronger.' Maybe I'm wrong. Let's see.

On Mark Simon's points, listen, I think you need to defend your position better. OTH stands for over-the-horizon radar which is obsolete technology given the kinds of surveillance satellites that both China and the United States have.

I ask you, Mark, what would happen if only six or seven short-range missiles tore into Taipei 101, Asia's tallest building? Each one has a blast range of 30 meters. How about if they hit the hardened air shelters at Taiwan's airbases, trapping jetfighters inside? The stock market in Taipei drops in half.

I'd also be curious to hear you explain how Japanese leaders could defy their own constitution to engage in a fight over Taiwan. Last I heard, Japan's fighters are not equipped with supersonic air-to-air missiles like the Chinese aircraft. How would they stay in the air?


If the island isn't worth America's trouble then how much stomach is there for another "war of choice"?


And by the way placing air craft carriers in the way and actually launching fighters into the air and commanding them to fire on Chinese jets and vessels is two significantly different measures of response. The U.S. won't fire on the Chinese over Taiwan. Neither will the Japanese. If China attacked either Japan or the U.S. that is a different matter. The island isn't worth fighting over for either political, economic or strategic reasons.


I am no military expert. Sounds like a few of you are :-). But if China staged "exercises" with one navy group together with N. Korea and a second navy group from the south and then sailed to Taiwan together. In combination with a strategic strikes by China's air force against command & communications in Taiwan. Who knows.

Then again maybe they could stage a bloodless coup. And pay millions to a number of sympathetic Taiwanese parliamentarians, in hopes of gaining political favor. Certainly, China has the purchasing power to pull that off.

Either way we all know that the "one country, two systems" proposition was a lie. Politically, the Chinese communist party has positioned itself in Hong Kong so that it is in control. There is no more Democracy in Hong Kong.

I suspect China would replicate it's successes in Hong Kong and transmit them to Taiwan.

And no the U.S. won't step in either way. It hasn't the military might to support any serious offensive against China at this time. Remember Iraq and Afghanistan?


Haha as expected the trolls are swarming around once again. So the question still "Would US defend Taiwan?"

mark simon

Clueless, just clueless and laughable.

Maybe Johnson has been playing video
games to long. 1000 missles? So what? That is nothing.

The Chinese do not have OTH targeting which means they would be shooting blind at targets that were long ago cleared out.

As for the US not getting there in time. Again, clueless. The CHinese military
keeps one of the lower states of military readiness of any major military in the world. It takes them months just to gear up for major exercises.

So what are they going to do? Sneak up and fire the missles, then wait 3 months to get their invasion force set
before they come over.

And what about Japan? Will they just sit by, when they have fighters that can stay over Taiwan for two hours with refueling?

There will be months if not years of ample warning to the world that China is planning something. MOBILIZATION.

I am certain at all the cocktail parties in Beijing, where your talk is just that, talk, you excuse these little "facts" that get in the way of the discussion. But if you write about something and want to be taken seriously, then at least know something.

And do you have any clue what the PLA itself thinks of it's ability to
get across the straits. They say not possible at present or in near future, which is why they are pressing the
government to create more military shipyards, as the government shipyards are building the containerships that carry all those goods from all those factories that Mr. Johnson thinks are destroying China.

As for the US response.

It would take months for China to get ready and by that time, just as Bill Clinton did, a US president would have US aircraft carriers sitting east of Taiwan and fighter wings in Oky...

And Mr. Johnson must be a complete
panda hugger, which he is known to be, to go to Taiwan and actually think that the Taiwanese people would roll over on a rocket barrage.

This is just a silly blog entry.


hehe, universal principles of self-determination, morally right thing to mention... All shining words. However, this will lead to nowhere but a classcial Hollywood depicting of goodies vs badies. The reality is much more complicated than those shiny phrases.


re: foo bar

Of course not, this post is intend on talking the power politic and the strategic angle of the situation. The moral politic aspect is not the focus of this article.

For Americans, whether or not a war is actually affordable or in American overall interest is the question. What is the political will of the Americans in facing down China over Taiwan? China certainly seems to have demonstrated their firm determination to attack in the event of a "unilaterial change to status quo", what about US's resolve to defend?

foo bar

It's sad that in this discussion, no mention is made of the rights of the people of Taiwan, and the universal principles of self-determination. It's the morally right thing to mention and discuss why one much larger nation is allowed to bully the people of another.


Only some view on your remark about Taiwan:

It is not "if" China moved swiftly and stated that they are going to leave Taiwan to itself politically and economically, It is China has stated that they are going to leave Taiwan to itself politically and economically (should a reunificaiton agreement be reached).

The offer is One Country, Two Sytems, something similar to Hongkong, but with even better compromise like Taiwan could keep its military (inexplicit offer). In short, everything is negotiable except the name and the diplomatic status.

Finally, the US has been using Taiwan and the Taiwan issue as a pawn on its chess board. I see no reason they should stop doing so ín the near future unless being forced by the change of power balance or an incident.

The whole issue is much more complex than Hongkong.

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"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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