Should the United States Pledge to Defend Taiwan?

We at Foreign Affairs have recently published a number of pieces on the threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, U.S. policy regarding the island, and the risk of a U.S.-Chinese conflict over the Taiwan strait. To complement these articles, we decided to ask a broad pool of experts for their take. As with previous surveys, we approached dozens of authorities with specialized expertise relevant to the question at hand, together with leading generalists in the field. Participants were asked to state whether they agreed or disagreed with a proposition and to rate their confidence level in their opinion. Their answers are below.

Expert Statement:

The United States should publicly adopt, as official policy, a pledge to use military force to defend Taiwan, and all the territories under its direct control, in the event of a Chinese invasion :

  • Andrew Bacevich – Chairman of the Board, Quincy Institute : Disagree, Confidence Level 5 (out of 10

  • Stephen Walt – Non-Resident Fellow, Quincy Institute : Strongly Disagree, Confidence Level 9 (out of 10)

The United States would gain very little from such an overt declaration. It will not bolster deterrence because China already has to take into account the possibility that the United States will respond. But it would harden Chinese attitudes even more, would allow Beijing to portray Washington as disturbing the local status quo, and could lead Taiwan to take unnecessarily provocative actions of its own. Bottom line: a policy shift that confers few benefits and involves significant costs and risks is unwise and unnecessary.

Read the full list of expert opinions in Foreign Affairs.