The past year has seen a significant escalation in tension between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan, with many strategists warning that China seems poised to invade the island. In order to preserve U.S. interests, they argue, Washington must rely primarily, if not entirely, on military deterrence.
But this strategy would almost certainly backfire. Rather than preventing a war with China over Taiwan, a policy centered on military deterrence could spark one.
Those who advocate an approach based almost exclusively on deterrence believe China aspires to replace the United States as the dominant regional power in Asia through largely military means. Seizing Taiwan by force or intimidation, they say, is a necessary first step toward subjugating other Asian nations, including U.S. allies like Japan. They believe that once it has gained broader military access to the Pacific by controlling Taiwan and dominating other nearby powers, China could then go on to threaten Hawaii and the continental United States.
According to this analysis, the only option for the United States is to double down on its military presence in the region, push its allies to greatly increase their defense spending and support for the U.S. stance, and move closer to Taiwan both politically and militarily, making it a de facto security ally in Asia. The clear implication is that Taiwan, as a critical strategic location, must never be unified with China.
Read the full piece in The Diplomat.