1103: “Strategic Ambiguity” on Taiwan Is “Quixotic” and “Dangerous”; Blinken Accuses China of Undermining “Status Quo” in Taiwan Strait

Miles Yu: “Strategic Ambiguity” Toward Taiwan Is “Quixotic” and “Dangerous”

In a Taipei Times Op-Ed from October 31, China policy expert Miles Yu argues that the concept of “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan’s defense is “quixotic” and “dangerous,” and what actually has kept the Taiwan Strait peaceful and stable for the past seven decades is not strategic ambiguity, but “strategic clarity.”

Yu writes: “The concept of strategic ambiguity refers to the supposed US position of not stating whether it will use force to defend Taiwan, if and when China invades the democratic nation.” “Dating back to the mid-1990s, the almost mystical thinking about ‘strategic ambiguity’ has spread like a contagion, affecting the minds of policymakers,” but in fact, strategic ambiguity “has never been the official US position.” 

Yu criticizes: “The concept of strategic ambiguity is intellectually incoherent. It confuses strategic intent with tactical operations. In its strategic intent, the United States has always maintained a policy and practice of strategic clarity. Implicitly or explicitly, every US president, since Harry Truman, has upheld America’s intent to intervene in the event of a PRC [People’s Republic of China] invasion of Taiwan. As is the case with all military plans, the only ambiguities are tactical and operational — questions of how, not if.”

He continues: “Strategic ambiguity is also quixotic because Beijing has never believed that the US is ambiguous about its intent to intervene militarily in the event of a PLA [People’s Liberation Army] invasion of Taiwan. This [Beijing’s] belief alone should make it obvious that talk about strategic ambiguity in Washington or elsewhere is delusional.”

“All CCP [Chinese Communist Party] leaders, from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping, firmly believe the US will intervene with force in the event of a PLA invasion of Taiwan, subscribing to the unwavering belief in what the CCP calls the John Foster Dulles Doctrine on Taiwan — that the US grand strategy … requires Taiwan to be an ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’ for the US and that the US would never let a communist country like China take over Taiwan and will unequivocally use force to intervene if the PLA attempts to invade the island.”

Yu adds: “Today, we are living at a time of enhanced US strategic clarity. It has grown in the last six years, through Republican and Democratic administrations.” “Since October 2021, on four separate occasions, President Joe Biden has explicitly and unambiguously stated that the US would intervene militarily” if China invaded Taiwan.

“The US Congress has also achieved a historic, bipartisan consensus on the importance of defending Taiwan. We’ve seen this in several landmark acts passed with unanimous, or near-unanimous, support, further codifying America’s strategic clarity in defense of Taiwan.”

Yu warns: “The CCP is a revisionist regime poised to launch a chain of aggression in the Indo-Pacific, with Taiwan as the first link in that chain. We have seen such aggression before, in Sudetenland with Nazi Germany, and in Manchuria with Imperial Japan.”

He concludes: “Strategic clarity on Taiwan should help provide strategic clarity on the China challenge as a whole.” “Taiwan is China’s Sudetenland. The CCP is not ambiguous about this. And neither should we be. Let’s avoid the dangerous and tragic ‘strategic ambiguity’ as seen in Munich in 1938.”

[1] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2022/10/31/2003787992

Blinken: China Undermines “Status Quo,” While Speeding Up Its Annexation of Taiwan

On October 26, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused China of undermining a decades-old “status quo” that has kept Washington and Beijing from going to war over Taiwan, saying China was trying to “speed up” its seizure of Taiwan.

“What’s changed is this — a decision by the government in Beijing that that status quo was no longer acceptable, that they wanted to speed up the process by which they would pursue [so-called] reunification,” Blinken said in an interview at Bloomberg’s offices in Washington.

“They also, I think, made decisions about how they would do that, including exerting more pressure on Taiwan, coercion — making life difficult in a variety of ways on Taiwan in the hopes that that would speed reunification,” he said.

The latest comments from the top U.S. diplomat rebuking China over Taiwan expand on Blinken’s statements a week earlier that China might seize Taiwan on a “much faster timeline” than previously thought.

Blinken’s latest criticism came shortly after Beijing wrapped up its twice-a-decade Chinese Communist Party’s National Congress, which saw Chinese President Xi Jinping consolidate his power.

Blinken said the U.S. and China were now clearly engaged in a global competition to shape international affairs, with China pushing back against the U.S. to champion an “illiberal” world order.

“We don’t look for conflict [with China],” Blinken said. “But equally, we’re resolute in standing up for our interests, standing up for our values. And again, when it comes to Taiwan, standing up for the proposition that’s held for decades, that these differences need to be managed and resolved peacefully.”

“There cannot and should not be unilateral changes to the status quo, particularly by force, and that we have an abiding interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” he emphasized.

[1] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/10/28/2003787858