2024-0510: Why Taiwan Matters; 7th Fleet Transits Taiwan Strait

Why Taiwan Matters

In an article titled “Defending Taiwan by Defending Ukraine” for Foreign Affairs, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu, explains the importance of defending Ukraine as a signal to authoritarian regimes like China that democracies are united and territorial aggression cannot prevail. He then elaborates on Taiwan’s importance to international peace and stability and what it needs to remain free. 

Wu is the incoming Secretary-General of Taiwan’s National Security Council.

“[W]hen China seeks to sow fear among the people of Taiwan through military coercion, diplomatic isolation, and information warfare, the Taiwanese people respond with a whole-of-nation effort,” Joseph Wu writes. “Taiwan is particularly proud to have multiple grassroots organizations dedicated to strengthening civil defense and countering Chinese disinformation. They are emblematic of Taiwan’s democracy and resilience.”

Any act of aggression against Taiwan would have devastating effects on the global economy. According to estimations by Bloomberg Economics, a Chinese invasion would devastate the global economy by about $10 trillion (roughly half of the U.S.’s GDP). Alternatively, a Chinese blockade, beyond disrupting the almost 50% of international shipping that goes through the Taiwan Strait, could lead to a $5 trillion loss worldwide.  

Taiwan is instrumental to global peace and stability. It produces over 90% of the world’s most advanced chips and is vital to global supply chains. Importantly, it is positioned in the middle of the so-called “First-Island Chain,” the first line of defense against China’s eastward expansion into the Pacific.

Wu commended the strong coalitions forming in the Indo-Pacific region that will serve as a deterrent against China’s attempts at annexing Taiwan. Partnerships like those between the U.S. and Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and AUKUS members are critical.

“[P]eace and stability in the Taiwan Strait can be maintained only by viewing and treating it as an international issue,” the minister adds.

Yet Taiwan knows that it, too, must develop its strengths. It is eagerly investing in its self-defense, Wu explains. Under President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan has invested in its asymmetric defense capabilities, civil defense, and indigenous defense industry. These efforts will continue in the next administration under the recently elected Lai Ching-te, who will be inaugurated on May 20.

“We cannot allow this century to witness the birth of a world order in which authoritarians can stamp out justice and freedom,” Wu concludes. “In the coming years, the fate of Taiwan, like that of Ukraine, will be a crucial test that the world’s democracies must not fail.”

[1] Foreign Affairs

US 7th Fleet Destroyer Transits Taiwan Strait; China Illegally Enters Taiwanese Waters the Next Day

On May 8, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) transited through the Taiwan Strait as part of its freedom of navigation operations. Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense was fully aware and closely monitored the transit. 

“No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms,” reads a press release from the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. “The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”

China, on the other hand, accused the transit as “publicly hyped,” a standard accusation against routine international transits across the Taiwan Strait. 

The next day, two fleets of Chinese vessels illegally entered Taiwan’s waters off the Kinmen Islands and the south of Dadan Island. China’s fleets were composed of different types of vessels, including patrol, surveillance, fishing, and “fisheries law enforcement” vessels, in addition to regular patrol and Coast Guard vessels. The mixed use of civilian and non-civilian vessels for coercion is a part of China’s gray-zone warfare against Taiwan.

Taiwan urged China to cease its provocation in the Taiwan Strait, cautioning Beijing against attempts at unilaterally changing the status quo.

[1] ABC News
[2] U.S. Pacific Fleet
[3] Focus Taiwan