With the decisions of the Solomon Islands and Kiribati to recognize Beijing over Taipei, the list of Taiwan's official diplomatic partners has decreased to 15. But China is likely to have a difficult time eliminating Taiwan's presence diplomatically in the Pacific.
Beijing may believe that, eventually, Taiwanese politics will turn in its favor. But it should consider experiences from the other two territories currently living under the formula—Hong Kong and Macau—to better understand why “one country, two systems” will never work in Taiwan, regardless of politics.
Why does the U.S. sell arms to Taiwan? And what is the impact on the cross-Strait military balance? Taiwan's arms purchase reflects a continuing concern over Beijing's military intentions; a balancing of operational and political considerations; a commitment by the United States to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself; and an American refusal to “stand down” in the face of China's aggressive behavior and coercion of Indo-Pacific democracies.
The enormous protests in Hong Kong since spring have led to fresh fears about the viability of China's “one country, two systems” policy. It's an idea that Macau and Hong Kong officially subscribe to and Taiwan fiercely resists—but one increasingly questioned from all sides.
It is likely that Taipei will lose diplomatic allies unless a cross-Strait agreement is reached on the 1992 Consensus. But it is perhaps equally inevitable that Taiwan will convince at least one or more states to recognize Taiwan over China. Such a development would help counter the narrative that Taiwan sovereignty is doomed.
Between now and the next Taiwanese presidential election in 2020, the prospects of forging a sustainable peace between Taiwan and China are exceptionally low. Both Chinese President Xi and Taiwanese President Tsai are dug into their respective positions.
Small coastal nations face potential threats from larger, more powerful adversaries. Their coastlines represent vulnerabilities that a foe may seek to exploit. But these nations can hinder and deter potential aggressors by using less expensive systems, such as naval mines and unmanned vehicles.
China's perception of the political status of Taiwan and how close Taipei and Washington have become has come to dominate cross-strait relations. Taiwan and the United States should prepare for greater hostility in the coming years, almost certainly lasting until the next Taiwan presidential election in 2020.
The United States should consider ways to strengthen its engagement with Taiwan on defense and security issues that go beyond arms sales. Washington will need to do more to help Taiwan deal with other forms of Chinese pressure as well.
Chinese leaders have ample reason to feel good about Taiwan, namely because Taiwanese President Tsai had been focusing her energy on stabilizing cross-Strait relations based on the status quo rather than moving toward independence. But because of its pressure tactics, Beijing may inadvertently push Taiwan in a more extreme direction.
Recent bomber flights near Taiwan represent the most concerted training regimen yet aimed at improving Chinese airpower. China seeks to enhance the PLA Air Force's capabilities and signal Beijing's will to defend its territorial claims against the U.S. and its regional allies and partners, especially Taiwan and Japan.
Taiwan's 2017 Quadrennial Defense Review is consistent with past reviews on defense strategy, reform of the military service system, and defense budget constraints. It also emphasizes the importance to President Tsai of Taiwan's domestic defense industry and shows uncertainty about U.S. Asia policy.
Prolonged tensions — even possibly amounting to a cross-strait cold peace — are likely if China's President Xi Jinping and Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen cannot reach basic agreement on Taiwan's sovereignty.
The prospects for peaceful unification of China and Taiwan continue to dim. Nothing Beijing has tried to woo or coerce Taiwan has worked. For those determined to compel Taiwan's unification, military subjugation remains a last option. But it would only worsen China's security environment.
Chinese leaders should seek to engage in good-faith discussions with Taiwanese counterparts. Beijing should also recognize that Tsai's tentativeness about the new U.S. administration could change if cross-Strait military tensions escalate.
As Asia-Pacific countries develop policies to regulate maritime zones of jurisdiction, the importance of coast guards as instruments of state policy has been growing. Taiwan's Coast Guard is an increasingly effective force.
Policy experts do not want to be irrelevant or ignored. The Trump administration does not want to fail, and needs to generate winning policies. By working together, the administration and the policy community could help one another, and, more importantly, the nation.
The U.S. One-China policy has helped keep the peace for decades. Abandoning it now could result in stiffer Chinese resolve. Such a strategy may even backfire by triggering an otherwise avoidable crisis.
Concerns are growing in Taipei over whether the Holy See intends to switch its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China. Beijing could be entertaining Vatican requests not out of genuine interest in reestablishing relations, but to put Taiwan on edge.
Taiwanese President Tsai has issued numerous political overtures to Beijing, yet Chinese President Xi has demonstrated a clear reluctance to accept her as a credible partner. Instead, he has turned up the heat on Tsai in an attempt to undermine her administration.
Changing demographics will force Japan and the “Asian Tigers” — Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan — to find ways to remain economically dynamic while increasingly looking after their elderly. How might public policy help accomplish this?