Here’s Why Taiwan is Shifting Away from the US and Why it’s Dangerous
Taiwan, a self-governing island that China claims as its own, has long relied on the United States for its security and diplomatic support. But in recent years, Taiwan has grown increasingly wary of the US commitment and credibility, and has sought to diversify its foreign relations and strengthen its own defense capabilities.
This shift has implications for the stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the prospects of a peaceful resolution of the cross-strait dispute.
What are the reasons for Taiwan’s shift?
Taiwan’s shift away from the US is driven by a combination of factors, including:
China has become more assertive and aggressive in its pursuit of unification with Taiwan, and has increased its military, economic, and diplomatic pressure on the island.
China has also stepped up its military activities near Taiwan, such as conducting frequent air and naval patrols, and launching hundreds of missiles across the Taiwan Strait⁵⁶. China has also poached several of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, leaving the island with only 14 countries that recognize it as a sovereign state.
The US, Taiwan’s most important security partner and arms supplier, has shown signs of weakening its resolve and capability to defend Taiwan in the face of China’s challenge. The US has been embroiled in domestic turmoil and global crises, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the tensions with Russia and Iran.
The US has also failed to provide a clear and consistent policy on Taiwan, and has maintained a policy of strategic ambiguity, which refrains from stating explicitly whether the US would come to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a Chinese attack.
Taiwan’s people and government have become more confident and assertive of their own identity and sovereignty, and have rejected China’s claim and pressure. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, who won a landslide re-election in 2024, has advocated for maintaining the status quo of de facto independence, and has resisted any dialogue or compromise with China that would undermine Taiwan’s dignity and autonomy.
Taiwan’s public opinion has also shifted in favor of maintaining a distance from China, and has expressed a strong desire for international recognition and participation.
What are the consequences of Taiwan’s shift?
Taiwan’s shift away from the US has both benefits and risks for the island and the region, such as:
Taiwan’s shift could enhance its resilience and self-reliance, and reduce its dependence and vulnerability to the US. Taiwan could also expand its international space and influence, and forge closer ties with other like-minded countries and partners, such as Japan, Australia, India, and the European Union. Taiwan could also improve its own defense capabilities and deterrence, and develop its own asymmetric and innovative strategies to counter China’s threat.
Taiwan’s shift could also provoke China’s anger and backlash, and increase the likelihood of a military conflict or crisis. China could perceive Taiwan’s shift as a sign of moving toward de jure independence, and could escalate its coercion and intimidation, or even resort to force, to prevent Taiwan from breaking away.
Taiwan’s shift could also strain its relations with the US, and erode the mutual trust and cooperation that are essential for maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan’s shift could also alienate some of its existing allies and partners, who may be reluctant or unable to support Taiwan in the face of China’s pressure.
What are the implications for the US and China?
Taiwan’s shift away from the US poses a challenge and an opportunity for both the US and China, and calls for a reassessment and adjustment of their policies and strategies toward Taiwan and each other, such as:
The US needs to reaffirm its commitment and credibility to defend Taiwan, and to clarify its policy and position on the cross-strait issue. The US also needs to enhance its cooperation and coordination with Taiwan and other regional allies and partners, and to deter and counter China’s aggression and expansion. The US also needs to engage and communicate with China, and to seek a peaceful and constructive dialogue and solution to the cross-strait dispute.
China needs to rethink its approach and attitude toward Taiwan, and to respect Taiwan’s people and government’s choices and aspirations. China also needs to restrain its military and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan, and to avoid any provocation or escalation that could trigger a war or crisis. China also needs to dialogue and negotiate with Taiwan, and to explore a peaceful and mutually acceptable framework and formula for the cross-strait relations.