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Thirty-five years after the Taiwan Relations Act became law, many Americans have seemingly lost interest in the political, economic, and security concerns shaping Taiwan today. AEI’s Michael Mazza asked two questions of the panelists for this AEI event: How important is Taiwan to US economic and security interests, and how does Taiwan fit into the administration’s foreign policy?
Jim Thomas of CSBA detailed the geostrategic significance of Taiwan, calling it a zero-sum prize. An independent Taiwan constrains the Chinese navy's ability to project power, but a Taiwan unified with the mainland would offer China deeply unnerving strategic advantages.
AEI’s Derek Scissors noted that although Taiwan punches above its weight economically, it needs to aggressively seek new trading partners to maintain a global footprint and its importance to the US. Julia Famularo from Project 2049 Institute argued that Washington should advocate for Taiwan's meaningful participation in more international institutions and aid the island in consolidating its transition to a democracy.
Abe Denmark from the National Bureau of Asian Research concluded by listing areas in which the Obama administration has engaged with Taiwan, as well as where it could have more robust engagement going forward. All of the panelists emphasized the continued importance of Taiwan to US policy in Asia.
As China’s power and global influence have grown, Washington has become less interested in and familiar with the challenges that Taiwan faces. Seemingly contradictory developments in the Asia-Pacific region may have heightened America’s apparent ambivalence. Although China’s military threat to the island has grown substantially, stability across the Taiwan Strait has improved. And Taiwan’s people remain suspicious of China’s wooing even as Taiwan pursues closer economic ties with the mainland.
With the Cold War long over and China taking center stage in Asia, does Taiwan still hold strategic significance for the United States? Join us for a discussion of the current state of US-Taiwan relations and of the island’s role in America’s Asia policy.
Abe Denmark, National Bureau of Asian Research
Julia M. Famularo, Project 2049 Institute
Jim Thomas, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
Derek M. Scissors, AEI
Michael Mazza, AEI
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Abe Denmark is vice president for political and security affairs at the National Bureau of Asian Research, where he brings objective, detailed analysis of geopolitical trends and challenges in Asia to the attention of DC policymakers. He also serves as a senior adviser at the Center for Naval Analyses and is on the advisory council of the Emerging Science and Technology Policy Center. Previously, he was a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and served in the Pentagon as country director for China affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Denmark is widely published, having authored several book chapters and reports on US strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region, and writing articles that appear in the Financial Times, Foreign Policy, and The New York Times, among others.
Julia M. Famularo is a research affiliate at the Project 2049 Institute. Beginning this fall, she will hold a Yale University international security studies predoctoral fellowship. Famularo previously served as the editor in chief of the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs and has contributed her own writing to publications such as The National Interest and The Diplomat. She has received a number of prestigious research grants, which allowed her to live and travel extensively in China, ethnographic Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan.
Michael Mazza is a research fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, where he analyzes US defense policy in the Asia-Pacific region, Chinese military modernization, cross–Taiwan Strait relations, and Korean peninsula security. Apart from writing regularly for the AEIdeas blog, he is also program manager of AEI’s annual Executive Program on National Security Policy and Strategy. At AEI, Mazza has contributed to studies on American grand strategy in Asia, US defense strategy in the Asia-Pacific, and Taiwanese defense strategy. He has written op-eds for The Wall Street Journal Asia, Los Angeles Times, and The Weekly Standard, among others.
Derek M. Scissors is a resident scholar at AEI, where he studies Asian economic issues and trends. In particular, he focuses on the Chinese and Indian economies and US economic relations with China and India. Scissors is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University, where he teaches a course on the Chinese economy. Before joining AEI, Scissors was a senior research fellow in the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation. He has also worked in London for Intelligence Research Ltd., taught economics at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, and served as an action officer in international economics and energy for the US Department of Defense.
Jim Thomas is vice president and director of studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA). He oversees CSBA’s research programs and directs the strategic and budget studies staff. Previously, he was vice president of Applied Minds Inc., a private research and development company. Thomas also served for 13 years in a variety of policy, planning, and resource analysis posts at the US Department of Defense, culminating in his dual appointment as deputy assistant secretary of defense for resources and plans and acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy. He spearheaded the 2005–06 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and was the principal author of the QDR report to Congress. Thomas is a recipient of the Department of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service (1997) and the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service (2006). He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.