Twenty years ago, a Democratic senator writing in the Washington Post criticized President George W. Bush for saying the US would do “whatever it took” to defend Taiwan. That senator is now our president. Joe Biden might have changed his mind since 2001. He certainly has changed his mind on other topics.
China is different in 2021 than it was in 2001. Back then, the focus was on trying to bring China into the community of nations. Today the focus is on China’s threat to the international order.
Earlier this year, Admiral Philip Davidson warned Congress that China could assault Taiwan “in the next six years.” Other commentators believe such an aggressive action might happen shortly after the Winter Olympics in China are held next February.
If China decided to move against Taiwan, would President Biden and his cabinet believe a military response was necessary? Is Taiwan important enough to defend?
Taiwan is often called “the heart of Asia” because of its central location. But there is much more to this small island than just its strategic location. It is roughly the size of Maryland and the home for 24 million people. They are wealthier than most of their neighbors. If you look at per capita GDP, the US is the seventh wealthiest country. Taiwan is the twelfth wealthiest country.
America is supposed to honor the Taiwan Relations Act. A Chinese invasion of Taiwan should trigger a response. But how likely is President Biden to respond given his long relationship with China and his recent disaster withdrawing troops and civilians from Afghanistan?
US support of Taiwan may, for now, provide enough deterrence to keep China from attacking the island. But the future is still uncertain.