The following paper is part of the Brookings Order from Chaos series Alliances & partnerships: U.S. commitments in the Asia-Pacific, in which contributing scholars offer their analyses of the various U.S. alliances and security partnerships, along with the diverse economic, diplomatic, and security challenges that impact those critical commitments.
Of all of the United States’ security partnerships around the world, the one with Taiwan is surely unique. Washington does not recognize or have diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (ROC) government in Taipei, but instead recognizes the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing. This makes Taiwan a rare case where Washington has a security partnership with an entity with which it does not have diplomatic relations.
Increasingly, that security partnership will be tested by the continuing modernization of PRC armed forces, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). What Taiwan does to ensure its security is also a critical variable. Still, Washington policy-makers should probably pull out the dual-deterrence playbook and consider the appropriate mix of warnings and reassurances to Beijing and Taipei, in the knowledge that China’s military power will only grow in the years ahead.
President Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), took office in May 2016, with a stated goal of preserving the status quo with the PRC without conceding to its political conditions. How far Beijing will go in reacting (or over-reacting) to the new government in Taipei and the voters that put it there will play out in the months ahead.