Amb. Thomas Graham: Taiwan vs. Tyranny

LIEYU, TAIWAN - FEBRUARY 04: Figures of Kuomintang soldiers are seen in the foreground, with the Chinese city of Xiamen in the background, on February 04, 2021 in Lieyu, an outlying island of Kinmen that is the closest point between Taiwan and China. Kinmen, an island in the Taiwan strait that is part of Taiwan's territory, is so close to China that the deep-water port of Xiamen, one of China's biggest, lies less than three miles away across the water. It is one of the few areas of Taiwan that mainland Chinese tourists can visit without visas or permits, and has deep ties with the adjacent Fujian province of China; locals have seen a boost to their incomes from Chinese tourism in pre-pandemic times. Wartime anti-tank barricades litter the beach and the island also features the Zhaishan tunnel, which Taiwanese forces still reserve the right to use in wartime and for military exercises. (Photo by An Rong Xu/Getty Images)

The US Must Redouble Its Commitment to Secure this Shining Hill of Democracy in East Asia

by Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr. and Mariana Budjeryn

With a string of U.S. allies in East Asia wary of China’s rising power, the region is a focus of growing security concerns. A key U.S. partner, Taiwan, is in a particularly precarious situation, as Beijing has never abandoned the vision of the island’s reunification with mainland China. The Biden administration is taking steps, as it did at the recent NATO Summit, to reassure American allies about the longstanding U.S. commitment to their security, ties that were seriously undermined by President Joe Biden’s predecessor.

But after decades of being mired in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the pressures are strong to minimize U.S. security engagements abroad. The Biden administration and Congress should beware of yielding to these short-term pressures. Taiwan warrants a stalwart U.S. security commitment not only to stymie China’s strategic but relentless crawl in East Asia.

Amid the march of illiberal regimes across the globe and in the face of intensifying pressure from the mainland, Taiwan functions as a true democracy. As such, it is a bellwether for other states and territories at risk of authoritarian backsliding — or conquest — and a glowing example of what a liberal democracy and open society could bring to the peoples of Asia and elsewhere. A look at its history reveals Taiwan’s resilience, as well as how – and why – the United States should reinforce its support.

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