Washington shouldn’t neglect Taiwan and Hong Kong.
President Trump’s National Security Strategy bluntly states that China is challenging “American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” And while much attention has been focused on Beijing’s expanding military presence in the South China Sea, its effort to expand its influence across Asia and Europe through its “one belt, one road” projects, and unfair trade practices, China’s challenge to the administration’s vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region is increasingly taking place in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Since the inauguration of Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, Beijing has ratcheted up pressure on the world’s only Chinese-speaking democracy, taking aim at Taiwan economically, militarily, and diplomatically. It has curbed Chinese tourism to Taiwan and squeezed Taiwanese companies doing business on the mainland to do Beijing’s bidding back home. China has made naval and air exercises around Taiwan routine and established a northbound civilian air route up the Taiwan Strait without consulting Taipei. Nor is Beijing shy in using its own version of “sharp power”—through information warfare and financial coercion—to sow political dissent within Taiwan and attempt to purchase the loyalty of the Taiwanese elite. And China has stepped up efforts to further isolate Taiwan diplomatically by attempting to flip the island’s few existing state-to-state formal ties to itself and by blocking Taiwan’s representatives from even observer status at international organizations like the World Health Organization and Interpol.