Next Generation Perspectives on Taiwan: Insights from the 2023 Taiwan-US Policy Program

August 16, 2023
Scott Bade
Geoffrey Cain
Antonia Hmaidi
Tomas Kazulėnas
David Mazzuca
Andrew Moore
Max Neugebauer
Giulio Pugliese
Anna Sawerthal
Gillian Zwicker
Zoë Weaver-Lee
4 min read

Taiwan faces growing threats to its security. The circumstances and factors that have deterred for decades an attack by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on Taiwan and enabled its people to remain secure and prosperous are changing. The conventional military balance in the western Pacific has tipped in China’s favor, although its military, the People’s Liberation Army, is not yet ready to seize and control Taiwan. Apart from the military threats of invasion, blockade, and seizure of one of its small outlying islands, Taiwan is the target of Chinese economic and diplomatic pressure, disinformation, united front tactics, and other forms of psychological warfare. Most of the global focus on Taiwan centers on the risk of war, leaving insufficient attention to these gray-zone threats that are designed to sow doubts about US willingness to defend Taiwan if attacked and to induce a sense of deep psychological despair about its future unless it is integrated into the PRC. Beijing’s ultimate goal is to convince the people of Taiwan to lose faith in their democracy and to surrender sovereignty.

China is more likely to succeed in that endeavor if Taiwan becomes isolated from the rest of the world. Only 13 sovereign states now maintain full diplomatic relations with the Republic of China, the official name that Taiwan uses to distinguish itself from its giant neighbor. Since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, Beijing has poached nine of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and blocked Taipei from participating in international organizations, including the World Health Organization and its decision-making body, the World Health Assembly. On the economic front, Taiwan remains an active member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), but it has been excluded from the ASEAN-inspired Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). Beijing is lobbying members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) to oppose Taipei’s application for membership.

Easing Taiwan’s isolation and providing reassurance that the world cares deeply about the fate and well-being of its 23.5 million people are crucial to preserving the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. The Taiwan-US Policy Program (TUPP) was launched in 2017 to encourage young professionals to include Taiwan in their research and help Taipei expand its global networks. TUPP enables future leaders to acquire a deeper understanding of Taiwan and its relations with the United States through meetings with officials and experts in Washington, followed by a visit to Taiwan to gain first-hand exposure to its politics, culture, and history. Experiencing Taiwan influences how these future leaders approach their work and their writing. It impacts their worldview by imbuing them with an appreciation for Taiwan’s history and commitment to the principles of democracy and human rights that undergird the existing international order. It also reinforces the importance of maintaining robust bilateral relations and strengthening international support for maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

As the COVID-19 pandemic abated, the 2023 TUPP cohort traveled to Taiwan in February for an intense week of meetings and activities. Each participant gained insights into Taiwan and its role in their respective fields. This year’s delegation comprised five Americans and five Europeans. Over time, TUPP seeks to create a body of global experts with firsthand knowledge of Taiwan who support sustaining and expanding its international ties. I am grateful to the Henry Luce Foundation, the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI), and the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy for their support of this goal.

The contributions here, written by ten members of the 2023 TUPP delegation, underscore the importance of deeper study and understanding of Taiwan. I sincerely hope that they stimulate continued global interest in Taiwan and its future.

Introduction by Bonnie S. Glaser

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The papers in this compendium were written by the 11 members of the Taiwan-US Policy Program (TUPP) 2023 cohort:

  • Scott Bade, Senior Analyst for Geotechnology, Eurasia Group

  • Geoffrey Cain, Senior Fellow for Critical Emerging Technologies, Lincoln Network

  • Antonia Hmaidi, Analyst, Mercator Institute for China Studies

  • Tomas Kazulėnas, Country Lead, Sayara International, and Board Member, Civic Resilience Initiative

  • David Mazzuca, Instructor, National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP), Columbia Climate School

  • Andrew Moore, Chief of Staff to Eric Schmidt, Schmidt Futures

  • Max Neugebauer, Policy Analyst, German Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF)

  • Giulio Pugliese, Professor, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, and Lecturer, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, University of Oxford

  • Anna Sawerthal, Staff Editor, Der Standard

  • Gillian Zwicker, Director, Energy and Environmental Affairs, National Bureau of Asian Research (Research Associate, World Resources Institute during the program)

  • Zoë Weaver-Lee, Programs Coordinator, East-West Center in Washington (Program Associate, Global Taiwan Institute during the program)