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Despite their many differences, Taiwan and Ukraine have been portrayed as two fronts in a global struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. The interrelations between the two geopolitical flashpoints took center stage at the recent Yomiuri International Conference, Taiwan and Ukraine: Challenging Authoritarianism. Cohosted by APARC’s Japan Program, the Yomiuri Shimbun, and the Asia Pacific Initiative, the conference was held on January 16, 2023 at the International House of Japan (IHJ) in Tokyo. It examined paths to addressing autocratic challenges to democracy and offered recommendations for coordinated deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region by the United States and its allies.

The forum included two sessions with Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI) experts. The first session, moderated by Ken Jimbo, IHJ managing director and API president, featured panelists Oriana Skylar Mastro, FSI center fellow at APARC, and Michael McFaul, the director of FSI. They examined the fallout of the war in Ukraine, the risks of a Taiwan crisis, and their implications for security in East Asia, including Japan. The second session, moderated by Kiyoteru Tsutsui, the deputy director of APARC and director of the Japan Program, featured panelists Larry Diamond, Mosbacher Senior Fellow in Global Democracy at FSI, and Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at FSI. They considered the war in Ukraine and the tensions over Taiwan against the struggle to bolster the liberal international order.

Military Miscalculations, Economic Dislocations

McFaul opened the first session by reviewing some of the lessons from the war in Ukraine. The international community underestimated the Ukrainian military, he said. Putin, however, miscalculated the response of the United States and NATO, on the military side, and the scope of the sanctions the global community of democratic states, including Japan, would be willing to impose on Russia, on the economic side. 

It turned out, noted McFaul, that it was possible to reduce drastically Russian oil and gas coming into Europe, and Russia today has significantly fewer resources to fight Ukraine than it had anticipated. “I think it is very important to look at just how much economic dislocation happened with Russia, a country that was not integrated into the global economic world in the same way that China is,” McFaul said. He pointed out that the international community might also be underestimating the political pressure and dislocation that will erupt if, unprovoked, China invades Taiwan. “It will have very deep economic consequences for the Chinese economy,” said McFaul.

It is important to remember that the international community did not make credible commitments to deterring Russia before 2022, McFaul noted. In the case of China, he emphasized the imperative of considering concrete ways to enhance deterrence against Chinese invasion of Taiwan before military action begins. 

Rethinking Defense and Deterrence

China, however, is not easily deterrable, as Mastro explained in her following remarks. President Xi has been clear from early on that enhancing China’s role on the international stage would be a key part of the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda. Taiwan is a top priority issue in the Chinese Communist Party’s long-term thinking, said Mastro. She reminded the audience that at the recent CCP Congress, President Xi reaffirmed that China will not rule out using force to bring Taiwan under its control. He also elevated Party members with extensive expertise in the joint operational domain and with Taiwan contingencies to the Central Military Commission, the Chinese top decision-making body for military affairs.

I am convinced that if Japan were to commit to fighting with the United States in this contingency, that would be enough to deter China.
Oriana Skylar Mastro

How, then should the United States and its allies approach the question of deterring China? Mastro emphasized three conditions that U.S and Japanese defense policy must meet.

First, whatever the United States and Japan do in the defense realm must have an operational impact. For example, U.S. carriers will do nothing to prevent China from taking Taiwan in a wartime scenario, Mastro argued. “And along those lines, from the Japanese point of view, enhancing defense of the Senkaku Islands does nothing to deter China from taking Taiwan unless Japanese operations are going to be involved directly in stopping a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.”

The second point is that China has to know about any defense changes the U.S. and its allies are making. For instance, if, in peacetime, there is no indication that the Japanese military is engaging in Taiwan Strait transits with the United States and the Chinese do not know about such activities, then they do not enhance deterrence.

Third, deterrence must happen before a war starts. It may seem an obvious point, but if the prevalent view is that, for example, the Japanese public will support the United States once a conflict over Taiwan erupts, then this approach does not deter China. “We have to let the Chinese know now that there is such support,” Mastro stated.

One issue China is concerned about, Mastro noted, is widening a Taiwan contingency. “China only wins Taiwan if the war is short, geographically limited to Taiwan, and only involves the United States, potentially in Taiwan,” she explained. “So I am convinced that if Japan were to commit to fighting with the United States in this contingency, that would be enough to deter China.”

Ultimately, the question before the United States and its allies is: “Do we want a happy China that is undeterred or an unhappy China that's deterred,” Mastro concluded. “Those are our only two options.” Deterrence is expensive and requires tradeoffs, but one thing that is costlier than deterrence is a major war, she pointed out.

“Let’s start thinking about how to actually change the environment with the sense of urgency that we need, because my biggest fear is that we're going to find ourselves in a major war with massive cost,” she urged the audience. There will be sacrifices to make, but the alternative, in Mastro's view, is worse.

Opportunities and Perils for Democracy

In the second session of the conference, panelists Larry Diamond and Francis Fukuyama examined the war in Ukraine and the tensions over Taiwan from the lens of democratic decline and its implications for the liberal international order.

Democracy has been in a global recession for most of the last two decades, yet the picture is not as bleak for democracies as it was just two or three years ago, said Diamond. In the United States, reforms at the state level have occurred, election deniers took control of Congress seats by a much smaller margin than predicted before the 2022 midterms, and extreme election deniers in crucial swing states were virtually defeated. Meanwhile, on the international stage, 2022 spotlighted autocrats’ inevitable shortcomings. In Russia, Putin has catastrophically miscalculated the war in Ukraine. In China, Xi has massively mismanaged the COVID pandemic, and the country’s economic growth is severely impaired.

It's going to be very important that the people of Taiwan see that they're not alone, that the democracies of the world — not just the United States and Japan but Australia and Europe — are with them; it will increase their will to fight.
Larry Diamond

Fukuyama expressed his encouragement by the democratic solidarity shown in response to the war in Ukraine, especially in Europe, within NATO, and in Japan. Germany’s and Japan’s decisions to increase their defense budgets have been remarkable reassuring signals of strength among democracies, he said.

But we sometimes forget that many countries in the Global South and elsewhere do not buy into this narrative, cautioned Fukuyama. Among the big disappointments in this regard is India, he noted, which raises the question of whether the issue at stake is indeed a battle between democracy and authoritarianism.

Indeed, democracies still face intractable challenges, Diamond explained. These include the corrupting influence of dirty money around the world, the trends of de-industrialization and hollowing out of the working class in advanced democracies, and social media, which Diamond sees as the single biggest driver of democratic decline. “I cannot tell you how much damage social media has done to destroy the social fabric of Truth and credibility and polarized society into tribal camps who don't have the same facts,” he said. “We have not found a way to temper that impact and win the battle For Truth.”

Taiwan and Deterrence

When it comes to the question of Taiwan, Diamond says he is worried. “There is going to be a PRC military invasion of Taiwan, probably in this decade, unless it is deterred,” he said. The three most crucial actors in deterring China are Taiwan, the United States, and Japan, he explained. Successful deterrence must involve coordination among all three in multiple arenas — from military cooperation to increased defense capacity and preparedness to impose such heavy costs in response to a Chinese invading force that will change Xi’s calculus.

Diamond pointed out that democracy is about uncertainty, of which there is now plenty in Taiwan as it looks ahead to a January 2024 contentious presidential election. Diamond’s prediction is that "China will intervene however it thinks it can” in Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election, as Xi would certainly prefer to pick up the island peacefully than by force, he said. “I think it's going to be very important that the people of Taiwan see that they're not alone, that the democracies of the world — not just the United States and Japan but Australia and Europe — are with them; it will increase their will to fight.”

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Gi-Wook Shin and Francis Fukuyama at Encina Hall, Stanford, in conversation.
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A Resurgence of Democracy?

A Conversation with Francis Fukuyama on the Challenges of a Changing Global Order
A Resurgence of Democracy?
Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj Appointed the Bernard and Susan Liautaud Visiting Fellow
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Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj Appointed the Bernard and Susan Liautaud Visiting Fellow

While at Stanford, Elbegdorj, formerly the president of Mongolia, will focus on examining strategies to support Mongolian democracy in an increasingly polarized geopolitical landscape.
Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj Appointed the Bernard and Susan Liautaud Visiting Fellow
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At the Yomiuri International Conference, Freeman Spogli Institute scholars Larry Diamond, Francis Fukuyama, Oriana Skylar Mastro, Michael McFaul, and Kiyoteru Tsutsui examined lessons from the war in Ukraine, the risks of a crisis over Taiwan, and the impacts of both geopolitical flashpoints for defending democracy and for a coordinated approach to deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.

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Kim Namseok, Munhwa Ilbo Correspondent
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This article originally appeared in the Korean daily newspaper Munhwa Ilbo on January 2, 2023. It was translated from Korean by Raymond Ha.

In an exclusive interview for the Munhwa Ilbo, Stanford University professors Gi-Wook Shin and Francis Fukuyama had a conversation on a wide range of topics including the war in Ukraine, U.S.-China competition, and North Korea policy.

The world faces a crisis of political leadership as each country pursues its own interests. Fukuyama stressed the importance of robust international institutions, instead of relying solely on great leaders. He pointed to NATO and the U.S.-Korea alliance as examples of institutions that uphold the liberal international order. In terms of the U.S.-China competition, he said without hesitation that “a democracy like Korea…has to make the decision that it is going to be on the side of democracy.” Fukuyama also noted that in the event of an armed confrontation over Taiwan, Korea would almost certainly be pulled in, given the significant U.S. military presence there. He was skeptical about prospects for progress over North Korea, pointing to the long history of failed negotiations and the lack of viable alternatives. “Not every problem has a solution,” he said.

Gi-Wook Shin, who led the interview, observed that the global decline of democracy appears to have hit a turning point, “although it’s too early to say if there will be a rapid recovery…or a more gradual shift.” As for the state of democracy in the United States, he said, “We will have to wait and see what happens in the 2024 presidential election.” Even though Trump’s political influence may be weaker, he observed, “pro-Trump forces are still part of the system.” In terms of Korea’s foreign policy, Shin emphasized that Seoul “should take [the Taiwan] problem much more seriously.” A crisis in the Taiwan Strait “could become the biggest challenge for the Yoon administration’s foreign policy, not North Korea,” and domestic polarization over China policy is one issue that could threaten to “become extremely controversial.”

The interview was held in-person for one hour at Stanford on December 8, 2022, with a follow-up interview held over the phone on December 27.  


[Gi-Wook Shin] Let’s start by looking back on 2022. How would you summarize this year?

[Francis Fukuyama] I think 2022 was a very good year, where we may have bottomed out in this global move away from democracy and toward authoritarian government. The year really started out in February with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which looked very, very threatening. China was on a roll. It looked like they were beating everybody in terms of COVID policy. Then, by the end of the year, the Russians got completely bogged down. China experienced mass protests, and there were protests also in Iran. In America’s elections on November 8, all the pro-Trump forces failed to make gains and, in fact, lost almost everywhere. I think that maybe we will look back on 2022 as the year when this democratic recession that has been going on for over 15 years finally bottomed out.

[GWS] I agree, although it’s too early to say if there will be a rapid recovery toward democracy or a more gradual shift. In the United States, we will have to wait and see what happens in the 2024 presidential election. Former President Trump may be weaker politically, but pro-Trump forces are still part of the system. As for the Ukraine war, many people thought Russia would win quite easily, but now it looks like they are struggling. It’s a big question, of course, but how do you think the war will be remembered in history?

[FF] I think that it is going to be remembered as one of the biggest strategic mistakes made by a great-power leader in a very long time. I think that the mistake is directly due to the nature of the political system. You remember that Vladimir Putin was sitting at the end of this 25-foot table with his defense minister because he was so afraid of COVID. He was extremely isolated during the whole pandemic, and he had already isolated himself in a political system where he doesn’t face checks and balances. That kind of decision-making system makes you prone to make even bigger mistakes, because you don’t have other people to test your ideas against. He was completely uninformed about the degree to which Ukraine had developed a separate national identity and that the Ukrainian people were willing to fight for it. He didn’t have any idea how incompetent his own army was. If he had been in a more democratic country that required him to share power with other people, I don’t think he could have made that kind of mistake.

 

The most important thing is the breakdown of the Chinese economic model. For the past decade, the Chinese model has been to pump a huge amount of money into the real estate sector. That model is collapsing. The other big problem is that they don’t have economic growth anymore.
Francis Fukuyama

[GWS] Putin is struggling, as you said. There are a lot of problems in China, but Xi Jinping secured a third term. Authoritarian leaders elsewhere still hold power. By contrast, I don’t think President Biden has shown powerful leadership at home or globally. I don’t see any strong political leaders in the U.K., France, or Germany either.

[FF] I think that although Xi Jinping may succeed in stabilizing the situation in China with the protests over COVID in the short run, he is in a lot of trouble. He was creating all this social instability with the zero-COVID policy. Now that they’ve started to relax it, I think the number of cases and deaths is going to go up very dramatically, but I don’t think they’ve got much of a choice. I think this has probably damaged the people’s sense of Xi’s authority and legitimacy, and I’m not sure he can recover from that.

The most important thing is the breakdown of the Chinese economic model. For the past decade, the Chinese model has been to pump a huge amount of money into the real estate sector. That model is collapsing. The other big problem is that they don’t have economic growth anymore. Some economists think that they’re actually in a recession, with negative growth. This is like what Japan went through in the 1990s. So much of the Chinese government’s legitimacy has been based on having extremely high growth rates, and that period is over. I don’t see how they get it back, and they certainly won’t by inserting the state into every economic decision and controlling their high-tech sector. Their population is shrinking now. I’m not sure that Xi Jinping, in the longer run, is actually going to look like a very effective leader.

[GWS] But in the short term, say the next three to five years, won’t authoritarian leaders be powerful in comparison? Just as “America First” shows, some say there is a crisis of political leadership among Western democracies, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

[FF] I think that apart from President Zelenskyy in Ukraine, we don’t see any really inspiring leaders in Germany or France or the United States. On the other hand, the nice thing about democracy is that it’s an institutional system for managing change. Biden has turned 80, and Trump himself is in his upper 70s. The leadership in Congress and the Democratic Party are all elderly, but they’re all about to change. In the next election cycle, there is going to be a whole new generation of people that are up-and-coming. I don’t think you need a charismatic leader with great vision, necessarily, to run any of the countries you mentioned.

[GWS] Another question is if the United States can provide global leadership. When Trump was defeated, there was a strong expectation for the Biden administration to restore global order and to do much better than its predecessor. I’m not sure whether that’s happening.

[FF] Again, I think that’s why you want to have international institutions rather than being dependent simply on leaders. This gives an institutional basis for continuity in policy. There are all of these alliance structures, like NATO. People thought that NATO was obsolete and was going to go away. It has actually proved to be very durable. The United States has security ties with Korea and Japan that also are quite old, but they’re still durable. It’s interesting that the authoritarian countries have not been able to create anything comparable to that set of alliances. There is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), but all the Central Asian states don’t want to be part of this China-Russia dominated organization. We can’t just depend on great leadership.

Korea should proactively participate in upholding and creating an international order that facilitates a resurgence of democracy. Korea has not really played this role before, but with the 10th largest economy in the world, it is now in a position to play a positive role.
Gi-Wook Shin

[GWS] To add on to that, I think Korea should proactively participate in upholding and creating an international order that facilitates a resurgence of democracy. Korea has not really played this role before, but with the 10th largest economy in the world, it is now in a position to play a positive role.

[FF] There is a set of values that underpin America’s alliances, both in Asia and Europe. Throughout the whole Cold War, the Soviet Union never actually invaded a Western democracy, but that’s what Russia did. NATO has suddenly become very relevant once more. I think that both in Korea and Japan, there is also recognition of a comparable challenge from an authoritarian China. Unless all democracies work together and show solidarity with one another, they could be picked off by these two authoritarian powers.

[GWS] There is a lot of debate about whether China is going to invade Taiwan or not. I have a two-part question. First, could the situation in Ukraine reduce the possibility of China invading Taiwan? Second, if China still invades nevertheless, what should Korea do? This is a difficult question for Korea. It cannot say no to the United States as a military ally, but at the same time, it cannot antagonize China. I think this is the most difficult question for Korea at the moment.

[FF] This is a difficult question for the United States because it’s not clear that Congress or the American people actually want to go to war with China in order to save Taiwan. I think if you ask them a polling question stated like that, probably a majority would say, “No, we’re not going to send our troops to die.” But I think it’s likely that the United States will get dragged into such a conflict one way or the other. Among other things, the Chinese would probably have to preempt some of the American forces that are in the theater. American military personnel will get killed as the Chinese attack unfolds, and I think there will be a lot of political pressure to help Taiwan.

[GWS] How much can the United States be involved? Some in Korea are skeptical that Washington will step in.

[FF] This is really the problem. During the Cold War, we had a good idea of what a war would like look like if it actually happened. The military planning was very concretely designed against certain types of escalation. With China, we don’t have a clear set of expectations for what escalation would look like. It could just start with a Chinese invasion. It could start with a blockade. It could start with something in the South China Sea. It could actually start on the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea doing something. If it happens, it’s going to be much more devastating than the war in Ukraine. So much of global production comes out of Asia, and there’s a strong incentive not to let things get out of hand. Whether we have the wisdom to do that is not clear. I also think that people’s expectations and opinions will change once the conflict begins. The moment people see cities being bombed, they will change their minds.

Francis Fukuyama conversing in Gi-Wook Shin's office at Stanford University.
Francis Fukuyama. Kim Namseok/Munhwa Ilbo

[GWS] I also think that a conflict over Taiwan would affect the American people more directly than what is happening in Ukraine. What’s your view on how seriously Korea should be taking this possibility?

[FF] It is likely enough that it is absolutely important for everyone to take it seriously and plan against it. What you want to do is deter China from taking any military action against Taiwan. They’re not going to be deterred unless they see that there’s a response on the other side that is going to raise the cost for them. That’s not going to happen unless people take the scenarios seriously and start thinking about concrete ways that they could help Taiwan or stymie any kind of Chinese attack. I think it is very important for Korea to think this through and think about ways they could support Taiwan and be part of a larger alliance that can push back against China.

[GWS] I keep telling my friends and colleagues in Korea that they should take this problem much more seriously. Taiwan could become the biggest challenge for the Yoon administration’s foreign policy, not North Korea. China policy has become an extremely divisive partisan issue in South Korea, and it could tear the country apart. What advice would you have for President Yoon?

[FF] There’s two things. First is the rhetorical position. Korea should make its position clear in advance that it would oppose Chinese military action and would support the United States, for example. Korea is going to get dragged into this because so much U.S. military equipment is in Korea, and that is going to be moved in closer to the theater. I think making that position clear in advance is important.

The other thing that’s been very clear from the Ukraine war is that democracies are not prepared for an extended conflict. Everybody is running out of ammunition in Europe and the United States is running low on certain types of ammunition. The Ukrainians have used so much of it just in the 10 months they have been fighting. I think that any high-intensity conflict in East Asia is also going to be very costly in terms of supplies. South Korea is in a better position than other countries because it has been preparing for a North Korean attack for decades. Everybody needs to be prepared for an extended conflict. It may not be over in 48 hours.

[GWS] Koreans are quite nervously watching the ongoing escalation of tensions between the United States and China. In the past, the paradigm was “United States for security, China for the economy” (an-mi-gyeong-joong). Now, security and the economy are linked together. The Yoon government is promoting the strengthening of the alliance with the United States, but South Korea faces the fundamental problem of how to position itself as U.S.-China tensions escalate. Do you have any wisdom for Korea?

[FF] I don’t know if it’s wisdom, but I think Korea needs to take a clearer position. Under the previous government, there was a belief that Korea could somehow be halfway between China and the United States. That’s just not a tenable position. The tension between the United States and China has really been driven by China ever since 2013, when Xi Jinping took power. China has become a much more severe dictatorship internally, and it has become much more aggressive externally. You see the influence of the Belt and Road Initiative and the militarization of the South China Sea. In the last 10 or 15 years, China has been picking fights with India, Japan, Korea, and all of Southeast Asia over territorial issues. They built the size of their military much more rapidly than any other great power in that period of time. As a result, the United States and other countries have simply reacted to this. I think that a democracy like Korea cannot pretend that it is somehow in between the United States and China. It has to make the decision that it is going to be on the side of democracy.

[GWS] I agree that an-mi-gyeong-joong is now obsolete, but I think that South Korea must be more sophisticated in its response. As they say, the devil is in the details. On the economy, Seoul can actively work with Washington on areas closely related to security, but it can still partner with Beijing on sectors that are not. There can be a fine-tuned policy.

I now want to ask about North Korea and U.S. policy. I have been saying that the Biden administration policy is one of “strategic neglect,” not the “strategic patience” of the Obama administration. Kim Jong-un keeps testing missiles and provoking, and South Koreans are puzzled by the lack of response from Washington. Why is that? Is it because all the attention is on Ukraine and China?

[FF] Not every problem has a solution, and I don’t think this problem has a solution. You could use diplomacy. You could use military force. You could use deterrence. There are a limited number of possible approaches, and I think none of them are going to work. There has been a long history of negotiation. That has not worked. I think confrontation is not going to work. I think preemption is certainly not going to work. I just don’t think there’s a good solution, so we’ve ended up with trying to ignore the problem by default. Part of the reason North Korea is launching all of these missiles is that they want people to pay attention to them. Ignoring the problem is not much of a solution either, but it’s not as if there is a better solution.

[GWS] I agree with you that for many people in government, North Korea has been a hot potato. You don’t want to touch it because there is no clear solution, and it won’t help your career. But if we just ignore the problem, then five years later it’s going to be worse. What kind of North Korea are we going to face in five or ten years?

[FF] Everybody has been hoping that something would happen internally. It’s fine to think that, but it’s also not taking place. That said, Kim Jong-un is obese and unhealthy. Who knows what might happen?

We've had four elections now where [Trump] was playing a major role in the Republican Party. In three of those elections, he really hurt his own party. He can stir up a third of the electorate that loves him, but it’s never enough to win an election, especially in a swing state.
Francis Fukuyama

[GWS] Let’s now turn to domestic politics here in the United States. I think many Americans were relieved by what happened in the midterm elections last month. Trump’s influence was much more limited than what people thought. But he’s still there, and he’s likely to run again. I think he is still a strong candidate for the Republicans.

[FF] He declared his candidacy, but I think that he is declining very rapidly in influence. We have had four elections now where he was playing a major role in the Republican Party. In three of those elections, he really hurt his own party. He can stir up a third of the electorate that loves him, but it’s never enough to win an election, especially in a swing state. I think he’s gotten crazier in recent months. He is doing so many self-destructive things, having dinner with neo-Nazis and repeating all these conspiracy theories. These are things that no rational candidate would do. The Republicans are going to want somebody that can actually beat the Democrats, and I don’t think it’s going to be him.

[GWS] You don’t expect a rematch between Biden and Trump in 2024?

[FF] This gets into a technical issue, but the Republican primaries are mostly winner-take-all primaries. Any candidate that can get 30% of the vote is likely to be nominated. If you have a Republican field that has several people competing, they may split the alternative vote and Trump may end up winning. I think he still has a good chance of being the Republican nominee. If you’re a Democrat, that’s not the worst thing in the world. It is probably easier to run against Trump than a more normal Republican candidate.

[GWS] Two years is still a long time in politics. You said that Trump is likely to be nominated. Would Biden also run again?

[FF] I think that Biden is going to run again. Part of the problem is in the Democratic Party. It’s not clear who the successor would be. There are a lot of potential new-generation politicians, but I don’t think any of them has enough presence and attention that they can clearly take over the mantle to run as the Democratic candidate. If there is a rematch, I think Biden will win.

[GWS] Now to South Korea. Last June, I did some interviews advocating a parliamentary system, and they received good attention. There is still a lot of hesitancy among Koreans, though. I think there are a few reasons. The first is that we need a strong presidential system to deal with North Korea. There’s no stability if the prime minister keeps changing. Second is that it may drive politicians closer to big business (chaebol) because there’s less direct accountability. What would you suggest for South Korea in terms of institutional reform?

[FF] There are several possibilities even short of a parliamentary system. You can coordinate the presidential and parliamentary terms. It’s still the case that the president has a five-year term, but the legislature is on an even-year term. If you want to have strong government, you need a president that has majority support in the legislature. If they get elected simultaneously on a regular basis, you’re more likely to see strong leadership emerge. In a presidential system, the legislature itself is a check against the president. If you don’t have a strong majority in the legislature, you can’t do anything.

[GWS] That is what is happening right now in Korea.

[FF] In a parliamentary system like the British one, if you have a majority in parliament, you can do what you want. I think the presumption that somehow a presidential system is inevitably stronger than a parliamentary system is not historically correct.

[GWS] Is a parliamentary system maybe one solution to political polarization?

[FF] Sometimes a parliamentary system will have that effect, but the kind of plurality voting system that we have in the United States and in Britain tends to promote polarization. To the extent that you make it possible for third parties to run, that’s probably a better system. If you have more parties and it becomes harder to get a majority in the legislature, that forces coalitions and some degree of power sharing.

Francis Fukuyama 2022

Francis Fukuyama

Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Director of the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy, and Professor by Courtesy, Department of Political Science
Full Biography
Gi-Wook Shin

Gi-Wook Shin

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Professor of Sociology, William J. Perry Professor of Contemporary Korea, Director of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, and Director of the Korea Program
Full Biography

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In the Wake of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, Korea Should Join Its Peers in Defending the Liberal International Order

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In the Wake of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, Korea Should Join Its Peers in Defending the Liberal International Order
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A Conversation with Francis Fukuyama on the Challenges of a Changing Global Order

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Melissa Morgan
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In October 2022, the Chinese Communist Party elected Xi Jinping for a third term as general secretary, setting Xi on a path to be the longest-serving leader since Mao Zedong’s rule ended in 1976.

The extension of Xi’s rule carries significant implications not only for China, but for the broader Indo-Pacific region and global geopolitical order. No country is more aware of this than Taiwan, which has carefully walked the line between its own autonomy and Beijing’s desire for reunification since the 1940s.

After a summer of rising tensions, many experts believe that Beijing’s timeline for an attempt at reunification is much shorter than conventional thinking has assumed. On the World Class podcast, Michael McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, discusses the prognosis for Taiwan with Oriana Skylar Mastro, an expert on the Chinese military and security, and Larry Diamond, a scholar of China’s sharp power and the role of Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific region.

Listen to the full episode and read highlights from their conversation below.

Click the link for a full transcript of “What We Need To Talk About When We Talk About Taiwan.“

The Likelihood of Invasion


In stark terms, Oriana Skylar Mastro, a center fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, believes there’s a 100% chance China will use some sort of force against Taiwan in the next five years. For the last twenty years, China has been making concerted efforts to modernize its military and increase its capabilities not only to assert force against Taiwan, but to deter intervention from the United States.

In the majority of scenarios, the United States wins in a conflict with China over Taiwan. But the United States also carries a distinct geographic disadvantage. The distance across the Taiwan Strait between the island and mainland China is approximately 100 miles, which is roughly the distance between Richmond, Virginia and Washington D.C. If China moves quickly, PRC forces could take Taiwan before U.S. forces have time to move into position.

When considering possible outcomes in Taiwan, it is equally important to consider the motivations driving Beijing’s ambitions. The leadership on the mainland has been planning and thinking about how to retake Taiwan since 1949. With the modernized capabilities coming online, the balance of power has shifted in China’s military favor, and the cost-benefit calculus favors Beijing’s ambitions. The long-term planning stage is now reaching its end, and the prospects of direct action are increasing.

The clock is ticking. The problem is we don’t know how fast it’s ticking. But we need to move faster than we're moving.
Larry Diamond
Mosbacher Senior Fellow in Global Democracy at FSI

The View from Taipei


Political leaders in Taiwan recognize the growing danger they face across the Strait. In Larry Diamond’s assessment, the end of Hong Kong's autonomy and the suppression of the “one country, two systems” model, the rising military incursions into Taiwan's air defense identification zone and coastal waters, and the whole rising pace of Chinese military intimidation has sobered Taiwan and visibly impacted Taiwanese public opinion.

Concerningly though, while the political elite recognize the real and present danger of the situation, polling of the general Taiwan public suggests that the vast majority of citizens still feel like an attack or an invasion by China is unlikely. Similar majorities suggest that they would be willing to fight in Taiwan’s defense, but volunteering for military service remains at a minimum.

To maximize safety, Taiwan needs to find ways to strengthen itself in its ability to defend, resist, and deter China, while still avoiding any appearance of moving toward permanent independence or any other action that could be deemed by Beijing as a provocation, says Diamond.

There are things that can completely change Beijing's calculus, but it takes a lot of work, and I just don't see us doing the work yet.
Oriana Skylar Mastro
FSI Center Fellow

What the United States Can Do


When it comes to the defense of Taiwan, the strategic crutch hobbling the United States is geography. Most of the U.S. Pacific forces are not in Asia. The majority are in Hawaii and California, as well as a few bases and airfields in Japan. To be able to effectively deter China, the U.S. needs far greater forward deployed military capability in order to be able to either stop or stall the movement of Chinese troops into Taiwan, says Mastro.

Taiwan needs greater onshore military deterrence capabilities as well. One such strategy is the “porcupine approach,” which increases the number of smaller mobile lethal weapons. By Larry Diamond’s assessment, increased citizen participation in military training is also crucial, with an emphasis on weapons training and urban defense tactics. The U.S. could support these aims by overhauling the current system for weapons procurement to speed up the production and delivery of weapons systems not just for Taiwan, but to the benefit of U.S. defense and other contingencies as well. Working with leadership to create strategic stockpiles of food, and energy should also be a priority, says Diamond.

The U.S. also needs to put much more effort into its diplomatic efforts on behalf of Taiwan. Many U.S. allies and partners are reluctant to ostracize China because of economic ties and concerns over sparking their own conflict with China in the future. A key ally in all of this is Japan. If Japan fights with the United States on behalf of Taiwan, it is a guaranteed win and enough to effectively deter China. But much more needs to be done much more quickly in order to secure those guarantees and present them in a convincing way to Beijing.

“The clock is ticking,” Larry Diamond says. “And the problem is we don’t know how fast it’s ticking. “Taiwan is moving in the right direction. But we need to move faster than we're moving.”

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A Taiwanese F-5 fighter jet is seen after taking off from Chihhang Air Base on August 06, 2022 in Taitung, Taiwan.
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China’s Huge Exercises Around Taiwan Were a Rehearsal, Not a Signal, Says Oriana Skylar Mastro

Nancy Pelosi’s visit was more pretext than provocation.
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Larry Diamond and Oriana Skylar Mastro join Michael McFaul on the World Class podcast to discuss China’s ambitions against Taiwan, and how the U.S. and its allies can deter Beijing.

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Taiwan is currently the single biggest point of contention in U.S.-China relations, and U.S. allies have a crucial role to play in efforts to prevent a great-power war over the island. South Korea, however, has remained relatively ambiguous about its willingness to support U.S. efforts to push back against China’s growing influence in the region, including in the Taiwan Strait. As the Yoon administration is now creating an opening for a more proactive approach, what can South Korea do in a Taiwan contingency?

A new article in The Washington Quarterly provides a framework for analyzing South Korea’s potential role in this era of strategic competition through the lens of war over Taiwan. The authors — Oriana Skylar Mastro, a Center Fellow at APARC, and Sungmin Cho, a professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies — build upon traditional concepts of balancing to create a nuanced, operationally relevant strategy for South Korea to contribute to the defense of Taiwan.

They explain South Korea’s approach to the Taiwan issue to date; evaluate South Korea’s strategic importance and what it can do to support U.S.-led efforts to compete with China; explore how China and North Korea may respond to increased South Korean cooperation with the United States, along with the potential obstacles this cooperation could create; and recommend ways to leverage the US-ROK alliance to enhance deterrence against China with respect to Taiwan.


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There are politically feasible options for South Korea to greatly contribute to US-integrated deterrence in the Taiwan Strait.
Oriana Skylar Mastro and Sungmin Cho

Mastro and Cho recognize that it is operationally and politically infeasible for South Korea to fight side-by-side with U.S. forces against China in a Taiwan scenario or to build its military sufficiently to deter Chinese aggression against Taipei. South Korean strategists must also consider the costs of China’s and North Korea’s potential responses to greater South Korean involvement in defending Taiwan. Still, Seoul can play a significant role in deterring Chinese aggression.

According to Mastro and Cho, South Korea’s optimal strategy to navigate the U.S.-China rivalry should meet two conditions. First, it should contribute to the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, including deterring Chinese aggression against Taiwan. Second, it should be able to make China hesitate to take punitive actions against South Korea. Thus, South Korea can provide rear-area support to the United States, such as intelligence gathering, ammunition supplies, or noncombatant evacuation. It can also support the strategic flexibility of US Forces Korea (USFK) and be more proactive in deterring North Korean aggression and provocation to free up U.S. resources to focus on China in a contingency scenario.

Moreover, South Korea could contribute toward forms of “collective resilience” against China’s economic statecraft, such as collective economic sanctions, and leverage its position as one of the world’s leading producers of advanced semiconductors to complicate China’s calculus. Finally, Seoul’s diplomatic support of U.S.-led efforts to defend Taiwan can influence Beijing to take seriously the international community’s potential united response against any attempt to invade Taiwan.

“Given the heightened urgency over tensions in the Taiwan Strait, Washington and Seoul should pursue these options immediately to maintain peace and stability in the region before it is too late,” the authors conclude.

Get The Washington Quarterly article

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Despite obstacles and risks, there are good reasons why South Korea should want to increase deterrence against China. In a new article, Center Fellow Oriana Skylar Mastro and co-author Sungmin Cho chart an optimal strategy for Seoul to navigate the U.S.-China rivalry and support efforts to defend Taiwan.

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Aerial view of Taiwan and text "The Washington Quarterly, Vol 45 Issue 3, Fall 2022"
Compared to alliances like Japan and Australia, which seek to counter potential Chinese aggression, the role of South Korea is often secondary. Particularly with President Yoon’s new government in place, what can South Korea do to support U.S.-led efforts to compete with China, and what are the major hurdles in attaining deeper bilateral cooperation to enhance deterrence over Taiwan? 

To answer this question, the authors build upon traditional concepts of balancing to create a more granular, operationally relevant set of strategies for South Korea. They argue that, while it is politically infeasible for South Korea to fight side-by-side with US forces against China in a Taiwan scenario or to attempt to build its military sufficiently to deter the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from aggression against Taipei, these classic external and internal balancing strategies are not South Korea’s only options.

In this article, they provide background on South Korea’s approach to the Taiwan issue to date; evaluate South Korea’s strategic importance and what it can theoretically bring to the table; and explore how China and North Korea may respond to increased South Korean cooperation with the US, along with the potential obstacles this cooperation could create. Lastly, they recommend ways to leverage the US–South Korean alliance to enhance deterrence against China with respect to Taiwan.

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As healthcare costs for patients with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes have risen, governments and healthcare providers have sought creative measures to align financial incentives with better patient outcomes. One incentive payment system known as “pay-for-performance” (P4P), in which providers are beholden to metric-driven outcomes, represents a potential path forward for healthcare providers to improve healthcare processes, resulting in higher quality and better patient health outcomes. The evidence on the effectiveness of P4P programs, however, is mixed.

To address this uncertainty, a new study, published in The European Journal of Healthcare Economics, assesses the effectiveness, in monetary terms, of a P4P program for patients with diabetes at a hospital system in Taiwan. 

The study coauthors, including APARC’s Asia Health Policy Program Director and FSI Senior Fellow Karen Eggleston, employed new patient-level data on clinical indicators, utilization, and expenditures, combined with data from the national death registry, to better understand the costs and benefits of the P4P program. Their results show that Taiwan’s implementation of the P4P program for diabetic care yielded positive results in terms of net value, defined as the value of life years gained minus the cost of care.


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Assessing Net Value of Taiwan’s P4P

Taiwan’s Bureau of National Health Insurance (now National Health Insurance Administration) introduced P4P in 2001 and enhanced the program in 2006 with an incentive for pay-for-reporting of outcomes. Financial incentives were used to encourage continuity of care with metrics such as new patient enrollment, follow-up visits, and annual reports, each tied to a specific monetary value. The program’s features are common across P4P, so the study’s findings have implications in other settings that incorporate similar designs in their P4P programs.

The study compares two different groups of patients at a large regional hospital in Taiwan, one consisting of newly enrolled P4P patients and another using P4P patients who have been enrolled since the beginning of the program. The researchers leverage detailed clinical data not used in previous assessments of the P4P program to better identify both costs and longer-term clinical outcomes based on measured biomarkers and predicted mortality.

Using an economic cost-benefit analysis conducted from a budgetary perspective, the study is the first analysis of any P4P program that estimates changes in the quality-adjusted price index relative to usual care. The authors consider health benefits in terms of survival and predicted survival and convert them into monetary terms. This net value approach is especially useful for policymakers and healthcare administrators who implement value-based purchasing and monitor outcomes for any service delivery innovation over time.

“These encouraging findings of the positive value of quality improvement net of expenditures adds evidence to the literature that has found mixed results of P4P programs.”

The study finds that Taiwan’s P4P program provided a positive net value for payers and patients, ranging from $40,084 USD to $348,717 USD. These positive net value results are primarily derived from health outcomes as measured by lower mortality rates in the P4P versus non-P4P cohorts, across both newly enrolled and continuously enrolled groups of patients. According to the authors, “these encouraging findings of the positive value of quality improvement net of expenditures adds evidence to the literature that has found mixed results of P4P programs.” 

 This study develops a new model for assessing the net value of service delivery innovations like P4P programs that can be applied in other contexts globally, providing healthcare systems researchers with new tools to better understand an emergent option for incentivized care. With a more economically-translatable understanding of P4P programs, this research helps build the bridge between the oft-disparate worlds of healthcare and policy.

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Applications opened today for the China Scholars Program (CSP), Sejong Korea Scholars Program (SKSP), and Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP) on Japan—three intensive online courses offered to high school students across the United States by SPICE, Stanford University. All three applications can now be viewed at https://spicestanford.smapply.io/. Interested students must submit their completed application (including an essay and letter of recommendation) by the October 31, 2022 deadline.

All three online courses are currently accepting applications for the Spring 2023 term, which will begin in February and run through June. Designed as college-level introductions to East Asia, these academically rigorous courses offer high school students the unique opportunity to engage in a guided study of China, Korea, or Japan directly with leading scholars, former diplomats, and other experts from Stanford and beyond.

Rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors in the United States are eligible to apply to any of the three online courses. Students who are interested in more than one program can apply to two or three and rank their preferences on their applications; those who are accepted into multiple programs will be invited to enroll in their highest-preference course. High school students with a strong interest in East Asia and/or international relations are especially encouraged to apply.

“Some students who enroll in our online courses already have a solid foundation in East Asia, but many do not,” says Dr. Tanya Lee, instructor of the China Scholars Program. “What’s important is that they come with a curious mind and a willingness to work hard. We’re fortunate to be able to connect high school students with all kinds of scholars with expertise in China, Korea, and Japan, and we want our students to make the most of this opportunity.”

For more information on a specific online course, please refer to its individual webpage at chinascholars.org, sejongscholars.org, or reischauerscholars.org. The CSP, SKSP, and RSP are part of SPICE’s online student programs.


To be notified when the next application period opens, join our email list and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Subtitle: Students with a strong interest in East Asia or international relations are encouraged to apply. Applications are due October 31.

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Pay-for-Performance (P4P) to better manage chronic conditions has yielded mixed results. A better understanding of the cost and benefit of P4P is needed to improve program assessment.

To this end, we assessed the effect of a P4P program using a quasi-experimental intervention and control design. Two different intervention groups were used, one consisting of newly enrolled P4P patients, and another using P4P patients who have been enrolled since the beginning of the study. Patient-level data on clinical indicators, utilization and expenditures, linked with national death registry, were collected for diabetic patients at a large regional hospital in Taiwan between 2007 and 2013. Net value, defined as the value of life years gained minus the cost of care, is calculated and compared for the intervention group of P4P patients with propensity score-matched non-P4P samples.

We found that Taiwan’s implementation of the P4P program for diabetic care yielded positive net values, ranging from $40,084 USD to $348,717 USD, with higher net values in the continuous enrollment model.

Our results suggest that the health benefits from P4P enrollment may require a sufficient time frame to manifest, so a net value approach incorporating future predicted mortality risks may be especially important for studying chronic disease management. Future research on the mechanisms by which the Taiwan P4P program helped improve outcomes could help translate our findings to other clinical contexts.

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Brian Chen
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Oriana Skylar Mastro
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This commentary originally appeared in The Economist.


In the afternoon of August 4th, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) kicked off the largest and most sophisticated military exercises it has ever conducted. Over the course of a week, the Chinese launched dozens of missiles and conducted drills near Taiwan with 100 aircraft, ten destroyers and support vessels. Submarines and aircraft carriers also played a role. The display has made the third Taiwan Strait crisis, which occurred between 1995-96, when China conducted four rounds of tests over the course of several months, with barrages of no more than six missiles, look like child’s play.

Part of the rationale for the latest exercise was to signal Beijing’s anger over Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Ms Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, was the highest-ranking American government official to visit the island since 1997. Back then Newt Gingrich, who was also the House speaker, made the trip. China warned that if Ms Pelosi added Taipei to her itinerary, there would be hell to pay.

The exercise is also a bit of a “coming-out party” for Beijing. In 1996 the third crisis ended when America sent two aircraft-carrier strike groups within 200 miles (322km) of Taiwan. America saw this as a great strategic success, and Chinese leaders were unhappy with its interference in what China considers a domestic affair. The resentment helped to drive China to build the PLA into one of the greatest armed forces in the world.


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Compared with 1996, China’s forces today are barely recognizable. Back then it had a large army, with roughly 4m people, but that was a sign of its backwardness more than anything else. With obsolete equipment and poor training, China barely had what could be considered an air force and a navy. Its pilots could not fly over water, at night or in rough weather. In 1999 less than 2% of its fighters were fourth generation, just 4% of its attack submarines were classed as modern (nuclear powered, for example) and none of its surface ships was. Its navy was a glorified coastguard with ships that, lacking air-defense systems, had to hug the coastline on any patrol. Its nuclear weapons, solid-fuelled and housed mainly in fixed silos, could have been taken out in one fell swoop by America.

Now China’s armed forces are comparable to America’s in quality and quantity. Most of its platforms are modern (of the latest technology for the relevant domain) and it boasts the largest navy in the world. In some areas, Chinese military capabilities already surpass America’s—in shipbuilding, land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles, and integrated air-defense systems. China possesses the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world, one that is currently undergoing major modernization.

Chinese leaders knew the PLA had to conduct a series of large, realistic exercises to identify issues and hone their capabilities. If China had done so out of the blue, instead of using Ms Pelosi’s visit as a pretext, international opprobrium would have been stronger.

But even with all these improvements, it is unclear whether China could take Taiwan by force. China has not fought a war since 1979, when it made heavy weather of a “punitive” invasion of Vietnam. An amphibious attack, and to a lesser degree a blockade of the type the exercises off Taiwan were simulating, would demand complex joint operations (involving army, air force and navy), which in turn require impeccable logistics and command and control. Xi Jinping, China’s leader, launched a massive organizational reform to improve in these areas, and the PLA undoubtedly has. But the war in Ukraine may have given him heightened anxiety, given that the Russians struggled precisely with logistics and command.

For this reason, we should see the massive exercises off Taiwan less as a signal, and more as a rehearsal for combat. Mr Xi wants progress on the Taiwan issue, and domestically talk in the press is shifting from peaceful reunification to armed reunification. Chinese leaders knew the PLA had to conduct a series of large, realistic exercises to identify issues and hone their capabilities. If China had done so out of the blue, instead of using Ms Pelosi’s visit as a pretext, international opprobrium would have been stronger.

China will seize the opportunity to practice as much as possible. It has announced already that this round of exercises will continue and that another round in the Bohai Gulf/Yellow Sea is next. And it won’t just be large-scale exercises. It is unlikely that Beijing will return to its previous level of operations. Instead, China might attempt to normalize greater Chinese activity around Taiwan. That makes war more probable. Through a series of exercises the PLA, and the party leadership, might gain confidence that China’s forces are ready to take Taiwan sooner than they would otherwise have thought.

Of course, this all depends on how the exercises and operations go. From the outside, this is hard to assess. The missiles landed where they should have in recent days, and there were no accidents. But we don’t know how much and how well different groups are communicating with each other. To prepare for joint operations, air-force units need to operate in close proximity and coordinate with ground troops and amphibious elements. The PLA needs to practice providing supplies, such as prepositioned fuel stocks, and bringing munitions and medical supplies to forward locations such as Fujian, the province directly across the Taiwan Strait.

This is where the real trouble lies. If activities in the vicinity of Taiwan become more routine, not only does this heighten anxiety in Taipei (and probably other regional capitals as well) but it helps to disguise any preparations for a real military campaign. China needs an element of surprise to be able to take Taiwan before America has time to mobilize adequate forces in the region to defend the island. If China’s forces are simulating formations, blockades, attacks, and amphibious landings, it will be harder to decipher when they are preparing for the real thing. Ms Pelosi’s visit has allowed Beijing to move to a new level of military activity unchallenged, which will make it harder for America to defend Taiwan. No signal of America’s commitment to the island can fix that.

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The Taiwan Temptation

Why Beijing Might Resort to Force
The Taiwan Temptation
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Nancy Pelosi’s visit was more pretext than provocation.

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Noa Ronkin
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This story was last updated on August 10, 2022.

Amid warnings and condemnations from Chinese leadership, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan on August 2, 2022, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the island since 1997. A day after Pelosi's visit, furious China began firing missiles near Taiwan in drills that appear to be a trial run for sealing off the island, and Japan said some missiles landed in its exclusive economic zone. In a series of articles and interviews, Center Fellow Oriana Skylar Mastro examines the implications of Speaker Pelosi's visit, Beijing's response, and what the United States might do to prepare for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. 

Mastro joined CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS to discuss what she calls the "unprecedented scale and complexity" of China's military drills near Taiwan. Over the past 20 years, China has invested in building up not only one of the most advanced and sophisticated militaries but also one that can attack and keep out the United States. So now, explains Mastro, beyond the live-fire and missile tests, the Chinese military exercises also included complex air and naval operations designed to demonstrate China's readiness to take Taiwan when it feels ready to do so. Watch:

According to Mastro, when China makes a move on Taiwan there has to be an element of surprise, so they don't want to do it right now when the United States has increased its focus and operations in the region. But we will probably see additional rounds of Chinese military exercises in the future, she predicts, "and the more they get to do it the more confident they become and the more likely we are to see Beijing initiate force against the island." 

A Question of Capability

China's round of military exercises in response to Speaker Pelosi's Taiwan visit was a bit of a “coming-out party” for Beijing, writes Mastro in an invited commentary for The Economist. After years of investments to build up and modernize the People's Liberation Army, China’s armed forces are now comparable to America’s in quality and quantity, Mastro says. But even with all these improvements, it is unclear whether China could take Taiwan by force. Chinese leaders knew the PLA had to conduct a series of large, realistic exercises to identify issues and hone their capabilities, and Pelosi's visit gave them the pretext to do exactly that. "China needs an element of surprise to be able to take Taiwan before America has time to mobilize adequate forces in the region to defend the island," Mastro notes. "If China’s forces are simulating formations, blockades, attacks, and amphibious landings, it will be harder to decipher when they are preparing for the real thing."

In an interview with BBC World News, Mastro argues that the political maneuvering intended to signal U.S. commitment to Taiwan — whether it comes in the form of Speaker Pelosi's visit or President Biden's statements that "the United States must protect Taiwan" — is ultimately unhelpful and does not address the more serious issue at hand, which is whether the United States has the military capabilities needed to defend Taiwan.

Mastro also suggested that Chinese leadership has benefited from Pelosi's visit, using the occasion for their own political purposes and to test some of their military capabilities to take Taiwan by force.

Watch the full discussion:

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According to Mastro, a noteworthy aspect of Pelosi's visit is that she chose to pursue it despite dissuasion from the Biden administration, signaling to Beijing that the U.S. model is grounded in the separation of powers and that Congress would act independently to pass legislation to supply arms or provide military funding to defend Taiwan.

Chinese Military Projection of Power

In response to Pelosi's visit, China announced military exercises in six regions around Taiwan, pressing its forces closer to the island than ever before. "They’re definitely going to use this as an excuse to do something that helps them prepare for a possible invasion,” Mastro says in a New York Times report. "Under the guise of signaling, they’re trying to basically test their ability to conduct complex maneuvers that are necessary for an amphibious assault on Taiwan.”

Mastro recently outlined the array of weaponry China has amassed for a forceful "unification" with Taiwan, pointing out that China has now the world's largest navy and that its missile force is thought to be capable of targeting ships at sea to neutralize the main U.S. tool of power projection, namely, aircraft carriers, notes a New York Times explainer.

Mastro also joined WBUR's On Point Radio host Meghna Chakrabarti to examine the fallout from China's military exercises around Taiwan, current Chinese military capabilities, and what a modern war over Taiwan would look like. Listen to the full conversation:

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a major role in a Taiwan contingency, and these are significant because they change much of China's perceptions of its capabilities, Mastro explains. First, the Chinese are concerned about the capabilities of their personnel, but if they can use AI-enabled systems and take the person out of the loop, then that makes them more confident in their military capabilities. Moreover, the Chinese notion of "war control" is such in which thinking through enables planning and preparing for every possible outcome and contingency in a war. "Algorithmic warfare is exactly what they have in mind. They think, 'If we have the right systems, we can project and ensure victory ahead of time.' So, from my perspective, AI is really significant because of how much more confidence it would give China in its ability to win a war."

When people talk about whether or not China can or cannot invade Taiwan, they’re actually talking about the level of operational cost that China would have to pay to do it. They could do it.
Oriana Skylar Mastro

Under Xi Jinping, the People's Liberation Army has modernized to a point where "armed reunification" with Taiwan seems increasingly plausible. But experts differ in interpreting China's calculus on Taiwan. "When people talk about whether or not China can or cannot [invade Taiwan], they’re actually talking about something different, the level of operational cost — the loss of ships, casualties — that China would have to pay to do it," Mastro tells the New York Times. "They could do it," she added.

Paths to Deterrence

Mastro also appeared in an interview with NBC Bay Area, explaining the context for the flaring U.S.-China tensions as they pertain to Taiwan. "The issue is that the United States promised not to have official ties with the Taiwan government, and the visit by Speaker Pelosi is understood by the Chinese as an official delegation, meaning the United States is violating its promise."

Pelosi's visit is not the first time the United States has sent an official delegation to Taiwan, and the Chinese follow-up military exercises are not the first sign of Chinese retaliation. What has changed this time around, according to Mastro, is Chinese military capabilities. "China now has a formidable force that could take Taiwan, if it felt like it, and I think that is encouraging a much more aggressive posturing on the part of Beijing," she said.

Mastro emphasized that the U.S. strategy of making symbolic statements of commitment to Taiwan is misguided and does not deter Beijing from aggressive action. "China's uncertainty right now is not about U.S. commitment but is, instead, about U.S. capability [...] I'm sure the Chinese are watching [Pelosi's visit], but the lessons they're learning is not that they should back off Taiwan, but instead that they need to strengthen their position to convince the United States not to engage in these kinds of activities in the future."


For more of Mastro's analysis of the fallout from Pelosi's visit and cross-Strait tensions, visit the links below:

What Does China Want from Taiwan?
Sky News, August 12, 2022

Will the US and China Go to War Over Taiwan
BBC, August 11, 2022

What Are the Issues Between the U.S., China, and Taiwan? Stanford Scholar Explains
Stanford News, August 10, 2022

China’s Military Operations Around Taiwan After Pelosi Visit Show Intent to Change Status Quo
South China Morning Post, August 5, 2022

China ‘Convinced It Needs to Hit Us With Pearl Harbor-style Surprise Attack’ to Win War Over Taiwan, Expert Warns
The U.S. Sun, August 5, 2022

Stanford Experts Cast Grim Predictions for U.S.-China Relations Following Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit
The Stanford Daily, August 5, 2022

China’s War Games May Not Lead to All-out Conflict Against Taiwan... Yet
The Telegraph, August 4, 2022

Chinese Missiles Strike Seas Off Taiwan, and Some Land Near Japan
New York Times, August 3, 2022

Taiwan Lives Under the Threat of a Modernized and Reinforced Chinese Army
Les Echos, August 3, 2022

China’s Military Drills Could Be a Prelude to Something Much Worse in Taiwan
The Telegraph, August 3, 2022

Why Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit Is Raising U.S.-China Tensions
New York Times, August 2, 2022

Pelosi's Taiwan Visit Triggering Potential Military Showdown
VOA Chinese, August 2, 2022

China and US on a Collision Course: Tensions Over Taiwan Continue to Rise
de volkskrant, July 29, 2022 (in Dutch)

For Taiwan, Pelosi Visit is About Us, China Controlling Risk
CBS Bay Area, July 29, 2022

Xi Jinping's Phone Call with Biden
BBC Chinese, July 28, 2022

Pelosi’s Rumored Taiwan Trip Sparks Uproar
The Dispatch, July 27, 2022

Taiwan Holds Drills Amid Pelosi Visit Concern, China Tension
AP, July 25, 2022

Guam: The Sharpening of the Spear’s Tip
Foreign Policy Focus, July 20, 2022

Expert Voices: Interview with Oriana Skylar Mastro
Center for Advanced China Research, July 18, 2022

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Oriana Skylar Mastro

Oriana Skylar Mastro is a Center Fellow at FSI and is based at APARC, where her research focuses on Chinese military and security policy, Asia-Pacific security issues, war termination, nuclear dynamics and coercive diplomacy.
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Subtitle

Political maneuvers like Speaker Pelosi's visit to Taiwan only anger Beijing but ultimately do not address the key issue of whether the United States has the military capabilities needed to protect Taiwan, argues Center Fellow Oriana Skylar Mastro.

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