Formosa in Limbo

Biding Time: The Challenge of Taiwan’s International Status – Brookings Institution.

Sigrid Winkler at the Brookings Institution suggests that while Taiwan has relied on an ambiguous status for decades, the time is coming where it must address the issue. Winkler suggests that Taiwan begin to argue with the world’s powers that they must push China to play fair with Taiwan.

The point is well-argued, and it offers Taiwan an important policy strategy. For the argument to be convincing, however, Winkler must also explain exactly how the United States, the European Union, Japan, ASEAN, the United Nations or any other body is to convince China of the value of “playing fair” with Taiwan.

Winkler acknowledges that the EU and US are functionally debtor nations to China, and thus enjoy limited leverage. What is unmentioned is the lengthening list of priorities in those international relationships whose urgency is forcing Taiwan further and further down in priority, as is the question of whether the US has the means to stop China from taking over Taiwan, even if it has the will.

Indeed, China’s own challenges will likely postpone a reckoning with Taiwan unless Taiwan provokes it. All of which suggests that time may not be running out, and that Taiwan would be foolish to shake, much less rock, the boat.

Winkler’s analysis belongs as a part of the wider discussion about the Taiwan issue. But the distinguished scholar overstates the urgency to seek a change in the status quo.

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