The U.S. Should Preserve Taiwan’s Autonomy  Without Triggering Chinese Attack, Says New CFR Report

February 11, 2021 11:39 am (EST)

News Releases

Taiwan “is becoming the most dangerous flash point in the world for a possible war that involves the United States, China, and probably other major powers,” warns a new Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) report by Robert D. Blackwill, Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy, and Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia White Burkett Miller professor of history. 

More From Our Experts

In a new Council Special Report, The United States, China, and Taiwan: A Strategy to Prevent War, the authors argue that the United States should change and clarify its strategy to prevent war over Taiwan. “The U.S. strategic objective regarding Taiwan should be to preserve its political and economic autonomy, its dynamism as a free society, and U.S.-allied deterrence—without triggering a Chinese attack on Taiwan.” 

More on:

News Release

Taiwan

China

U.S. Foreign Policy

“We do not think it is politically or militarily realistic to count on a U.S. military defeat of various kinds of Chinese assaults on Taiwan, uncoordinated with allies. Nor is it realistic to presume that, after such a frustrating clash, the United States would or should simply escalate to some sort of wide-scale war against China with comprehensive blockades or strikes against targets on the Chinese mainland.”

“If U.S. campaign plans postulate such unrealistic scenarios,” the authors add, “they will likely be rejected by an American president and by the U.S. Congress.” But, they observe, “the resulting U.S. paralysis would not be the result of presidential weakness or timidity. It might arise because the most powerful country in the world did not have credible options prepared for the most dangerous military crisis looming in front of it.”

Proposing “a realistic strategic objective for Taiwan, and the associated policy prescriptions, to sustain the political balance that has kept the peace for the last fifty years,” the authors urge the Joe Biden administration to 

More From Our Experts
  • affirm that it is not trying to change Taiwan’s status;
  • work with its allies, especially Japan, to prepare new plans that could challenge Chinese military moves against Taiwan and help Taiwan defend itself, yet put the burden of widening a war on China; and
  • visibly plan, beforehand, for the disruption and mobilization that could follow a wider war, but without assuming that such a war would or should escalate to the Chinese, Japanese, or American homelands.

“The horrendous global consequences of a war between the United States and China, most likely over Taiwan, should preoccupy the Biden team, beginning with the president,” the authors conclude.   

More on:

News Release

Taiwan

China

U.S. Foreign Policy

Read The United States, China and Taiwan: A Strategy to Prevent War at cfr.org/PreventWarTaiwan.

To learn more or request an interview, please contact the Global Communications and Media Relations team at 212.434.9888 or [email protected]. 

Creative Commons
Creative Commons: Some rights reserved.
Close
This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) License.
View License Detail
Close

Top Stories on CFR

Coronavirus

The Delta variant is driving new COVID-19 surges, even as countries around the world make gradual progress in vaccinating their populations. Five graphics show how the strain is taking over and who’s at risk.

Public Health Threats and Pandemics

Opioid addiction in the United States has become a prolonged epidemic, threatening not only public health but economic output and national security.

United States

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 is on track to be the United States’ deadliest year for gun violence in two decades. How do other countries regulate firearms and respond to mass shootings?