Instead of decrying such comparisons, Taipei must better prepare, including through acquisition of an independent strategic deterrent
Many observers of the Ukraine situation are comparing it to Taiwan. Both countries have their sovereignty denied by nearby nuclear superpowers. Both are relatively new democracies. And both face an adversary that is not only authoritarian, but ideologically so.
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin both claim to believe, falsely, that their own personalistic form of dictatorship is superior to anything that the voters of these two countries could decide.
Taiwan’s government is pushing back on the comparison of it to Ukraine, claiming that to compare the two is fearmongering or cognitive warfare. Perhaps it is, by some people.
According to Reuters, the Taiwan government’s Cabinet spokesperson, Lo Ping-cheng, said that “in all areas,” Ukraine and Taiwan “cannot be compared.” He continued, “there are those using this opportunity” of the Ukraine invasion “to manipulate the so-called (topic) of ‘today’s Ukraine, tomorrow’s Taiwan,’ trying to inappropriately link Ukraine’s situation with Taiwan’s, disturbing people’s morale. This is inadvisable.”
Lo said that Taiwan is important geopolitically and is a key element of the global high-tech supply chain. Taiwan does make the best semiconductors, but Ukraine also has high-tech exports, including jet engine and missile technologies.
Lo also said that Taiwan has the natural maritime barrier of the Taiwan Strait, 100 miles wide at its narrowest. But the strait will provide no protection against China’s air force, or the massive numbers of missiles that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has built and deployed right across the water from all of the most populated parts of Taiwan, including the capital city of Taipei.
The reality is that Taiwan is ill-prepared for war with China, having unwisely relied at least in part on the protection of the United States, even after 1979, when the United States all but canceled Taiwan’s sovereignty and the mutual defense treaty of 1955 to improve U.S. trade relations with China.
Unlike Taiwan, the United States and Britain did in fact guarantee the territorial integrity of Ukraine in a 1994 agreement. But even Ukraine was invaded without the two allies deploying troops. Instead, they made sure their troops and diplomats were mostly out of the country before the invasion started, so they wouldn’t be drawn into an existential war with a nuclear power.
Like Russia, China is an aggressive nuclear power with which the United States and allies do not want to be drawn into an existential war.
So Taiwan should expect the same treatment as Ukraine—or worse, given the United States does not recognize its sovereignty—in the case of an invasion. To say so is not fearmongering or cognitive warfare against Taiwan. It is a warning to better prepare.
By Andres Corr