How to Avoid a War in Taiwan - Threats, Assurances, and Effective Deterrence (TAED) was an academic paper authored by Thomas J. Christensen, Director of the China and the World Program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; M. Taylor Fravel, the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and Director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Bonnie S. Glaser, Director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States; Andrew J. Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University; and Jessica Chen Weiss, the Michael J. Zak Professor for China and Asia-Pacific Studies at Cornell University and a former Council on Foreign Relations Fellow on the U.S. Department of State Policy Planning Staff. The authors are among the contributors to 'Avoiding War Over Taiwan', a report by the Task Force on U.S.-China Policy convened by the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations and the 21st Century China Center at the University of California, San Diego, School of Global Policy and Strategy. This article was adapted from the report and was published on October 13, 2022, in Foreign Affairs and simultaneously on several university websites. Hence, this article has reached a significant number of readers. Christensen et. al. in a clear academic style explained the complex Taiwan conflict in terms of the TAED hypothesis (from the U.S. perspective). This author read this article in October and had wanted to comment on it, but it did not get on the to-do list till December, a couple of weeks after the G20 conference in Bali, Indonesia. This author is glad that he could include the Biden-Xi three-and-half hour meeting in Bali as a reference when commenting on the article by Christensen et. al. The G20 Summit Meeting of U.S.-China verified to some degree on the U. S. approach of TAED (especially on the Taiwan issue) but it also confirmed my belief that TAED was unilateral wishful thinking not only could not stand the test of time nor observed the teaching of history. (From Xi's statements, we can say China firmly rejects TAED.) The U.S. strategists simply misinterpreted or ignored what China meant by 'unification with Taiwan is a destiny of (Chinese) history', no matter how the U.S. wishes to use TAED to deal with the Taiwan issue. China and its 1.4 billion people will always view Taiwan as China's domestic problem to be solved by the Chinese with a historical mandate.
According to the concept of TAED, the three parties must maintain a balance of Threat, Assurance and Effective Deterrence. For Taiwan, the threat is a military attack from Mainland China but she is breaking the balance with the progression of time since the military strength of Mainland China has increased to an unsymmetrical state even putting U.S. carrier-based defense vulnerable. Taiwan's assurance of not moving to independence if the Mainland would not attack Taiwan was weakening as exhibited by citizens' opinion poll (the U.S. might have believed that people's opinion could be forever controlled in Taiwan before, but history tells us that it is never the case whether in a democratic or authoritarian system). For the U.S. both threat and assurance are weakening. The former is due to the rise of the PRC military strength and the collapse of the first island chain in deterring China. The suggested approach to encourage Taiwan to strengthen its own self-defense like a porcupine and to build alliances in Asia to provide deterrence to China is just wishful thinking, assuming people are ignorant or careless about consequences. People in Taiwan understand what porcupines can do and must sacrifice in defense and Asians do understand what war will bring as an ultimate consequence. Why would they replicate any situation that could be worse than Ukraine? As the Christensen+ article pointed out that Taiwan as an island has no border with any country to receive supplies. How much fuel and food storage can survive bombs and missiles during a war? The crux of the matter is that the U.S. may be able to sell to the Tsai Administration the TAED strategy but the people will not buy it. Purchasing more second-rate defense weapons and increasing drafts and military service are not convincing young people that they will have a bright prosperous future. The past November election in Taiwan essentially has put handwriting on the wall that they don't trust their current government.
At the G20, Biden and Xi had a long talk. It is almost certain that a lot of issues were discussed and the Taiwan problem must be one of them. We know that Xi conveyed again that the Taiwan problem is what history has left for the Chinese to solve. It will be a core issue with a clear redline. Biden essentially was saying what Christensen et al were saying – maintaining the TAED strategy. Biden will adhere to the one-China principle but may not be able to leave Taiwan alone since Biden Administration is not capable of controlling the Congress or any think tank being lobbied by pro-Taiwan independence interest groups in the U.S. or in Taiwan. The fundamental issue is that the U.S. has not learned or is unwilling to think from the opponent's position. Christensen+ had quoted Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs saying: “If Beijing controls Taiwan, the U.S. can't defend other Asian Allies.” This is equivalent to saying: if Beijing government exists, the U.S. can't defend other Asian allies. Beijing may ask why the U.S. has to defend the other Asian allies in the first place. In fact, the U.S. is facing that challenge; some ASEAN nations simply refuse to take sides against China. China could well say that so long as the U.S. has control over Japan and South Korea, China cannot have peace nor can defend other Asian nations. They have more proof that the Japanese Imperial army has invaded China and many other Asian nations whereas the PRC army has never set foot on Japan's soil (the U.S. army did and does!) The Taiwan issue cannot be kept in a steady state under a TAED with no legal and historical justification. The unification will eventually take place. Whether it would be peacefully completed or not depends on 1, Mainland China's military strength and political resolve (both are enhancing). 2, Chinese people's wisdom in recognizing their future should be decided by themselves, not by any third party. The U.S. has benefited and strengthened by WW I and WW II, but hopefully she will eventually yield to the reality that no one can benefit or survive from WW III.