The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act, signed by President Donald Trump on March 26, is the latest legislation aimed to enhance U.S.-Taiwan relations and solidify Trump’s pro-Taiwan stance.
This law, which has been almost one year in the making, requires the U.S. government to support Taiwan’s participation in international organizations that do not require statehood. Additionally, the president is required to provide weapons to Taiwan that mitigate the looming Chinese military threat.
The act also encourages mutual visits by high-level officials between the two countries as permitted by the Taiwan Travel Act.
Most notably, the legislation allows the Department of State to adjust monetary aid and relations with other countries according to whether they strengthen or break diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The passage of this law has brought about optimism and confidence in U.S.-Taiwan relations.
By employing a “carrot and stick” approach, Washington hopes to dissuade countries that recognize Taipei from establishing ties with Beijing. However, this could function as a double-edged sword and cause unintentional harm to Taiwan’s political status.
Trump must implement this act with extreme caution.
Since President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) first term began in 2016, the Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, the Solomon Islands, and Kiribati have severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan to establish ties with China. With only 15 remaining allies, Taiwan’s diplomatic recognition is waning at an alarming rate.
As most of the nations that recognize Taiwan are geographically small and relatively less developed, they require significant financial assistance. If China tried to entice one of these allies, and the U.S. decided to follow up on its policies per the TAIPEI Act, the targeted nation could well accept China’s offers of economic wealth and infrastructural prosperity without a second thought.
This would essentially render the U.S. strategy useless and contribute to the further loss of Taiwan’s allies, which brings into question the effectiveness of this policy. When faced with decreased aid from the U.S., the country in question could cut its losses by accepting China’s promises of new investment and development projects — it would not be a difficult choice if push came to shove.
While China is dangling carrots in front of these small countries, the U.S. should provide them with even larger carrots. By planning comprehensive financial aid packages, domestic infrastructure projects, and extensive social programs for allies of Taiwan, these nations would not need to partner with China for economic support.
Furthermore, it would protect Taiwan’s sovereignty and solidify the U.S.'s reputation as a reliable and substantial member of the international community. With careful planning and analysis, detailed logistics, and careful budget planning, this “all carrot, no stick”’ strategy could be successful.
The passing of this act signifies America’s solid support for Taiwan and its disdain for China’s aggressive political and military tactics, which is evident around the world. However, the realist “us versus them” mentality behind this new legislation may unintentionally play into China’s hands, helping it cement its influence over Taiwan’s few remaining allies.
The stipulations of the TAIPEI Act send a strong message to China, but its benefits remain to be seen.