• Directory of Taiwan

US Strategic Competition Act calls for toughening Taiwan's defenses against Chinese invasion

Advancing Taiwan's security and democracy of 'vital national security interest' to US

American and Taiwanese flags (Getty Images)

American and Taiwanese flags (Getty Images)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A bill designed to counter China's aggressive actions in many areas, includes sections calling for the deepening of U.S.-Taiwan ties and strengthening Taiwan's defenses to better ward off a potential invasion by the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

On Thursday, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) announced that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he chairs, will on April 14 vote on a proposed bill titled the Strategic Competition Act of 2021. Although the bill mainly focuses on ways to counter China's "aggressive and assertive behavior" and human rights abuses, it is replete with references to Taiwan, mentioning the country 46 times.

According to Menendez, key elements of the 280-page piece of legislation include:

  • Bolstering American diplomatic strategy to deal with challenges presented by Beijing and strengthening alliances in the Indo-Pacific region
  • Enacting human rights and civil society measures to back democracy in Hong Kong and punish human rights violations in Xinjiang, such as forced labor and forced sterilization
  • Countering and combatting China's "predatory international economic behavior" by taking steps to track China's intellectual property violations, government subsidies, and use of Hong Kong to avoid U.S. export controls, and to monitor Chinese firms in U.S. capital markets
  • Urging increased coordination with allies on countering the PLA's growing might and requiring reports on Chinese military advances in a broad range of areas

The bill includes two main sections on Taiwan: "Enhancing the United States-Taiwan partnership" and "Treatment of Taiwan government." It also mentions Taiwan elsewhere, such as in "Sec. 4. Statement of Policy" in which it calls for exercises with allies and partners to "maintain open sea and air lanes, particularly in the Taiwan Strait, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea."

Under a section on digital technology, the act calls on the trade representative to negotiate bilateral and plurilateral agreements on digital goods with the EU, Japan, Taiwan, and members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which includes the U.K., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand in addition to the U.S.

A section on the American commitment to allies in the Indo-Pacific calls for strengthened economic and security cooperation with regional partners "such as Taiwan." The bill also calls on the Association of Southeast Asian States (ASEAN) to foster greater "integration and unity" with non-member states like Taiwan.

Eight policy directives are listed under the section concerning the enhancement of the U.S.-Taiwan partnership.

The first describes Taiwan as "a vital part of the United States Indo-Pacific strategy." It asserts that the advancement of Taiwan's security and democracy is of "vital national security interest" to the U.S. and calls for reinforcement of commitments to Taiwan under the Taiwan Security Act and Six Assurances.

In terms of military strategy, it prescribes helping Taiwan execute its asymmetric defense strategy, urges the East Asian country to increase its defense spending, and advises regular transfers of a variety of defensive weaponry and military technologies. Examples of asymmetric capabilities mentioned include anti-ship, coastal defense, anti-armor, air defense, and undersea warfare.

Nestled within item 7 is a call for the U.S. to champion Taiwan's "meaningful participation in the United Nations. It also stipulates that the U.S. should back Taiwan's participation in the World Health Assembly, International Civil Aviation Organization, and International Criminal Police Organization, among other global bodies.

As for U.S. treatment of Taiwan, the bill states that the State Department and other government agencies should engage with the Taiwanese government "on the same basis, and using the same nomenclature and protocol" as it does with other governments. This is in keeping with the relaxation of diplomatic restrictions under President Trump, soon to be codified by the Biden administration.

Under item 7 of a section delineating steps to advance U.S. leadership in the United Nations, the bill calls for the promotion of the "participation and inclusion of Taiwan in the United Nations System."

The bill's authors then list five reasons why the defense of Taiwan is critical:

  1. To protect Taiwan's population
  2. To maintain first island chain defense
  3. To defend Japan's territorial integrity
  4. To prevent China from expanding its military ambitions
  5. To maintain U.S. credibility as a protector of "democratic values and free market principles embodied by Taiwan’s people and government"

In a section on strengthening security alliances in the Indo-Pacific region, the bill recommends assisting Taiwan in expediting its attainment of asymmetric defense capabilities, which are "crucial to defending the islands of Taiwan from invasion."