WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, authored an op-ed in the Economist arguing that China’s aggressive actions against Taiwan demand a response, but we should make changes to our Taiwan policy carefully and thoughtfully to advance our interests, make Taiwan safer, and avoid a catastrophic war with China.

On China’s aggressive actions towards Taiwan, Murphy said: “Today this delicate peace is under greater threat than ever before as saber-rattling from China grows louder and the reality of an invasion creeps closer. In 1995 China’s defense budget was about twice the size of Taiwan’s. Today it is 20 times larger. Over the past two decades, China has implemented the largest military buildup of any country in the world. This buildup is not just to strengthen President Xi’s nationalist bona fides at home, but to enable China to exercise influence as a rising global power—and China is now eagerly and regularly flexing its military muscles on Taiwan’s doorstep.”

On the importance of the policy of strategic ambiguity for maintaining peace, Murphy said: “For the past four decades, Republican and Democratic American presidents have maintained the policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ toward the defense of Taiwan, maintaining the capacity and military capabilities to defend the island against attack by China without explicitly committing America to doing so. And the policy has been a success, preserving peace for those four decades...Our policy has also kept our most important security allies across the world, especially in Europe, together on Taiwan strategy.”

Murphy warned against those who are clamoring to abandon strategic ambiguity without adequately considering the consequences: “Some in Congress and on the Washington think-tank circuit have taken this moment to argue that American policy should abandon strategic ambiguity in favor of ‘strategic clarity’ by functionally recognizing Taiwan and extending an explicit security guarantee to the island, declaring that America will defend it with American troops. But of course, it is not necessary to do a complete reversal of decades of Taiwan policy to still make a serious pivot that appropriately responds to China’s aggression.”

He continued: “The question we should be asking is a simple one: what policy changes will make Taiwan more secure, and decrease the likelihood of armed conflict with China? Some of the proposals floated by the ‘strategic clarity’ proponents—de facto diplomatic recognition of Taiwan’s independence, officially declaring Taiwan a Major Non-NATO Ally, telegraphing the expected American military response to hostile acts by Chinese forces, or formally announcing the potential diplomatic, economic and military consequences we would impose on China in advance of an invasion—fail to clear that bar. They do little practically to aid Taiwan’s defense, and instead mostly just fan the flames of Chinese nationalism. It’s important to remember that today, Taiwan is not ready to defend itself adequately against invasion.”

Murphy laid out policies that would benefit Taiwan’s security, including: First, we certainly should mobilize and expedite more arms deliveries to Taiwan…Second, Congress can grant the president new authority to mete out crushing sanctions against Chinese decision-makers should they move against Taiwan…Third, through assistance programs, we should double down on our investments overseas to counter Chinese influence campaigns designed to undermine Taiwan’s democracy or coerce allies like Lithuania from working with Taiwan. Fourth, we should push for Taiwan’s representation in international bodies and multilateral institutions, countering China’s attempts to isolate the island diplomatically.” 

You can read the full op-ed here.