Vol. 2, Issue 19
The Global Taiwan Brief Volume 2, Issue 19
President Tsai Highlights New Southbound Policy Objectives and Approaches
By: Russell Hsiao
A Different Kind of Rainbow: Green, Blue, and Red in Taiwan’s Same Sex Marriage Debate
By: Anna Scott Bell
Reframing Taiwan’s Military Capabilities in Relation to Developing Instability on the Korean Peninsula
By: Ross Busch and Oliver Thomas
Taiwan: A Strategic Transit Hub?
By: Wu Shang-su
President Tsai Highlights New Southbound Policy Objectives and Approaches
Russell Hsiao is the Executive Director of the Global Taiwan Institute and the Editor-in-Chief of the Global Taiwan Brief.
On May 5, President Tsai Ing-wen highlighted the new approaches of her administration’s flagship foreign policy: the “New Southbound Policy” (NSP, 新南向政策). The policy—which has been much-vaunted as the “pivot/rebalance” of the Tsai administration—has been beleaguered by questions about its effectiveness and purpose. As her administration closes in on its one year anniversary, in a meeting with foreign press from the Indo-Pacific region, the president appeared eager to quiet any doubts about the new policy’s objectives.
In a session with six media outlets from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, the Taiwanese president went to great lengths to underscore the apolitical character of the NSP. In reference to growing tensions in the South China Sea and Beijing’s sweeping “One Belt, One Road” initiative, Tsai asserted, “in contrast to some major countries that have geopolitical considerations in the region, the New Southbound Policy’s aims are simple … it [the NSP] is not about geopolitics. It is about economics and trade.”
The Southbound policy—which is now in its fourth iteration—has enjoyed bi-partisan support from Taiwan’s major political parties although the approach has shifted between administrations. Over two decades ago, Lee Teng-hui (1992-2000), who was then president and chairman of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party), launched the “Southbound policy” (南向政策) in 1993. Driven by diplomatic necessity and economic motives, the policy was put forward as a broader foreign policy strategy to engage Southeast Asian countries based on Lee’s “pragmatic diplomacy” (務實外交) in the face of Beijing’s long-standing efforts to isolate Taiwan internationally. Lee’s policy was enhanced by Chen Shui-bian (2000-2008) in the first Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration by expanding the volume of investments and prioritizing free trade agreements. The latter focus was likely motivated by the PRC’s push to negotiate the China-ASEAN free trade agreement (which came into effect in 2010). While not using the same name, the Southbound policy was continued under the Ma Ying-jeou (2008-2016) administration. Shaped by the Ma administration’s primary focus on improving cross-Strait relations, the government promoted the concept of “viable diplomacy” (活路外交) and ostensibly downplayed the diplomatic elements of the Southbound policy.
From the 2016 campaign trail to the presidential office, the DPP and Tsai have gone to great lengths to argue that the new policy is not just window-dressing on old ideas. In addition to a series of new guidelines and plans, the policy was apparently prioritized when the Tsai administration established the “New Southbound Policy Office” (新南向辦公室) in the Presidential office.
To further distinguish her administration’s initiative from predecessors’, President Tsai outlined four prongs to her new approach: 1) developing and sharing talent and resources, 2) developing industrial cooperation and the development of domestic markets, 3) developing manufacturing capabilities, and 4) developing small and medium-sized enterprises.
Underscoring the difference, the DPP Central Committee in early April organized a conference with experts on Southeast Asia and put forward the “Strategic Proposal for the New Southbound Policy” (新南向政策策略建議). The report explained the new orientation of the NSP as re-positioning Taiwan’s regional identity in Asia, re-interpreting the concept of “people-centered,” and re-establishing the multi-layered links between Taiwan and neighboring countries and societies, as well as pursuing normal interaction in external affairs, and remodeling internal development.
How the NSP will be received by regional governments remain to be seen, but the Tsai government’s efforts to assuage regional countries about the motives of her administration’s revamped Southbound policy appear to be paying some dividends. As a recent editorial in the Times of India argued:
Beijing shouldn’t be perturbed by Taipei’s New Southbound Policy. Just as Taiwan welcomes Malaysia’s participation in the Chinese One Belt One Road initiative, China too shouldn’t have a problem with the Taiwanese New Southbound Policy boosting ties with Malaysia. It is important to note that Taiwan is trying to secure its own economic future through the New Southbound Policy. Therefore, Beijing’s objection to this would only alienate the Taiwanese people further. And that certainly can’t be good for cross-strait relations.
In the final analysis, the “China factor” remains the key spoiler for the success of the New Southbound Policy. To be sure, Beijing is wary of any initiatives undertaken by the Tsai administration that appear to lend greater legitimacy to the government in Taiwan. In an effort to stymie the initiative, Beijing is ostensibly cautioning other countries, including the United States, against providing any support for the NSP.
Against this backdrop, President Tsai’s recent statements about the NSP appear intended as a signal, not only for Southeast Asian countries not to be concerned about the Tsai government drawing them into a political tussle between Taipei and Beijing, but are also a signal to China, communicating that the region should not be viewed in zero-sum terms.
The main point: President Tsai’s recent statements about the NSP appear intended as a signal, not only for Southeast Asian countries not to be overly concerned about the Tsai government drawing them into a conflict, but are also a signal to China, communicating that the region should not be viewed in zero-sum terms.
Update: The DPP Central Committee’s Strategic Proposal for the NSP was written collectively by nine related experts after four months of deliberations.
A Different Kind of Rainbow: Green, Blue, and Red in Taiwan’s Same Sex Marriage Debate
Anna Scott Bell is Program Associate at the Global Taiwan Institute and Staff Editor of the Global Taiwan Brief.
Taiwan’s Supreme Court (最高法院) is slated to rule on the constitutionality of a bar on same-sex marriage on May 24. As Taiwan debates legalizing gay marriage, through a change to its civil code, it has received widespread attention in the international press. Observers have puzzled over the social, political, and religious dynamics that have led to a split in public opinion on the matter. On the one hand, what unique conditions exist in Taiwan to account for its embrace of more liberal ideas about human sexuality ahead of other Asian societies? On the other, what accounts for such a robust opposition movement, in a country that lacks a statistically significant religious right?
While most have identified Taiwan’s vocal and highly-organized conservative Christian community as the primary source of opposition, this attribution is only part of the story, as Christians compose less than 5 percent of Taiwan’s population. Further, within this group there is tremendous diversity with regard to religious observance, political affiliation—and views on gay marriage. Similarly, coverage has also focused on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) (with an assist from the New Power Party) as spearheading marriage equality efforts, and on President Tsai Ing-wen’s support for the cause. However, the reality is more complex than a simple split along party lines. One of the bill’s authors is Jason Hsu (許毓仁), himself a member of the Kuomintang (KMT). KMT lawmakers are split on the proposed legislation, while the DPP faces internal opposition to its efforts. Tsai herself has moderated her position and rhetoric, speaking instead about dialogue and the need for understanding across sides.
Clearly, efforts to map Taiwan’s debate around sexuality resist simple categorizations of Left and Right, pan-green and pan-blue, or “culture war” constructs. Instead, they reflect Taiwan’s unique political configurations and alliances, which are informed by historical legacies and play out in the shadow of China’s threat. This article represents an effort to map these configurations along several axes: the history of church-state relations; cross-Strait relations; and the deep generational divide that characterizes opinion regarding same sex marriage.
Church and State
Most analyses of the role of religion in the debate over sexuality identify three major actors: the Taiwan Presbyterian Church (often lumped together with Protestant Christians, generally), the local Roman Catholic Church and its hierarchy, and “traditional religious groups,” a term that typically refers to Buddhists, Taoists, folk religions, and the commonly-practiced amalgamation of these. But each of these religious groups relate to the Taiwanese state in distinct ways, often rooted in their unique historical experience. Consequently, religious attitudes toward the politics of same sex marriage must be viewed in this light.
As an example, the Taiwan Presbyterian Church (TPC), the largest Christian denomination in Taiwan, is closely tied with the Democratic Progressive Party. Founded by Presbyterian missionaries to Taiwan, with a strong emphasis on indigenization, the TPC’s identification with Taiwan and the Taiwanese people provides a stark contrast with later generations of missionary organizations and institutional churches that arrived in Taiwan after being exiled from the newly-founded People’s Republic of China (PRC). These deep roots in Taiwanese soil meant that they were well-placed to resist the imposition of KMT rule and found themselves further activated by the brutal repression of the White Terror era. While the TPC has been less involved in protest-oriented politics since the end of the martial law period and the election of Chen Shui-bian, it remains associated with the DPP, and is recognized as playing an important role in Taiwan’s democratic development.
The Presbyterian response to the same-sex marriage movement in Taiwan is thus instructive for understanding the way that this issue has split traditional coalitions. In a panel discussion on the topic of gay marriage in Taiwan held at George Washington University in April, Taiwanese scholar Fang-Yu Chen and student activist June Lin both identified Christian activism as primarily responsible for fomenting opposition to marriage equality bills. At the same time, they credited the TPC with important contributions to democratic, grassroots movements in Taiwan. It is unsurprising, then, that the TPC itself is split on the issue: its governing General Assembly issued an official opposition letter, but the denomination has also birthed a well-known LGBTQI-affirming church, the Tong-Kwang Light House Presbyterian Church (同光同志長老教會). The TPC’s internal split and institutional opposition to gay marriage place it in a conceivably difficult position in relation to the DPP on this issue.
Other religious groups’ positions on this issue are also affected by their historical relationship with the state, as much as they are by theological or philosophical principles. The Roman Catholic Church, whose personnel were expelled from the PRC, found itself aligning more naturally with the KMT during the martial law period, as the bulk of its leadership were virulently anti-communist. These political sympathies were exacerbated by the well-known and continuing clash between the Vatican and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders, as a result of the CCP banning Catholics’ free exercise of religion and establishing a rival church—the Catholic Patriotic Association—under Party supervision. As a result, the Church apparently made few efforts to appeal to native Taiwanese, focusing predominately on the Chinese community that migrated to Taiwan post-1949. As Taiwan’s bishops have mobilized against marriage equality legislation, its laity remains divided—but its official opposition jibes well with its more conservative political alignment.
Taiwan’s diverse Buddhist groups provide the final illustration of the way in which an institution’s historical relationship with the state influences its attitude toward gay marriage. As Richard Madsen has written, major Buddhist organizations like Tzu-Chi proliferated in the aftermath of martial law, when a wide variety of civil society organizations were founded in the fledgling democracy. Though a “traditional” religion, many of Buddhism’s institutions in Taiwan are relatively new, as they were banned under martial law. As a result, they have emerged alongside Taiwan’s democracy, and their views on social issues have shifted along with Taiwanese society more broadly. Thus, Cheng et al find that Buddhist attitudes toward homosexuality have liberalized at similar rates as the general population.
Cross-Strait and Trans-Pacific
More than partisan politics, Taiwan’s political alignments on this issue may also be informed by the China factor. This has had two primary effects on the gay marriage debate in Taiwan. First, the China factor has meant that those who are pan-blue and tend to favor a more conciliatory position in Taiwan-PRC relations, or view themselves as primarily “Chinese,” would be inclined to resist taking an action that would differentiate themselves further from the PRC. On the other hand, pan-green and “third force” party members are mobilized by rhetoric about being “first in Asia” to legalize gay marriage, giving them a moral victory over the PRC. Timothy Rich and Ashleigh Cleary found this reflected in polling, writing that, “among KMT or pan-blue supporters more broadly, highlighting that Taiwan would be first in the region to legalize same-sex marriage appears to lower support for legalization.” In contrast, pan-green candidates have used support for LGBTQI rights as a campaign strategy, portraying Taiwan as a beacon of liberal values, living in the shadow of an authoritarian, socially conservative leviathan.
However, Taiwan’s important relationships with American conservatives militate in the opposite direction. The unique nature of the US-Taiwan relationship—characterized in the period of official relations by Cold War rhetoric and in the unofficial period by arms sales—has meant that, while Taiwan remains an area of strong, bipartisan agreement, its greatest advocates are often found on the right. While Tsai Ing-wen is known for being a feminist and a social progressive domestically, she has also cultivated friendships with leading figures on the American right, who have been traditional advocates of Taiwan. With sustained US conservative attention paid to Taiwan, it is unsurprising that several of the groups tied to anti-gay marriage efforts within Taiwan are funded by religious and political institutions in the United States.
While the usual factors in changing views on social issues, such as age, geography (urban v. rural) and education, are relevant in Taiwan, the island’s singular geopolitical position and unique church-state history have constructed a complex political landscape in which the debate over gay marriage has played out. Taiwan’s path toward marriage equality, like the country itself, must be seen in its own right, rather than through the lens of external social, political, geographic or religious categories.
The main point: Taiwan’s singular geopolitical position and unique church-state history have constructed a complex political landscape in which the debate over gay marriage has played out.
 Surveys on this topic and their methodology have been hotly contested and remain controversial. For a helpful analysis see this article, https://twstreetcorner.org/2016/11/28/chenmeihua-3/
 Jens Damm, “Discrimination and Backlash Against Homosexual Groups in Taiwan,” in Politics of Difference in Taiwan, ed. T.W. Ngo, Hong-zen Wang (London and New York: Routledge, 2011), 152-180.
 Yen-hsin Alice Cheng, Fen-Chieh Felice Wu & Amy Adamczyk, “Changing Attitudes Toward Homosexuality in Taiwan, 1995–2012,” Chinese Sociological Review, 48:4, 317-345. Cheng, Wu, and Adamczyk argue that religious opposition was a less salient factor in the 1990s; as Taiwanese society liberalized, Christian groups became activated and their conservative social views more entrenched (337-338).
 Damm, “Discrimination and Backlash,” 169-170.
 Cheng et al, “Changing Attitudes,” 328.
 This discussion presumes the common designation of Confucianism as a “civil religion,” (cf Robert Bellah) rather than akin to the religions discussed in this article.
 Richard Madsen, Democracy’s Dharma: Religious Renaissance and Political Development in Taiwan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 18-19.
 Cheng et al, “Changing Attitudes,” 337.
 Cheng et al, “Changing Attitudes,” 336-339.
Reframing Taiwan’s Military Capabilities in Relation to Developing Instability on the Korean Peninsula
Ross Busch is a recent alumnus of a Fulbright Grant to Kinmen, Taiwan. He currently works as an international program liaison for Eckerd College, and will be studying Public Policy & Management at the University of Glasgow in the fall.
Oliver Thomas is a recent alumnus of a Fulbright grant to study in Taiwan on the island of Kinmen. He is also a recipient of a Huayu Enrichment Scholarship, and currently works at a think tank in Washington D.C. He will pursue further study of Taiwan politics and security in the Fall.
Lying roughly 2,000 km south of North Korea, Taiwan is within striking range of seven separate missile varieties being tested in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). While the People’s Republic of China (PRC) remains Taiwan’s primary security threat, the Tsai administration should consider how to prepare the Taiwanese military to address potential threats stemming from increased instability and militarization on the Korean Peninsula. Although instances of Chinese preparatory military action toward Taiwan are numerous, restricting Taiwan’s military readiness solely to the traditional operating environment of a cross-Strait conflict is increasingly limiting. Reframing Taiwan’s military preparedness and capabilities to include a regional focus on North Korea-related contingencies will better prepare the Tsai administration for military developments in the “post-patience” era of East-Asian nuclear politics.
A string of missile tests conducted by the North Korean military throughout 2016-2017 have greatly heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. These missile launches are cause for grave concern. Global stability rests on ensuring the North Korean nuclear program is addressed safely and succinctly. With new administrations in the United States, Taiwan, and South Korea, regional actors must all begin to re-configure their military strategies to address the DPRK’s increasingly bellicose and credible threats. Taiwan must follow suit.
Recent DPRK missile tests and significant modifications in launch systems and strategies indicate that the North Korean threat is increasingly advanced, dangerous, and frighteningly credible. With the integration of solid fuel propellants, multi-staged delivery vehicles, and sophisticated steering and boost technologies, the DPRK is seeking to counteract potential adversaries’ conventional defense systems.
North Korea’s reliance on developing asymmetric and nuclear capabilities offers insight to what a future operating environment might look like in the USPACOM region where warfare is no longer confined between great powers. Instead, smaller powers operating in an ambiguous space between hegemons will have a greater incentive to pursue, not only their own weapons research and development (R&D), but first strike capability.
To counter the likelihood of a reactionary arms race in East Asia, it is important that proactive approaches to address North Korean weapons systems be taken multilaterally. Clear communication must be maintained between all parties. This collaborative approach will also be helpful in preparing shared defensive strategies as North Korea’s own strategies advance.
After a DPRK test launch towards the US Marine Corps base at Iwakuni, Japan in 2014, it seems, as scholar Jeffrey Lewis points out, that the North Koreans are not simply “trying” missiles out, but are practicing for a nuclear offensive against potential adversaries in the region. South Korea and Japan would be primary targets, as both countries harbor American forces, but in the event of a conventional or nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan would not be immune to the subsequent negative externalities of war. Taiwan’s unique military relationship with the United States and pronounced interest in regional stability could draw its forces into shared efforts to neutralize the North Korean threat.
Given its regional saliency, Taiwan should make strategic military and diplomatic investments that reflect the larger goal of stability. The provision of a THAAD missile system to Taiwan would not only have limited utility but would serve only to further strain relations across the Strait with China. The tragedy of great power politics leaves Taiwan in an ambiguous space where Taipei must tread lightly concerning its weapons investments, research, and development. To avoid greater regional conflict, it would be diplomatically prudent for Taiwan to make exceptionally clear to the PRC that its military adjustments are calibrated to fend off North Korean threats rather than Chinese advancements.
Crafting a focus on broader regional contingencies would also mirror recent PLA exercises. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) reform process in its command-control doctrine has demonstrated that they are more concerned about developing conventional joint-operational, denial capabilities in the South China Sea than about dealing with concerns about THAAD deployment to South Korea. Recent deliberations regarding American deployment of THAAD systems in Taiwan have come to a head with Taiwanese Minister of Defense Feng Shih-Kuan’s (馮世寬) rejection. Citing the possibility of becoming embroiled in a war between global powers and sacrificing the Taiwanese military, Minister Feng struck a more independent tone in advocating for the development of indigenous Taiwanese military capabilities. Furthermore, even if THAAD’s interceptor precision lived up to its expected accuracy, the sheer number of Chinese short- and medium-range missiles, along with submarine-launched ballistic missiles would overwhelm primary targets on the island.
Such an investment would be quite expensive for a questionable marginal value of defensive return. The Taiwanese Ministry of Defense would thus benefit from buying US arms for broader regional threats and to bolster cyber, drone, air, anti-submarine, and asymmetric capabilities. A recent meeting between US and Taiwanese defense officials gave rise to speculation that the US might be willing to develop an arms package including AH-64E Apache helicopters, UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, AAV-7 Assault Amphibious Vehicles, short-range portable air-defense missile systems, Raytheon Phalanx close-in weapons systems and P-3C Orion aircraft. Such systems could help the Taiwanese prepare for both a Chinese invasion and a North Korean regional strike. In other words, Taiwan should play to its natural, industrial strengths when expanding the scope and readiness of its military through more useful American assistance.
President Tsai announced recently her support for a new initiative to move forward with the construction of indigenous Taiwanese submarines. The Taiwanese military is weak in their subsurface warfare, having only two outdated, combat-ready vessels. With a projected ten-year operational gap, the project will be time consuming, but will pay dividends for Taiwan’s broader security interests in the long run. Moving forward with the project will also signal to arms sellers that Taiwan is doing its part to maintain its overall security, not just against China.
As tensions on the Korean Peninsula rise, the Tsai administration would benefit greatly from refocusing the Taiwanese military to address regional threats. This refocus should include, not only greater efforts to develop independent Taiwanese military technologies, but also the establishment of a communication “hotline” between Taiwan and the United States. Such a “hotline” would be mutually beneficial, as it would ensure the clear and timely transfer of information regarding nuclear negotiations and military preparation on the Korean Peninsula. Overlooking Taiwan’s long-standing status as a partner and its geostrategic importance in the East China Sea would be a critical mistake for the Trump administration. If the DPRK continues to accelerate its rate of missile advancements, the United States, Japan, and South Korea will need a wide variety of logistical, intelligence, and military supports to counter the North Korean threat. Well-established contingency plans with Taiwan would be essential in securing effective assistance.
Main Point: Taiwanese military capabilities are often gauged against the barometer of how effective its forces would be in the event of a Chinese invasion. Though Taiwan should continue to prepare for such an engagement, the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense and the United States should recognize Taiwan’s need for certain weapon systems over others, specifically regarding a North Korean first strike on a regional actor close to Taiwan.
Taiwan: A Strategic Transit Hub?
Wu Shang-su is a Research Fellow in the Military Studies Programme of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Based on the island’s natural geographic location and its adequate transportation infrastructure, successive presidents of Taiwan have tried to position it as an air or sea transit hub, and potentially a military one for the United States and her allies in the region.
One of Taipei’s major policy initiatives has been to turn the island into an air transit hub. This effort is exemplified by the “Aviation City” project for the Taoyuan airport and adjacent areas (桃園航空城). However, the initiative is limited by the technological advancements and the current international environment, which have undermined the importance of Taiwan for the global aviation industry. During the Cold War era, the relatively short ranges of aircraft and the impassable airspace of Communist countries made Taiwan the optimal midway stop between Southeast Asia and Northern America. Now that the current commercial jets can handle non-stop flights between Southeast Asia and the West coast of the North American continent without a problem, Taiwan only provides airspace and related traffic control, and no longer serves as a hub to stop by or transfer. The open air space in China and Russia further presents alternative routes, especially for the newly rising South Asian aviation market.
From the example of several successful Arab airlines forming aviation transit hubs in their home countries, a strong aviation industry can establish an air transit hub regardless of the ranges of aircraft, but Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation, restrictive infrastructure and other conditions deny such an approach. Lack of political recognition impedes settling air routes between Taiwan and other governments, particularly the fifth aviation freedom to extend network. The Taoyuan airport leaves limited capacity for Taiwan’s carriers to transfer passengers and cargo, not to mention frequent disruptions by broken runways, flooding and other accidents. Successful Arab airlines are supported with sufficient investment and cheap fuel, neither of which is available in Taiwan. Finally, an over-emphasis on the cross-Strait flights more or less distracts the Taiwanese aviation industry from a more global focus.
The Taiwan Strait, which encompasses several sea lines of communication (SLOC), presents Taiwan with a great opportunity to serve as a sea transit hub. Yet, this also requires a robust economy to support sufficient trade. Originally, the harbors and facilities for accommodating merchants could be Taiwan’s attraction to international investors as a hub for sea transport, but Chinese counterparts on the same SLOCs now also provide similar or even better infrastructure—in addition to an increasing amount of trade. The Kaohsiung Port was once the third busiest one in the world, but it has been surpassed by a number of Chinese ports, which have significantly expanded and connected to a much larger hinterland with a huge manufacturing industry. In contrast, Taiwan’s shrinking industry and lack of neighbouring hinterland for entrepôt constrain the demand for merchants to stop by.
Militarily, Taiwan was once considered an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” by both Japanese and American strategists. It is still important in the current regional geostrategic picture, but its vulnerability to external attacks and location make it unlikely to be used as a military transit hub. According to the American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, security is essential for all military bases, and modern military technology considerably threatens most transport facilities in Taiwan. In the face of Beijing’s expanding capability of active defence, also known as anti-access and area denial (A2/AD), in terms of cruise and ballistic missiles as well as following air raids, both naval and airbases in Taiwan could be significantly damaged by pre-emptive strikes. The increasing cross-Strait interaction presents Beijing with more opportunities to carry out unconventional tactics, such as sabotage and cyber-attack. Although Taiwan’s location could be used to counter China’s A2/AD strategy, its vulnerability to attack and the political limitation on US military deployment would outweigh the advantages in the current context.
Taiwan may serve limited value as a strategic transit hub for China. To be sure, militarily controlling Taiwan would be a great asset for the People’s Republic of China (PRC): creating a forward base from which to press Japan and the Philippines through military and legal means. However, Taiwan cannot moderate the PRC’s Malacca dilemma—a strategic chokepoint in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, blocking the Taiwan Strait does not eradicate the SLOCs of Japan and Korea, though it would create an inconvenient detour. Both the location and security would limit Taiwan’s strategic value for China.
What Taiwan Can Improve
To be a transit hub reflects a country’s overall conditions and circumstances more than specific policies. Although it is difficult for Taiwan to directly transform into a strategic transit hub, there are some policies that could strengthen its relevance to the world, an important element in all hubs.
As transport is driven by economy, Taiwan’s macroeconomy and external ties determine the transport links with other countries. Despite large losses of manufacturing industries to China and other newly rising economies, Taiwan could retain and develop certain industries that are crucial to global production chains and markets. The current concentration of economic ties with China, about 40 percent of Taiwan’s exports, in addition to three million Taiwanese living in China, results in most Taiwanese transport companies, both air and sea, focusing mainly on the cross-Strait routes. This trend obviously militates against a transit hub, because it would occupy assets, manpower, and attention that could be applied to other routes. Furthermore, Taiwan is unlikely to be a major transit hub for Chinese passengers and cargo due to China’s expanding air and sea transport companies. The administration’s newly-inaugurated New Southbound policy would alleviate the over-concentration but will take time. In the shadow of Chinese mega seaports and airports, a balanced distribution of economic ties would not immediately make Taiwan another Singapore, but more relevance to regional and global economies is fundamental to becoming an indispensable transit hub.
As for military matters, Taipei can effectively moderate the A2/AD threats. Since the People’s Liberation Army’s missiles are all armed with limited-size conventional warheads, fortification would be effective to absorb the first salvos. Furthermore, considerable second-strike capability to neutralise further attacks would be necessary to adjust the unfavorable balance of forces across the Strait through more deterrence. Of course, a robust command chain, both physically and psychologically, is critical and related to internal security. Although it is impossible for Taiwan to return to the state of total isolation from China, like during the Cold War, it is essential that Taiwan enhance its counter-intelligence capabilities.
Only a secure Taiwan will have geostrategic value.
The main point: Despite its location, Taiwan is unlikely to be a strategic transit hub, but it can bolster its relevance for the world, in order to increase its strategic value in the regional balance of power.
 Fifth aviation freedom refers to an airline’s freedom to operate flights between two foreign airports. Usually, airlines can only operate between a domestic and a foreign airport. Therefore, the fifth aviation freedom is a specific arrangement. http://www.icao.int/Pages/freedomsAir.aspx
 James R. Holmes, “Strategic Features of the Indian Ocean Region,” in Joachim Krause and Sebastian Bruns (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Naval Strategy and Security (London: Routlege, 2016), 81.