April 13: EU-Taiwan Relations in the Wake of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

April 13: EU-Taiwan Relations in the Wake of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Wednesday, April 13, 2022 from 9:00AM-10:30AM (ET)

Webcast Only

Event Description:

The Global Taiwan Institute is pleased to invite you to a virtual seminar on “EU-Taiwan Relations in the Wake of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.” In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many observers were quick to draw parallels between the developing crisis and a potential cross-Strait conflict over Taiwan. Indeed, as democratic nations living in the shadow of authoritarian rivals, both Ukraine and Taiwan have historically been forced to contend with the existential threat posed by military invasion. While these comparisons may be somewhat superficial, the Ukraine conflict could nevertheless have significant implications for Taiwan, particularly regarding its relations with the European Union. As Europe’s forceful condemnation of Russia’s invasion has made clear, the continent is still capable of taking a stand against authoritarian aggression. For Taiwan—which has long presented itself to the EU as a democratic partner—this solidarity in the face of authoritarianism could present opportunities for expanded collaboration. What lessons can Taiwan take from the EU’s response to the Ukraine conflict? Could greater awareness of authoritarian threats result in expanded EU-Taiwan cooperation?

Panelists will include: Noah Barkin (German Marshall Fund), Thorsten Benner (Global Public Policy Institute), Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy (9Dashline), and I-Chung Lai (Prospect Foundation). This event will be moderated by GTI Program Manager Marshall Reid.

The event webcast will be broadcast live on our website and YouTube on Wednesday, April 13 at 9:00 AM (ET). Register for the event here. Questions for the panel may either be sent by e-mail to contact@globaltaiwan.org or through the chat function on the YouTube page. Questions submitted by registered audience members will be prioritized.

The Speakers:

Noah Barkin is a visiting senior fellow with the German Marshall Fund’s Asia Program based in Berlin. He specializes in Europe’s relationship with China and the implications of China’s rise for the transatlantic relationship. Barkin is also managing editor in the China practice at Rhodium Group. Prior to joining GMF, Noah had a 25-year career as a journalist in Berlin, Paris, London, and New York. His work has appeared on Reuters, where he served as a bureau chief, regional news editor, and roving Europe correspondent, as well as in The New York TimesThe AtlanticForeign Policy, and Politico, among other publications. In 2019 he was a visiting fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin and the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington. He is also a host on KCRW, an NPR-affiliated radio station in Berlin, and the author of a book on the euro. A native Californian, Barkin has a bachelor’s degree in political science and French from UC Berkeley and a master’s in international affairs from Columbia University.

Thorsten Benner is co-founder and director of the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) in Berlin. His areas of interest include international organizations (focusing on the United Nations), peace and security, data and technology politics, and the interplay of the US, Europe and non-Western powers in the making of global (dis)order. Prior to co-founding GPPi in 2003, he worked with the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, the UN Development Programme in New York, and the Global Public Policy Project in Washington, DC. His commentary has appeared in DIE ZEIT, International New York Times, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, Handelsblatt, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, among others. His publications include “The New World of UN Peace Operations: Learning to Build Peace?” (Oxford University Press, 2011) and “Critical Choices: The United Nations, Networks, and the Future of Global Governance” (Ottawa, 2000). He studied political science, history, and sociology at the University of Siegen (Germany), the University of York (UK), and the University of California at Berkeley. From 2001 to 2003, he was a McCloy Scholar at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he received a master’s degree in public administration. He received scholarships from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the German National Academic Foundation.

Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy is a post-doctoral fellow at Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology. In addition, she serves as the head of the associate network at 9Dashline, as well as an assistant professor at National Dong-Hwa University, a non-resident fellow at the Taiwan NextGen Foundation, and a research associate at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Between 2008 and 2020, Ferenczy worked as a political advisor in the European Parliament, covering European foreign policy and human rights in the world. Her fields of research are European foreign policy and Asia, in particular EU-China relations, Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, and India. In May 2019, Ferenczy published her book, “Europe, China, and the Limits of Normative Power,” offering insights into European influence regarding China’s development, during a period when Europe confronts its most serious political, social, and economic crises of the post-war period.

I-Chung Lai is the president of the Prospect Foundation, a Taiwan-based think tank. Prior to joining the Prospect Foundation, he held several prominent positions within the Democratic Progressive Party, serving as executive director of the DPP Mission to the United States and as the director general of the Department of International Affairs. He has also worked as a special assistant with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Tokyo.

The Moderator:

Marshall Reid is the program manager at GTI, as well as the host of GTI’s podcast, GTI Insights. Previously, he worked as a program assistant with the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, where he helped to organize several international forums focused on East and South Asian affairs. He has also worked as an office assistant at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. Prior to moving to Washington, DC, he served as an English instructor in Taipei, Taiwan, where he lived for just under a year. Marshall received his M.A. in International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and his B.A. in History and International Relations from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. He is proficient in Mandarin.

Event Summary:

On April 13, 2022, the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) hosted a virtual panel entitled “EU-Taiwan Relations in the Wake of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.” The panel featured Noah Barkin of the German Marshall Fund, Thorsten Benner of the Global Public Policy Institute, Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy of 9Dashline, and Lai I-Chung of the Prospect Foundation. The event was moderated by GTI Program Manager Marshall Reid.

At the start, Reid identified the frequent comparisons that observers have made regarding Ukraine and Taiwan. While conceding the superficial nature of some of these comparisons, he reiterated the relevance of Ukraine for Taiwan. Ukraine’s relationship with Russia is a tangible example of a democratic country struggling against a stronger authoritarian power that parallels Taiwan’s relationship with China. Furthermore, the invasion has shown Europe’s willingness to stand up to authoritarianism, which could open more doors for EU-Taiwan cooperation against China’s authoritarian influence.

To give context to the EU-Taiwan relationship, Barkin provided a summary of the European Union’s (EU) approach to China since 2015. He argued that there have been three distinct periods of increasing tension. First, from 2015-2018, the EU began to identify economic issues with China. In that phase, the business landscape in China became more challenging for European companies to navigate, while the announcement of the “Made in China 2025” framework signaled China’s emergence as a serious economic challenger to Europe. Then, from 2019-2021, the concerns became systemic due to China’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, aggressive diplomacy, and disinformation narratives about COVID-19. An important caveat he added was that the EU’s more confrontational approach was driven from the bottom up and was, at times, resisted by Germany. Barkin then explained why 2022 marks the start of a new era in EU-China relations by analyzing China’s partnership with Russia before and during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This partnership, he argued, has greatly increased the EU’s willingness to treat China as an adversary instead of as a partner.

Barkin concluded his segment by discussing how this current era of EU-China relations will lead to European countries and companies reevaluating their dependencies on China because of the risks posed by a potential conflict over Taiwan. Most importantly, he emphasized the need for a comprehensive EU plan for handling Taiwan relations: one that does not seek to provoke China, but signals that Europe has a significant stake in Taiwan’s future.

Benner then transitioned to a discussion of German and European perspectives on Europe’s security role in the Taiwan Strait. At the outset, Benner made it clear that a conflict over Taiwan would be massively destabilizing for Europe, not just the Indo-Pacific. He argued that this danger is not being felt in Germany, where it has been met with complacency based on two different viewpoints. The first is the belief that Germany and the EU could function as a mediator between China and Taiwan. Benner argued this stance is delusional because it will only incentivize China to use force to accomplish its long-held goal. The second view is that trying to deter China from taking Taiwan is a lost cause because of China’s military advantage over Taiwan. Benner critiqued this position for not adequately considering the US’ willingness to provide military support for Taiwan and thus underestimating the global ripple effects of such a war.

In light of the danger to global prosperity posed by a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, Benner laid out a basic outline of an EU deterrence strategy. While not having the means or incentive to provide military support, the EU can instead help deter China by taking on more responsibility for the security issues in its backyard and clearly defining the steep technological and financial costs China would face if it moved on Taiwan. He then described the current sanctions on Russia as a critical starting point for EU deterrence. If the sanctions fail to have a significant impact on Russia, then China will feel even less pressure to forgo an invasion of Taiwan for the sake of maintaining economic prosperity.

Ferenczy began her remarks by focusing on the implications of EU and Central/Eastern European (CEE) unity in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ferenczy argued that although Europe has displayed unprecedented solidarity in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there are underlying dynamics that could derail this unity going forward. To explain this, she focused on the historically different approaches EU member states have had regarding which regions the EU should prioritize in foreign affairs. Since EU member states typically focus on the “neighborhoods” that most directly impact their security, past collective security decision making processes have been tedious. In addition, she discussed how Hungary’s divergence in recent years—most recently in its response to Russia’s invasion—has demonstrated individual member states’ potential to disrupt European unity. Ultimately, maintaining newfound levels of unity in the EU and CEE will require massive political will and frank discussions of remaining differences.

Regarding the future of Taiwan’s relationship with the EU, Ferenczy identified CEE states’ willingness to support Taiwan as a surprise to Beijing. This warming of ties between Taiwan and CEE states has started to spread throughout the EU, with Taiwan being increasingly seen as a partner instead of a geopolitical challenge. Moving forward, Ferenczy argued that the EU needs to build on this momentum by reframing its “One-China Policy” and continuing to explore ways it can expand ties with Taiwan.

Lastly, Lai concentrated on the impact the war in Ukraine has had on Taiwan. He used the sizable donations Taiwan has made to Ukraine relief efforts and Taiwan’s support for Western sanctions on Russia as evidence of the deep interest Taiwan has shown in European security. Moreover, Lai described how Ukraine’s surprising success in the war has caused a shift in Taiwan’s view of its military situation vis-à-vis China. Before the war in Ukraine, Taiwan felt that it had no chance against China and that its only hope was to hold on long enough for the US to intervene. Now, Taiwan feels that if Ukraine can hold out against Russia, it can also hold out against China.

Regarding the geopolitical ripple effects of Russia’s invasion, Lai argued that Russia’s power will be diminished, while the EU, NATO, and China’s will increase. Lai also considered the implications of the war for the potential use of nuclear brinkmanship by China over Taiwan. Since China already used nuclear brinkmanship during the Third Cross-Strait Crisis and Russia has used it to dissuade additional foreign support for Ukraine, Lai believes that such tactics are likely to be used by China to achieve similar goals during a confrontation with Taiwan.

This summary was written by GTI Spring 2022 Intern David Calhoun.

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