January 26: Taiwan in 2022

January 26: Taiwan in 2022

Wednesday, January 26, 2022 from 9:00AM-10:30AM (ET)

Webcast Only

Event Description:

The Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) is pleased to invite you to a virtual seminar on “Taiwan in 2022.” Faced with an ongoing pandemic, rising political polarization, and the existential threat of a possible Chinese invasion, Taipei has been forced to navigate increasingly complex domestic and international environments in recent years. The year 2022 will likely bring similar if not additional challenges. Within Taiwan, the DPP and the KMT remain at loggerheads and partisan battles are not expected to abate in the near-term with local elections slated near the end of 2022, all the while the pandemic, economic uncertainties, and foreign information campaigns continue to exacerbate social and political tensions. Internationally, the island nation faces growing threats from across the Taiwan Strait, where the People’s Republic of China continues to menace Taiwan militarily, punish it economically, and isolate it diplomatically. Despite these pressing challenges, 2022 also presents promising opportunities for Taiwan. Amidst the ongoing US-China rivalry, US-Taiwan cooperation has continued on a positive trajectory under the Biden administration, while rising global discontent with China’s behavior could provide additional avenues for expanded Taiwanese international participation. This panel will delve deeper into these challenges and opportunities, providing expert insights and predictions as Taiwan enters another uncertain year.

Panelists will include J. Michael Cole (GTI), Arthur Ding (NCCU), Bonny Lin (CSIS), and Shelley Rigger (Davidson College). The event will be moderated by GTI Executive Director Russell Hsiao.

The event webcast will be broadcast live on our website and YouTube on Wednesday, January 26 at 9 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. Question submitted by registered audience members will be prioritized.

The Panelists:

J. Michael Cole is a Taipei-based policy analyst. He is a senior non-resident fellow with GTI; senior non-resident fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa, Canada; senior non-resident fellow with the Taiwan Studies Programme at the University of Nottingham, UK; and a research associate with the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China. From 2014-2016, he was an employee of the Thinking Taiwan Foundation, a think tank founded by Tsai Ing-wen where he was chief editor of Thinking Taiwan. He was deputy news chief and a columnist/reporter at the Taipei Times from 2006-2013. Prior to relocating to Taiwan in 2005, he was an intelligence officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in Ottawa. He has a master’s degree in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, South China Morning Post, Christian Science Monitor, Nikkei Asia, Globe and Mail, Lowy Interpreter, National Interest, China Brief, the Age, Jane’s Defence Weekly, CNN, Brookings Taiwan-US Quarterly, and others. He is a regular commentator on Al Jazeera, BBC News, CNN, VOA and others, and is a consultant for various governments and the defense industry. He is the author of seven books. His latest, Cross-Strait Relations Since 2016: The End of the Illusion (Routledge) and Insidious Power: How China Undermines Global Democracy (Eastbridge), co-edited with Dr. Hsu Szu-chien, were both published in 2020.

Arthur Ding is a professor emeritus, National Chenghi University (NCCU), Taipei. He now is an adjunct professor at both the NCCU and Taiwan’s National Defense University. His research focuses on Chinese military related issues, including China’s security policy and China’s defense, party-military relations in China, as well as China’s defense S&T& industry. His international experiences included being a Fulbright Scholar at the Fairbank Center, Harvard University; a visiting fellow at the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, Monterey Institute for International Studies; and a Visiting Research Associate, Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University, Washington DC; visiting senior research fellow at Rajatranam School for International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; and visiting scholar at Institute for Security and Development Policy, Sweden.  

Bonny Lin is a senior fellow for Asian security and director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Previously, she was the acting associate director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE and a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, where she analyzed different aspects of US competition with China, including US-China competition for influence in the Indo-Pacific and China’s use of gray zone tactics against US allies and partners. Her research advised senior leaders in the Department of Defense, including military leaders at US Pacific Air Forces and US Army Pacific. Dr. Lin also served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2015 to 2018, where she was director for Taiwan, country director for China, and senior adviser for China. Dr. Lin holds a PhD in political science from Yale University, a master’s degree in Asian studies with a focus on China from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard College.

Shelley Rigger is the Brown Professor of East Asian Politics at Davidson College. She has a PhD in Government from Harvard University and a BA in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University. She has been a visiting researcher at National Chengchi University in Taiwan (2005) and a visiting professor at National Taiwan University (2019), Fudan University (2006) and Shanghai Jiaotong University (2013 & 2015). She is a non-resident fellow of the China Policy Institute at Nottingham University and a senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). She is also a director of The Taiwan Fund, a closed-end investment fund specializing in Taiwan-listed companies. Rigger is the author of two books on Taiwan’s domestic politics, Politics in Taiwan: Voting for Democracy (Routledge 1999) and From Opposition to Power: Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (Lynne Rienner Publishers 2001). In 2011 she published Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse, a book for general readers. Her most recent book, The Tiger Leading the Dragon: How Taiwan Propelled China’s Economic Rise (2021) explains how Taiwanese businesses made it possible for the PRC – a country without private property or business as recently as 1978 – to become the “factory to the world.”

The Moderator:

Russell Hsiao
is the executive director of GTI, senior fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, and adjunct fellow at Pacific Forum. He is a former Penn Kemble fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia. He previously served as a senior research fellow at The Project 2049 Institute and National Security fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Prior to those positions he was the editor of China Brief at The Jamestown Foundation from October 2007- to July 2011 and a special associate in the International Cooperation Department at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. While in law school, he clerked within the Office of the Chairman at the Federal Communications Commission and the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center at the Office of the US Trade Representative. Hsiao received his J.D. and certificate from the Law and Technology Institute at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law where he served as the editor-in-chief of the Catholic University’s Journal of Law and Technology. He received a BA in international studies from the American University’s School of International Service and the University Honors Program.

Event Summary:

On Wednesday January 26, 2022, the Global Taiwan Institute hosted a virtual seminar entitled “Taiwan in 2022.”  Moderated by GTI Executive Director Russell Hsiao, the event’s panel included: GTI Senior Non-Resident Fellow J. Michael Cole, National Chengchi University (NCCU) Professor Emeritus Arthur Ding, Senior Fellow for Asian Security and Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) China Power Project Bonny Lin, and Davidson College Brown Professor of East Asian Politics and GTI Advisor Shelley Rigger. 

Hsiao began the seminar by summarizing the domestic developments and international threats that Taiwan has faced over the course of 2021. Among these were challenges from the pandemic, political polarization, and the rising tensions between Taiwan and China. 

Building on Hsiao’s comments, Rigger began by reflecting on Taiwan’s progress over the course of 2021, noting that Taiwan has made significant gains in terms of international recognition, economic development, and successful governance. Rigger then added that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is doing well domestically—President Tsai Ing-wen has high approval ratings and the outcomes of recent votes in by-elections, recalls, and the 2021 Taiwanese referenda have favored the DPP. Despite Taiwan’s success keeping COVID-19 cases low, Rigger predicted that Taiwan will have difficulty maintaining a zero-COVID policy into 2022. Although the government may be tempted to keep Taiwan’s borders closed until after the November elections, denying entry to international visitors for another year will have high costs for the economy. Military tensions are also weighing on Taiwan politically and economically, and Rigger noted that such tensions have ramped up substantially in the last couple of years. Inflation is also likely to be an issue in 2022; even though Taiwan’s GDP per capita is high, aggregate gains have not been reflected in rising wages. Rigger concluded by drawing attention to the 2022 local elections, as these will be a bellwether for the 2024 presidential election. 

In contrast to Rigger’s domestic focus, Cole primarily discussed upcoming international developments that will affect Taiwan. According to Cole, there are two key elements related to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that will be important for Taiwan: first, the nature of the US reaction; and second, the conclusions that China will draw from this reaction. If the US does not get involved in Ukraine, then China may determine that it can get away with using force against Taiwan. However, if the US military gets heavily involved, then China may use it as a distraction to apply force in other parts of the world. Beijing has been reactive when it comes to presumed military threats, and while these efforts might not be aimed at Taiwan, Taiwan’s location means that it incurs a higher risk. Further complicating matters, the red lines that Beijing has drawn are not clearly defined. It has become evident that Lithuania’s expansion of ties with Taiwan is one such red line; and, as Taiwan deepens relations  the European Union, it is likely that China will target Taiwan’s unofficial allies more heavily. Beijing may also attempt to influence Taiwan’s upcoming 2022 elections through disinformation efforts, as it has done in the past.

Also speaking on the threat from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Ding said that China will continue to exert tremendous economic and political pressure on Taiwan going into 2022, although the precise expectations that Beijing has for Taiwan are unknown. Some have speculated that Xi will hasten to unify the two countries by 2027 in order to solidify his leadership. Ding agreed that Taiwan and Beijing would be carefully watching the developments in Ukraine and highlighted the importance that the US has for Taiwan. For instance, the United States has become the third largest export market for Taiwan, and many Taiwanese businesses have moved from China to Taiwan due to the sanctions that the US has imposed on China. Ding concluded by talking about Taiwan’s relations with Japan, pointing out that even though Taiwan is eager to have closer relations with Japan, Tokyo is cautious due to concerns over Beijing’s reaction.

Lin then concluded by addressing the future of Taiwan by looking at three dynamics: US-China relations, domestic relations in the United States and China, and the influence of third countries. Due to rising US-China competition, there will be few opportunities for cooperation in the near future. The US diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics and its continuing sanctions due to human rights violations have incurred retaliation from Beijing and delayed high-level dialogues between the two countries. These factors may make it more likely for US leaders to support Taiwan, and the US might even employ Taiwan as a method of keeping China in check. When it comes to Chinese domestic politics, there is speculation that Xi will act more assertively in the lead-up to the 20th Party Congress in 2022. Yet, there is also concern that Xi will act even more aggressively if he stays in power following the Party Congress. Officials in the United States will likely face domestic pressure to take a harder stance against China in the lead-up to elections as well. Similar to Cole and Ding, Lin also mentioned the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. In order to secure Russia’s future support in the event that China faces international blowback due to its relations with Taiwan, China has a strong incentive to provide support for Russia. 

This summary was written by GTI Spring 2022 Intern Adrienne Wu.

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