GTI 2023 Annual Symposium
– Executive Summary and Policy Recommendations
On October 11, 2023, the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) hosted its 2023 Annual Symposium, focusing on the evolving dynamics of US-Taiwan relations for global peace amidst growing security threats. The flagship event on GTI’s calendar, the Annual Symposium annually convenes top experts on US-Taiwan policy to discuss prevailing challenges and chart potential solutions.
This year’s gathering began with welcome remarks by Jennifer Hu, chair of the board of directors at GTI, followed by introductory remarks from ambassador Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO). The symposium also featured an opening keynote address from H.E. Dr. Jaushieh Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Minister of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan (ROC).
It featured three insightful panel discussions delving into geopolitical and economic shifts in the Taiwan Strait, cross-Strait relations in light of the upcoming 2024 elections, and prospects for bolstered US-Taiwan defense and security cooperation. As a result of these discussions, GTI has compiled a list of policy recommendations aimed at enhancing US-Taiwan ties in the face of rising Chinese aggression.
Ambassador Hsiao Bi-khim, Representative, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO)
Ambassador Bi-khim Hsiao initiated her address by underscoring the current geopolitical moment’s significance in ensuring peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific and bolstering Taiwan’s resilience. Ambassador Hsiao emphasized the robust bipartisan support Taiwan receives in the United States, referencing the growing number of Taiwan-related bills passed by Congress and the increasingly frequent Congressional delegations to the island. She further acknowledged the US’ efforts to advocate for Taiwan’s participation in international forums, including the World Health Assembly (WHA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Addressing the evolving geopolitical landscape, ambassador Hsiao discussed Taiwan’s strategic investments in self-defense and expressed gratitude to the Biden administration for unveiling eleven substantial arms packages. She also emphasized the flourishing economic collaboration between Taiwan and the United States, citing initiatives like the Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue (EPPD) and the Technology Trade and Investment Collaboration (TTIC). She also expressed her satisfaction over recent advancements concerning the longstanding double taxation issue, both at the executive level and in Congress. Concluding her speech, Ambassador Hsiao reaffirmed president Tsai’s dedication to preserving the existing diplomatic balance, Taiwan’s steadfast stance against external pressures, and the unwavering commitment to enhance Taiwan-US relations.
H.E. Dr Jaushieh Joseph Wu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan (ROC)
Foreign Minister Joseph Wu commenced his address by highlighting that the contemporary strategic challenge of authoritarian expansionism has amplified, necessitating an even more robust partnership between Taiwan and the United States to ensure peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific and beyond. Minister Wu also underscored the reassuring nature of international dialogues such as the G7 Summit, the US-Japan-Korea Camp David Summit, and the Japan-EU Summit, all of which emphasized the crucial importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Beyond dialogues, he also acknowledged US support in the form of arms sales, initiatives to bolster Taiwan’s asymmetrical capabilities, and bilateral security exchanges. Economically, he pointed to the recent US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade and the Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF) as examples of joint efforts to advance mutual interests. Minister Wu also highlighted Taiwan’s ongoing investments in defense and military reform. Furthermore, he emphasized the necessity of augmenting ties with other like-minded countries, including Japan, Canada, Australia, India, and member states of the European Union. Minister Wu concluded his remarks with a resounding message: united, the free world will undoubtedly triumph.
Panel One: Geopolitical and economic shifts on the Taiwan Strait
During the “Geopolitical and Economic Shifts on the Taiwan Strait” panel moderated by Russell Hsiao, experts delved deep into the escalating geopolitical tensions surrounding Taiwan. To begin, Hal Brands emphasized the critical role of deterrence in preventing a China-instigated war, arguing that such a conflict could result in severe supply chain disruptions for the United States. Liza Tobin then stressed the technological aspects of the cross-Strait and US-Taiwan relationships, highlighting the importance of prioritizing tech advancements and proposing strategies to maintain market competitiveness.
Following this, Han Sukhee offered insights from a Korean perspective, touching on increasing anti-China sentiments and the potential implications of a Chinese invasion for the ROK, and the need for collective resilience.
Ambassador Kelley Currie argued that the West is already entrenched in a Cold War with China, emphasizing the risks posed of economic dependence on China and arguing that the United States must steadfastly adhere to its principles. Discussions further touched on the challenges impeding the US-Taiwan relationship, business interests and tech exports, and the risks of over-reliance on the Chinese market. The panelists collectively underscored the importance of a long-term strategic vision in light of China’s growing economic clout.
Panel Two: Cross-Strait Relations, 2024 Elections, and US Policy
During a panel moderated by Alex Wong, experts delved into the dynamics of US-Taiwan relations, especially in light of the upcoming Taiwanese elections. Ryan Hass began by discussing bipartisan US support for Taiwan, referencing president Biden’s assurances that the United States would provide assistance in the event of a Chinese attack.
Subsequently, David Sacks noted that the 2024 Taiwanese presidential election will be the first to feature exclusively native Taiwanese. He also emphasized that all of the major candidates have expressed a preference for maintaining the status quo in cross-Strait relations. Igor Khrestin then drew parallels between the situations in Ukraine and Taiwan, suggesting that the United States’ stance on such issues is indicative of its broader commitment to free societies.
Zack Cooper discussed the US “One-China Policy” and drew a distinction between symbolic political gestures and concrete policy actions in support of Taiwan. A recurring theme throughout the panel was the intertwining nature of global events and their implications for US-Taiwan ties. In the subsequent Q&A, topics ranged from China’s “red lines” concerning Taiwan, the potential for peaceful coexistence, defense strategies, and the scope of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). The panel also emphasized the need for proactive diplomacy, reconsideration of the concept of strategic ambiguity, and a comprehensive understanding of Taiwan’s global geopolitical significance.
Luncheon Keynote: The Hon. Jedidiah Royal, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs
In Jedidiah Royal’s keynote, he underscored the US Department of Defense’s steadfast support for Taiwan, emphasizing its stability as crucial given the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) growing capability and intent to reshape the global order. The increasingly provocative actions by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) illustrate China’s aggressive posture toward Taiwan. However, he emphasized that a conflict is neither imminent nor inevitable. The United States remains committed to strengthening its defense capabilities and those of Taiwan, viewing stability in the Indo-Pacific as critical.
Global allies, including those from Camp David, AUKUS, and the Philippines, play a pivotal role in supporting peace and stability in the region. In response to a series of questions, Royal also discussed the United States’ capacity to handle simultaneous global contingencies, the PRC’s military activities, defense training for Taiwan, and the broader Indo-Pacific force projection. He generally highlighted the United States strategy to prepare for potential contingencies, strengthen ties with allies, and address changing security dynamics.
Panel Three: Defense and Security Assistance
In the final panel discussion, moderator John Dotson underscored Taiwan’s growing relevance in US-PRC dynamics, noting increased coercion by China since 2019 and the implications of recent events, including Xi Jinping’s (習近平) policy speech and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. John Culver began by highlighting China’s evolving strategy since the 1970s, maintaining that the CCP has always aimed to integrate Taiwan, evident in its military modernization.
Elbridge Colby then voiced his concerns regarding China’s military ambitions and hinted at its readiness for potential conflicts, stressing the importance of Taiwan bolstering its own defense capabilities. Peter Mattis subsequently discussed Beijing’s utilization of the PLA for political ends, emphasizing the enduring divide between the ROC and PRC, while also shedding light on China’s influence over Taiwanese media. Devin Thorne closed by spotlighting China’s cyber strategies, with a surge in cyberattacks against Taiwan, emphasizing the critical need for Taiwan’s cyber defense preparedness.
Closing Keynote: Laura Rosenberger, chair, American Institute in Taiwan
Laura Rosenberger, the chair of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), highlighted that under President Biden, US-Taiwan relations have deepened, with growing bipartisan support. While emphasizing the consistency of the United States’ “One-China Policy” over four decades, she noted that Washington has increasingly sought to bolster Taiwan’s position as a beacon of democracy in the Indo-Pacific. The key areas of partnership she spotlighted included robust economic collaboration, technological and energy partnerships, and defense and security commitments. Rosenberger also underscored the United States’ dedication to ensuring Taiwan’s self-defense and the importance of expanding Taiwan’s international presence.
During the subsequent Q&A, she reinforced the unchanged US stance on Taiwan and the significance of building international alliances for Taiwan. The upcoming priorities for AIT include economic market evolution, advancements in defense and security, and nurturing the US-Taiwan long-term partnership. Finally, she emphasized the potential for expanded US-Taiwan cooperation in the energy sector.