Analysis & Opinions - Epicenter, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs

Protecting the Porcupine: Why Taiwan Matters

| Apr. 14, 2023

Last summer, Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan made headlines around the world. As the then-Speaker of the House, she was the highest-ranking US official to visit in decades. Her trip to this small democratic island only 100 miles from Communist China set off a firestorm of internal debates on the US's East Asia strategy. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials trumpeted their frustration with the US's incoherent diplomacy and launched aggressive military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. Ultimately, Pelosi's visit brought focus to the value of Taiwan in US domestic and foreign policy.

Americans may understand the symbolic importance of Taiwan as a small democracy under threat from a giant autocratic bully. However, articulating the importance of Taiwan in terms of American interests is more challenging. Some foreign policy experts believe that China will attempt to take back Taiwan in the next ten years. Some have referenced 2027 as the CCP's "target year" for a move to unify Taiwan, and others have referenced dates as early as 2025.

The United States must do everything in its power to delay China from making that fateful move, by projecting not only soft power and diplomacy, but also hard military power. In this essay, we briefly explain why Taiwan is critical to US interests; then we offer best-case strategies for the US military to stay nimble in the Indo-Pacific and to keep Taiwan equipped to defend itself with a so-called "porcupine" strategy, explained below....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Fann, Ken and Charles Bursi."Protecting the Porcupine: Why Taiwan Matters." Epicenter, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, April 14, 2023.

The Authors