Fortifying Taiwan: Security Challenges in the Indo-Pacific Era

Publication: China Brief Volume: 24 Issue: 4

President Tsai Ing-wen delivered a speech. (Source: Taiwan Presidential Office)

Executive Summary:

  • The development of asymmetric military capabilities, including indigenous weapons systems, is crucial for Taiwan’s defense and deterrence strategies against potential aggression from the PRC.
  • Strengthening alliances and cooperation, especially in advanced military technologies and training, is key to bolstering Taiwan’s defense force and contributing to regional stability in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Taiwan is adapting to evolving geopolitical challenges by enhancing its defense capabilities, with the United States shifting to a case-by-case arms sales approach to improve responsiveness to Taiwan’s security needs.


Taiwan is confronting unprecedented security challenges. Within a tumultuous and evolving geopolitical context, it is imperative for Taiwan to steadfastly enhance its defense capabilities. The United States, during both the Trump and Biden administrations, has shifted its approach to arms sales to Taiwan from the previous bundled format to a case-by-case basis. This allows for real-time responsiveness to the country’s defense needs and regional security challenges. This positive and crucial transformation ensures that Taiwan not only has sufficient defense capabilities but also is granted treatment akin to other US allies.

Recent delays in arms sales are due to the war in Ukraine and pandemic supply chain backlogs. Reassuringly, improvements are now underway. The war has prompted nations around the world to reassess their security strategies. Taiwan, as a pivotal player in the Indo-Pacific region, must not only maintain defensive capabilities against potential aggression from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), it must also exhibit strategic deterrence to dissuade the PRC from taking any hasty actions. This would align with the deterrent strategy consistently followed by democratic allies such as the United States and Japan, and is worth emulating.

Constructing asymmetric military capabilities is crucial and aligns with Taiwan’s strategic objectives. Defending Taiwan is a responsibility that requires not only the procurement of weapons but also the ability to manufacture them domestically. This involves producing indigenous submarines and long-range precision strike weapons to ensure that we have sufficient strength not only for defense but also for deterrence. Such efforts will contribute to promoting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

A robust deterrent force also relies on strong alliances. Taiwan’s relationship with democratic allies, therefore, must be unwavering. However, concrete contingency plans must be drawn up, verified, and adjusted through exercises. Cooperation can be formal or informal but at a minimum it must be tangible. Looking ahead, Taiwan and like-minded partners such as the United States should collaborate more extensively in areas such as Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR), as strengthening ties sends clear messages to Beijing.

Under President Xi Jinping, the diversity of opinions within the PRC system is gradually diminishing. This presents challenges for those outside the PRC, but it also provides an opportunity. Through collaboration within the democratic alliance, Taiwan can convey clear messages to Beijing, avoiding the misjudgments that can result from strategic ambiguity. Particularly in the C4ISR domain, high-level cooperation will facilitate the rapid and accurate transmission of messages, upholding regional peace and stability.

Taiwan has decided to reinstate one-year mandatory military service. This policy is aimed at enhancing the strength of the country’s defense force while also intensifying realistic combat training, drawing inspiration from the approaches of the US military and NATO. Improving the welfare of soldiers and strengthening their sense of honor will contribute to building a more formidable force. There is a pressing need to enhance the internationalization of the Taiwan military’s capabilities, transforming it not only into a force for protecting Taiwan but also into a robust pillar for regional stability. In this way, Taiwan will not just be able to better defend itself but also to actively contribute to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.