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Majority of US Analysts Believe Even Lesser Actions by China Could Trigger Military Conflict

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In a recent survey conducted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), 52 leading US experts on foreign policy expressed concerns that China’s actions short of a full invasion could be enough to draw the United States into a military conflict over Taiwan. The report, titled “Surveying the Experts: U.S. and Taiwan Views on China’s Approach to Taiwan,” sheds light on the delicate balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region.

According to the CSIS report released on January 22, a significant majority of the surveyed experts, comprising academics, government officials, and think-tank experts, believe that the threshold for US military intervention in Taiwan is not limited to a full-scale invasion by China. Rather, actions such as Beijing imposing a quarantine or implementing a blockade around Taiwan could trigger American involvement.

A staggering 63% of the experts expressed at least “moderate confidence” that the US military would intervene in the event of a quarantine, a measure that involves restricting Taiwan’s flow of goods through non-military means, such as strict customs inspections affecting maritime traffic.

Furthermore, the report revealed that 79% of the experts believed the US military would likely act in response to a naval blockade, where China encircles Taiwan with its forces. This majority increases to 88% if the blockade involves strikes on Taiwan by Beijing.

The most critical trigger for US military involvement, according to the experts, would be a full-scale invasion by China, with an overwhelming 96% stating their confidence in the US joining the conflict in such a scenario.

However, the experts expressed less confidence in the willingness of US allies to engage in the conflict. Only 29% believed a quarantine would lead to a US-led multinational effort to defend Taiwan, while 33% thought a blockade without strikes would prompt a coalition response. In contrast, 60% of the experts were confident that US allies would assist if China were to invade Taiwan.

CSIS also gathered insights from 35 experts and scholars in Taiwan, revealing a disparity in optimism about US intervention. Forty percent expressed confidence that the US would aid Taiwan in response to a quarantine, and 60% believed the US military would intervene in the event of a blockade. A significant 72% were confident that the US would step in if China launched a full invasion.

When assessing Taiwan’s ability to withstand pressure without US military support, both US and Taiwanese experts shared similar perspectives. Approximately 90% on both sides indicated that Taiwan could hold off for “2 weeks to 1 month” or longer. Six percent of experts on both sides believed Taiwan could resist for up to a year.

The survey took place between November and December 2023, capturing a period of heightened tension in US-China relations before President Joe Biden’s meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the APEC 2023 summit. Despite recent positive developments in cooperation between the two nations, the Taiwan Strait remains a significant flashpoint, with the recent election of William Lai Ching-te signaling continued resistance to Beijing’s pressure.

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