Taiwan Just said No to the F-35 Stealth Fighter. What Now?

December 1, 2018 Topic: Security Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: TaiwanF-35ChinaUnited StatesAir Force

Taiwan Just said No to the F-35 Stealth Fighter. What Now?

How should Taipei's defense strategy evolve with respect to China? Here are some ideas.

Other critics might argue that China is adept at counterinsurgency and would quickly stamp out any resistance. This assessment gives China far too much credit. It has been spent decades trying to modernize the PLA, a shift that ironically makes it less capable at handling insurgencies—a lesson the United States has learned time and time again. Nor can China necessarily rely on its PAPF. Suppressing dissidents in Tibet and Xinjiang is not the same as defeating well-trained and well-armed guerrillas on an island that has known freedom and democracy for at least a generation. Crucially, deploying PAPF units to Taiwan would invariably create opportunities for unrest and rebellion back at home.

A Question of Time

Ultimately, whatever the merits of our solution, our goal is to provoke a much-needed debate. Taiwan’s existing defense posture is not credible. Although it may have worked in the past, relying on small numbers of high-end weapons is unlikely to deter aggression in the future. China already has a quantitative edge. It will soon have a qualitative edge as well. American intervention is not assured. Now is the time to start seriously questioning established practices and long-held orthodoxies.

Michael A. Hunzeker (@MichaelHunzeker) is an assistant professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and is the associate director of the school’s Center for Security Policy Studies. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 2000-2006.

Alexander Lanoszka (@ALanoszka, website) is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and fellow of the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo. He is also an Honorary Fellow at City, University of London.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.