M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 233

Forging Consensus: Analyzing the Gap in U.S. Domestic Support to Defend Taiwan Against CCP Aggression

Nicholas Hanson
John Keyes

2024 Policy Analysis Exercise Prepared for the United States House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party

Executive Summary

In mid-2023, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) published Independent Task Force Report No. 81: U.S.-Taiwan Relations in a New Era - Responding to a More Assertive China. The report was the output of six months of work by 17 American experts (referred to later in this document as Taiwan Task Force) whose experience spans academia, diplomacy, national security, policy, and the private sector. In the report's executive summary, the authors stated, "The Task Force thus finds that it is vital for the United States to deter China from using force or coercion to achieve unification with Taiwan." In the context of national security threats, their designation of Taiwan as "vital" to the U.S. ranks it among the most significant to "safeguarding and enhancing Americans' survival and well-being in a free and secure nation."

Furthermore, they declared unequivocally, "Deterrence is steadily eroding in the Taiwan Strait and is at risk of failing, increasing the likelihood of Chinese aggression." Despite the Taiwan Task Force's assessment that China currently lacks the capability to invade and control Taiwan successfully, there was a consensus among the authors that China is likely to possess such a capability by 2030. 

Emphasizing the urgency of this geopolitical flashpoint, Admiral Philip Davidson, the outgoing commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) in March 2021. He warned, "Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions...And I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years." 

Further underscoring this timeline, early in 2023, CIA Director Bill Burns publicly stated that intelligence indicated President Xi Jinping had ordered his military to be prepared for an invasion of Taiwan by 2027. 

In March 2024, current USINDOPACOM Commander Admiral John Aquilino testified before the SASC, stating, "All indications point to the PLA meeting President Xi Jinping's directive to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027." 

The implications for the U.S. should China invade Taiwan are vast: national and economic security, a pronounced expansion of Chinese power and territory, the disruption of global supply chains, and the challenge to international rules and norms from the CCP extinguishing a robust democracy in East Asia. The financial component alone is staggering. A recent analysis by Bloomberg put the cost of a war over Taiwan at $10 trillion, or roughly 10% of global GDP.  

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