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Intelligence Squared

Tuesday, June 1 at 2:00 pm

Is Taiwan Indefensible?

The fate of Taiwan is uncertain. As a revanchist China builds up forces near the island, the Biden administration is warning Beijing against an invasion, bolstering its defense with the sale of military hardware. While the United States does not officially recognize Taiwan’s government, it remains its strongest international backer. Beijing, meanwhile, sees Taiwan as lost territory, which needs to be “reunified” with the mainland. Recently, Beijing sent 25 warplanes into Taiwan's air defense identification zone, the largest ever incursion into the region by the People’s Liberation Army. And some argue that the scale of China’s military presence has already surpassed anything the U.S. or Taiwan militaries could stop. It is indefensible, both militarily and from a political capital perspective; the notion of risking American soldiers in this geostrategic flashpoint unthinkable. Others say American credibility is actually on the line, that the U.S. could indeed win if it had to, and that its political posturing should reflect that. So, here’s our question: Is Taiwan indefensible?


Lyle J. Goldstein
Research Professor, China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S. Naval War College
Lyle J. Goldstein is research professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute at the United States Naval War College in Newport, RI. In addition to Chinese, he also speaks Russian and he is also an affiliate of the new Russia Maritime Studies Institute (RMSI) at Naval War College. He is the author of “Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry,” among others.

Charlie Glaser
Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University
Charlie Glaser is professor of political science and international affairs and director of the Elliott School's Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at George Washington University. His research focuses on international relations theory and international security policy. He is the author of “Rational Theory of International Politics: The Logic of Competition and Cooperation,” among others.

Elbridge Colby
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Elbridge Colby served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Strategy and Force Development from 2017-2018, and is the former director of the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security. He currently serves as co-founder and Principal of The Marathon Initiative, a non-profit research organization focused on diplomatic, military, and economic strategies within great power rivalries. He is also the author of “The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict.”

Elizabeth Larus
Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, University of Mary Washington
Elizabeth Larus is professor and department chair of Political Science and International Affairs at the University of Mary Washington. She has 30 years of research and practical experience in the domestic politics and foreign relations of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong and has authored three books on China and more than twenty academic articles and book chapters on international relations in the Asia-Pacific. She is currently conducting research on U.S. naval diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific.

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