AS observed by President Joe Biden, we appear to be fast approaching an inflection point in world history. Faced with no clear enough future, the Taiwan government needs to systematically make strategic decisions on domestic and foreign policy that advance the core national security interests of the peoples of Taiwan across a range of futures. This should start with the creation of a set of integrated national security strategies. Building on that argument, this collection of strategies should be deployable and operable across a range of geographic, functional, and community contexts. That may require supplementing the traditional strategy approach with other strategy-building activities, including scenario planning.
At the global level, the Taiwan government needs to develop a multidisciplinary and systematic national security strategy that contains realistic and time-bounded targets. This corporate strategy should be grounded in a core set of principles carefully selected by Taiwan policymakers. Candidates might include autonomy, openness, prosperity, respect, and security. The strategy should identify a core set of national security concerns that frustrate the achievement of those principles. Then, it should identify a core set of instruments for managing those national security concerns. An example would be the strategic partnerships with Japan and the United States. This set of instruments should promote extensive crosscutting cooperation and coordination among government and non-government agencies responsible for defense, democracy, development, and diplomacy.
At the regional level, the Taiwan government needs to develop multidisciplinary and systematic national security strategies for select regions and sub-regions. Distance matters in international security affairs. Proximate sovereign states often share decision-making, collaborate on assessments, and pool resources to promote peace and security in their local neighborhoods. Among other things, this proximity can arise from administrative, cultural, economic, geographic, and historical factors. Examples include the member states of the African Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Commonwealth of Independent States, European Union, Pacific Islands Forum, and Organization of American States. Wherever regionalism threatens to frustrate the successful implementation of the global strategy, Taiwan policymakers should develop regional variants built around values, concerns, and instruments adapted to fit the local conditions. Obvious prospects include Europe, Pacific Islands, and Southeast Asia.
At the functional level, the Taiwan government needs to develop multidisciplinary and systematic strategies for defense, democracy, development, and diplomacy. Functionality matters in domestic and international affairs. Every government agency possesses a unique mix of cultures, missions, roles, legal authorities, ethical norms, funding mechanisms, and political interests that give rise to their own sets of biases, frameworks, processes, terminologies, and planning cultures. For these reasons, Taiwan policymakers should direct the government agencies with primary responsibility for defense, democracy, development, and diplomacy to develop functional variants built around values, concerns, and instruments adapted to fit the local conditions. Ideally, these strategies would not only communicate policy, priorities, and actions to staff, contractors, and other stakeholders. They would also communicate unity of purpose with other government agencies and partner countries. To achieve that outcome, the Taiwan government would need to make significant investments in shared assessments, planning coordination, and alignment reviews.
At the community level, the Taiwan government needs to develop a multidisciplinary and systematic strategy for security relevant groups of people who share common features and manifest collective identities. Community matters in international security affairs. Every community has its own beliefs, cultures, interests, structures, and values that impact the strategic fitness of corporate strategies. Wherever communities threaten to frustrate the successful implementation of the global strategy, Taiwan policymakers should assess those features, determine the strategic fitness, and develop community variants built around values, concerns, and instruments adapted to fit the local conditions. These strategies would help to build more empathetic relationships and take advantage of synergies. Obvious prospects include indigenous peoples and overseas Chinese.
In addition to these integrated strategies, the Taiwan government needs to develop a multidisciplinary and systematic national survival strategy that contains realistic and time-bounded targets. This strategy should identify those processes and functions that would be required to preserve nationhood in the event of occupation by the People’s Republic of China. This strategy should be grounded in its own core set of principles. Candidates might include autonomy, independence, patriotism, respect, and security. The strategy should forecast a core set of national survival concerns that would frustrate the achievement of those principles. Then, it should identify a core set of instruments for managing those national survival concerns. Examples would be nonviolent resistance and violent resistance by Taiwan nationalists. This set of instruments should promote extensive crosscutting cooperation and coordination among the government and non-government agencies forecast to exist in such a contingency.
Echoing an earlier observation by the author, the Taiwan government ideally should have one multidisciplinary team develop all of these strategies through a collaborative process making use of multiple work streams. Such an approach would help to promote systems thinking in strategy development. That not only could help to unlock efficiencies and innovations that otherwise might be missed if different teams set out to develop these strategies independent of one another. It could also help to mitigate the risk of unexpected destabilization in cross-strait relations that could arise from the strategic posture brought into existence by the interaction of these strategies.
Michael Walsh is a senior adjunct fellow at Pacific Forum. The views expressed are his own.