Author: Michael Mazza, Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

The Chinese pressure campaign against Taiwan is likely to persist. In the coming years, that campaign may include formal or informal import bans on Taiwanese goods; military provocations; information warfare operations aimed at destabilizing Taiwanese society; and the poaching of diplomatic allies.

If Taiwan is to weather the storm, it is important that it not stand alone. The United States has been a staunch ally for decades, but European partners, too, have an interest in ensuring that Taiwan remains free and that the Strait remains at peace.

Taiwan’s strategically important location, its critical role in global high-tech supply chain, and its democratic way of life all make the country of great importance to European democracies.

Taiwan already has a number of supporters in Europe. For example, the Mayor of Prague Zdenek Hrib has established a new sister city relationship with Taipei after refusing to continue embracing Beijing’s ‘one China’ Principle. But Europe can and should do more to assist Taiwan in withstanding Chinese pressure and ensuring a stable balance of power across the Strait.

  1. EU-Taiwan bilateral investment and free trade agreements would be good places to start, and can be concluded without significant negative repercussions for EU-China relations. Deepening already robust economic ties would serve the interests of EU Member States and Taiwan alike. Beyond the economic benefits likely to redound to both parties; Europeans should consider that greater foreign commercial investment in Taiwan will contribute to the deterrence of PRC aggression and thus stability in the Strait. Healthy economic growth, moreover, ensures Taiwan can sufficiently resource its security needs, again enhancing cross-Strait stability.
  2. A key aspect of Beijing’s pressure campaign has been to isolate Taiwan on the world stage. Taipei’s European partners, then, should mount a more vigorous effort to support Taiwan’s participation in international organizations. The country’s continuing exclusion, at Beijing’s direction, from assemblies of the World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Authority, and Interpol is detrimental to global health, the safety of civilian air travel, and efforts to counter transnational crime. The EU and individual member states should make that case to Beijing directly, explaining that they conceive of Taiwan’s exclusion as a national security issue, and work in concerted effort with these organizations to ensure Taiwan’s representatives are included going forward.
  3. More risk-tolerant countries should consider arm sales to Taiwan. There remains a rationale for Europeans to contribute more directly to Taiwan’s defense. Perhaps the surest way to dissuade the People’s Republic from ever using force against Taiwan is to convince Beijing that any effort to do so would fail. The threat of American intervention in a conflict is, naturally, crucial here, but so is Taiwan’s capacity for self-defense.
  4. European defense firms, including those in search of new customers surely have capabilities that should be useful to Taiwan, and in which in some cases can be supplied at prices lower that can be found in the American or Taiwanese markets. Participation in Taiwan’s indigenous submarine program might be an attractive option for some European countries, whose shipbuilders could provide assistance with design and could provision components without selling a highly visible off-the-shelf system that might be more likely to incur a punitive Chinese response.
  5. Europeans should take note that Chinese responses to American sales- including those of new fighter jets, tanks, and missile defense systems- have always featured more bark than bite. When it comes to Beijing’s relationships with Western capitals, China has many interests at stake and is unlikely to let Taiwan concerns override all others. That will be doubly true if more than one European country steps to the plate to provide Taiwan’s defense needs.
  6. Finally, a cross-Strait military balance that favors the PRC will draw more U.S. assets to the Asia-Pacific and away from Europe and the Atlantic to supplement Taiwan’s own deterrent posture. European arm sales to Taiwan can contribute to a more balance of power in Asia, with positive implications for American contributions to NATO’s defense.
  7. European views on China are evolving, but views on Taiwan are not yet, broadly speaking, evolving with them. With Beijing’s determination to wipe Taiwan’s democracy from the map only growing during the Xi Jinping era, the time is now for Europe to take a stand.

China’s Policy Paper on the European Union (2018)

Honoring the commitment to respecting China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, upholding the one China principle with concrete actions, and respecting China's core interests and major concerns bear on the long-term stability and growth of China-EU relations.

  1. The EU should explicitly oppose "Taiwan independence" in any form, support China's peaceful reunification, and handle Taiwan-related issues with prudence.
  2. Exchanges between the EU and Taiwan should be strictly limited to nonofficial and people-to-people activities, and there should be no official contact or exchanges in any form.
  3. The EU should refrain from signing with Taiwan any agreement with sovereign implications or official in nature.
  4. No institutions of an official nature should be established.
  5. The EU should not endorse Taiwan's membership in any international organization where statehood is required, not sell Taiwan any weapons or any equipment, materials or technologies that can be used for military purposes, and not carry out military exchanges or cooperation in any form.

Formosa Club

  1. European Parliament Taiwan Friendship Group)
  2. Germany-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group
  3. France-Taiwan Friendship Group (Assemblée Nationale)
  4. France-Taiwan Friendship Group (French Senate)
  5. British-Taiwanese All-Party Parliamentary Group (House of Lords)

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