Taiwan Increasingly Confident U.S. Will Help Stop China Invasion

As Russia's invasion of Ukraine crossed the 100-day mark this month, Taiwanese citizens told a recent survey that the island was unlikely to last the same amount of time in the event of a Chinese attack. But after Joe Biden's recent pledge to defend Taiwan, local residents reported a rise in confidence about potential U.S. support.

Six years into the Taiwanese presidency of Tsai Ing-wen, tensions across the Taiwan Strait show no signs of abating. The Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping continues to assert its decades-long claim to the island, with China's defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe, vowing publicly to "fight to the very end" at Asia's premier defense forum this month.

Taipei rejects Beijing's territorial ambitions; in light of Ukraine's resistance, Taiwan's officials say the Taiwanese people are even more determined to defend themselves, with or without outside help.

However, only 51 percent of respondents in a recent poll believed Taiwan could withstand a Chinese invasion for more than 100 days, according to results published Tuesday by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation.

In contrast, only 37.8 percent of respondents felt Taiwan's armed forces could hold out for the same period of time, said the TPOF survey, which was conducted between June 12 and 14 by collecting valid samples from 1,079 Taiwanese adults above the age of 20, the current presidential voting age.

Taiwan Confidence In U.S. Intervention Grows
A domestically produced CM-34 Clouded Leopard armored vehicle is driven at a testing ground in Nantou, Taiwan, on June 16, 2022. Taiwan’s armed forces and its public are girding themselves for a potential clash with Chinese forces in the coming decades. SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

In February, as it became increasingly clear that the West might fail to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, only one-quarter of respondents thought China was likely to follow Russia with a military campaign of its own, according to a TPOF survey at the time.

However, the Biden administration's decision not to deploy American troops to Ukraine, for what would've been a direct clash with Russian forces, did leave a profound impression on Taiwan's public, according to another poll conducted a month later.

From confidence that once peaked at 65 percent in October 2021, only 34.5 percent of respondents in the TPOF's March survey believed U.S. forces would help defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack. The same poll recorded 78 percent of respondents as saying Taiwan wouldn't be able to forestall an occupation on its own.

Tuesday's results, however, showed a noticeable spike in positivity that may have been associated with Biden's recent pledge to defend Taiwan. At a press conference in Tokyo last month, the U.S. president said he would get militarily involved if China were to attack, even if it believed an invasion wouldn't be attempted.

The result: 40.4 percent of those polled said Taiwan was likely to receive assistance from the U.S. military, versus 50.9 percent who felt the opposite.

Taiwan's defense planners say they've never war-gamed a scenario in which American troops fight alongside Taiwanese soldiers. In Beijing, however, Chinese military modernization points to just such an expectation, and even involvement by U.S. allies.

Officially, U.S. policy is not to say publicly whether it intends to intervene in the next Taiwan Strait crisis. It's why Biden's recent remarks on the subject caused such a stir.

Washington's focus, according to senior officials in the Biden administration, is on preventing an attack from ever happening, to ensure the generations-long cross-strait dispute is settled peacefully.

"Fundamentally, the entire thrust and purpose of our approach—our diplomatic, defense, security, intelligence approach to Taiwan—is about ensuring that the day never comes where the question is called as to whether or not we have to defend Taiwan, because we will have effectively deterred it," U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told a conference hosted by the Center for a New American Security think tank last Friday.