Taiwan’s Doubts About America is Growing Fast and Thought it to Be Dangerous

There was a huge, well-lit collection of American souvenirs in a busy area of City Hall in Tainan, Taiwan, that showed decades of eager courtship. On the maps, sister towns in Ohio and Arizona stood out.

At a baseball party, an American flag was spread out on a table. A card sent to the US seemed to show what people in Tainan, a city of 1.8 million, and most of Taiwan were thinking in the middle of it all. It said, “Together, stronger.” “Solidarity wins over everything.”

The message was inspiring, and it showed very clearly how deeply insecure people are. Taiwan is a democratic but not quite a country of 23 million people that is threatened by a greedy China. The island’s future depends on how the US answers the ultimate question: will you fight the other superpower if it attacks and threatens the island’s independence?

More than ever, the tough mentality of that situation is beginning to show its age. China is making its claim to the island stronger, and the US is becoming less united over how involved it should be in world affairs. As a result, Taiwan is full of confusion and doubt, not so much about its own government’s plans or even Beijing’s, but about Washington’s.

This month, Vice President Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party won Taiwan’s presidential election. One reason he won was that he seemed like the most likely candidate to make peace with the United States.

Polls done before the election showed that most Taiwanese want better ties with China, even though this could make China angry. Since recently, more guns have been sold from the United States. They think that President Biden will protect the island, but they are afraid that it is not enough.

People are losing faith in the United States as they see no progress being made on sending military aid to Ukraine and Israel and try to picture what the US would actually do for Taiwan in a crisis. Only 34% of Taiwanese people who answered the poll thought the US was a trustworthy country, down from 45% in 2021. This shows that more people in Taiwan back the US approach.

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More and more people are worried that the world’s greatest democracy won’t be strong enough or interested enough to really help, according to new studies of online debate. In interviews, voters said they felt like they were just travelers. A lot of people think that the US is like an unreliable driver who might get them to safety but could also just give up. These questions about America can be very dangerous on a small island about 100 miles away from China that doesn’t have nearly as much money for defense as Beijing does.

Analysts in both Taiwan and the United States aren’t sure what a general lack of faith in the US could lead to. For some, it might mean a promise to do more with self-defense. For some, though, it makes them feel less rushed. So what’s the point if getting help from the Americans is necessary, and no one knows if they will ever come?

People who see Taiwan as a first line of defense worry that if it falls to Beijing, China will have more power to control Asia. One risk is that people will not trust the US, which could make it easier for Beijing to take over the island.

Many studies have shown that the belief that the United States will step in to help them is very important. This can affect how well they hold out, according to Oriana Skylar Mastro, an international studies fellow at Stanford University and the American Enterprise Institute. “They’d have to hold on for us to get there.”

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