As US President Joe Biden observes, we are fast approaching a turning point in world history. In the absence of a clear future, the Taiwanese government must make strategic decisions on domestic and foreign policy that will advance Taiwan’s core national security interests in various future categories. This should begin with the creation of a set of integrated national security strategies, deployable and operable across a range of geographic, functional and community contexts. It may require supplementing the traditional strategy approach with other policy-making activities, including scenario planning.
At the global level, governments need to develop a multi-disciplinary and systematic national security strategy with realistic and time-bound targets. This corporate strategy should be based on a core set of principles carefully selected by Taiwan’s policymakers. Candidates may include autonomy, openness, prosperity, respect, and security. The strategy must identify a core set of national security concerns that frustrate the simplicity of those principles. Then, a core set of tools should be identified to manage those national security concerns.
A case in point is the strategic partnership with Japan and the US. This set of tools should promote broad cross-sector cooperation and coordination among governmental and non-governmental organizations responsible for defense, democracy, development and diplomacy.
At the regional level, the government must develop a multi-disciplinary and systematic national security strategy for selected regions and sub-regions.
Distance matters in international security matters. Near-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 may arise from administrative, cultural, economic, geographical and historical factors. Examples include member states of the African Union, ASEAN, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the EU, the Pacific Islands Forum, and the Organization of American States.
Wherever regionalism threatens to frustrate the successful implementation of global policy, Taiwan’s policymakers must develop regional forms built around values, concerns, and tools adapted to local conditions. Obvious prospects include Europe, the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia.
At the operational level, the government must develop multi-disciplinary and systematic strategies for defence, democracy, development and diplomacy. Work is important in international affairs. Each government agency has a unique mix of cultures, missions, roles, legal authorities, ethical rules, funding mechanisms, and political interests that give rise to their own biases, frameworks, processes, terminology, and planning cultures.
For these reasons, Taiwan’s policymakers should direct government agencies responsible for defense, democracy, development, and diplomacy to develop functional forms built around values, concerns, and tools adapted to local conditions.
Ideally, these policies will not only communicate policy, priorities and actions to staff, contractors and other stakeholders, but will also communicate a commonality of purpose with other government agencies and partner countries. To achieve that outcome, government must invest in shared assessment, planning coordination and alignment reviews.
At the community level, the government needs to develop a multi-disciplinary and systematic strategy for security for relevant groups of people who share common characteristics and express a collective identity. Community matters in international security. Each community has its own beliefs, culture, interests, structures and values that affect the strategic fitness of corporate strategies. Wherever communities threaten to frustrate global policy implementation, policymakers must assess those characteristics, determine policy fitness, and develop community forms built around values, concerns, and local adaptation tools. These strategies will help build more empathetic relationships and leverage synergies. Obvious prospects include indigenous peoples and overseas Chinese.
Apart from these integrated strategies, the government needs to develop a multi-disciplinary and systematic national survival strategy with realistic and time-bound targets. This strategy should identify the processes and tasks that would be necessary to preserve nationhood in the event of a takeover by the People’s Republic of China.
This strategy should be based on its own fundamental principles. Candidates may include autonomy, freedom, patriotism, respect and security. Strategy should anticipate a core set of national survival concerns that will frustrate the achievement of those principles. Then, a core set of tools must be identified to manage those national survival concerns. Examples would be non-violent resistance and violent resistance by Taiwanese nationalists.
This set of tools should promote broad cross-sector cooperation and coordination among governmental and non-governmental organizations that are expected to exist in such contingencies.
Government should ideally have a multidisciplinary team that develops all these policies through a collaborative process using multiple work streams. Such an approach will help promote systems thinking in strategy development. Not only can this help unlock efficiencies and innovations that might otherwise be lost if different teams were to develop these strategies independently of each other. It can also help reduce the risk of unexpected volatility in cross-Strait relations that could arise from the strategic position brought into being by the interaction of these policies.
Michael Walsh is a Senior Adjunct Fellow at the Pacific Forum. The views expressed are their own.
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