Japan is one such ally. They have a strong military and robust economy. With their strength and their proximity to China, they are a significant impediment for China. India could be another ally if we can build better relations with them. South Korea might be a qualified ally although their willingness to side with the US outside of the North Korean threat is suspect.
Yet another potentially strong ally is Taiwan. They have a small, though competent, military and a reasonably strong economy. What they lack on the military side of things is access to the latest US technology and support.
US support for Taiwan has always been a hesitant proposition, at best. Successive US governments have refrained from demonstrating outright support and recognition in an attempt to curry favor (or at least prevent worsening relations) with China. Well, that ship has sailed. China has placed itself on a direct collision course with the US by flaunting international laws and treaties, conducting an expansionist territorial grab of the entire East and South China Seas and beyond, routinely trespassing into the territorial waters of neighboring countries, engaging in massive intellectual property theft, engaging in blatant currency manipulation, seizing US military assets, conducting cyber espionage, etc. There is no need to placate China because there is no longer anything to be gained by doing so, if there ever was.
Just as the termination of the INF treaty with Russia has freed the US to pursue intermediate range ballistic missiles (as China has been doing for many years), so too does China’s now public and clearly acknowledged anti-US stance free us to pursue geopolitical strategies that were formerly off limits due to our naïve and forlorn hopes for peaceful accommodation. Strengthening our relations with Taiwan is now a viable (it always was – we were just too timid to pursue it) course of action.
Consider what a greatly militarily strengthened Taiwan could do in containing China.
Given the physical proximity of Taiwan to China, China would have no choice but to refocus a significant portion of their political and military resources away from expansion and towards containment and countering the threat of Taiwan. This refocus would allow us the opportunity to push back against China’s recent expansions and incursions while China is otherwise occupied closer to home.
A militarily stronger Taiwan complicates China’s war plans by forcing them to allocate more resources to Taiwan which absolutely must by the first Chinese move in any war.
I know there are many ‘Chicken Little’ Chinese observers who are terrified that any strengthening of Taiwan by the US would instantly lead to total nuclear war but that’s simply fear-inspired garbage reasoning. China has as much or more to fear and lose from a war with a Taiwan-US partnership (with, likely, Japan and others joining in against China) than we do. China can bluster all they want but the reality of their military and economic position is that there’s not really anything they can do about it. China has zero chance to win a war against the US (at the moment) let alone an alliance of the US, Taiwan, Japan, and others.
Taiwan also provides a very strong counter to, and penetration of, China’s territorial claims. Taiwan’s territorial claims and their associated Economic Exclusion Zone (defined as 200 miles by the UNCLOS treaty of which China is a signatory) provide the prefect legal justification for a Taiwan-US partnership to push back with military force, if needed, against China’s illegal expansionist activities.
Again, there are the same ‘Chicken Little’ fear mongers who believe that if we even strongly protest an illegal Chinese action we’ll instantly spark a nuclear war. The reality is that China is using their military (their Coast Guard and fishing fleets are thinly disguised extensions of their military) to intimidate neighboring countries as they seek to execute de facto seizures of territory. There is no reason we shouldn’t use our military to equally aggressively push back against these territorial seizures and partnering with Taiwan provides the necessary legal and international standing to do so by ‘assisting’ Taiwan at their behest.
So, how, specifically, should we support and strengthen Taiwan?
The answer is military subsidies. Let’s outright give Taiwan ships, aircraft, weapons, equipment and logistical support. It’s easily justified as an investment in our own security. All Taiwan has to supply is the manpower to operate the equipment.
Where would all this equipment come from? Well, for one thing, it would help if we would stop SinkEx’ing our perfectly good ships. Imagine what dozens of Spruances could do for Taiwan’s naval power. We early retired the Tarawa class, if those would be of use to Taiwan. Let’s give them F-35s and make China account for stealth aircraft right in their own backyard. Supposedly, we’ve got thousands of M1 Abrams sitting in parking lots. Why not give them good homes in Taiwan? The LCS is of no use to us. Let’s give them the entire LCS fleet. The range, endurance, and maintenance problems that make them nearly useless to us would be greatly mitigated by operating in Taiwan’s home waters where those factors are not significant drawbacks.
Hey, if we can get some partial payments for the equipment, so much the better but let’s keep firmly in mind that the equipment transfers are for our benefit – payment is not required. If it helps, think of these ships and aircraft as unmanned (by Americans) vehicles.
Right now, China is focused well outside the East and South China Seas - well beyond the first island chain to Africa, the Middle East, South America, etc. Why not give China some serious problems to deal with right in their own backyard? Let’s blur their global focus and make them refocus on their own backyard. That can only help slow their global activities and give us opportunities to strengthen our own global positions.
In addition to providing equipment and support, let’s start conducting ‘port visits’ to Taiwan with occasional ships and aircraft and then, over time, with more and more ships and aircraft with longer and longer stays until, eventually, we’ve established a de facto permanent presence and base. Does this kind of slow, incremental, creeping, reach sound familiar? It should. It’s the Chinese playbook! Why shouldn’t we use it for ourselves?
Taiwan is an opportunity waiting to be grasped and all we need to do is demonstrate some fortitude to make it happen.
Of course, all of this depends on Taiwan being willing to cooperate and the key to that is demonstrating that such a course is in their own best interests as well as ours.