FPTV: Would the United States Go to War with China to Protect Taiwan?

With the world focused on Iraq, the standoff in the Taiwan Strait grows more explosive every day. Would the United States really go to war to protect Taiwan from China? Find out what top experts think about a clash between two nuclear superpowers in this first episode of FPTV.


Michael D. Swaine is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Prior to CEIP, Swaine spent 12 years at the Rand Corporation, where he was a senior political scientist in international relations and director of the Rand Center for Asia Pacific Policy. He is coauthor of Managing Sino-American Crises: Case Studies and Analysis (2006).

Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson , USA (Ret.), served as chief of staff to former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. A veteran of the Vietnam War, he has served on the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He is currently an adjunct professor at the College of William Mary and teaches a seminar at George Washington University.

Ambassador Chas. W. Freeman Jr. is cochair of the U.S.-China Policy Foundation. He served previously as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and assistant secretary of defense. He also worked as former President Richard M. Nixons principal interpreter in China.

Ashley J. Tellis is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and recently worked for the U.S. Department of State as senior advisor to the undersecretary of state for political affairs during the negotiations for the civil nuclear agreement with India. He is coauthor of Interpreting Chinas Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future (2000).

Want to Know More?

If you want to delve deeper into the issues surrounding Taiwan, the following links from FOREIGN POLICY and other publications are a good place to start.

The FP Debate: Clash of the Titans
Is China more interested in money than missiles? Will the United States seek to contain China as it once contained the Soviet Union? Zbigniew Brzezinski and John Mearsheimer go head-to-head on whether these two great powers are destined to fight it out.

Seven Questions for Taiwans Vice President
In Beijing, some call her the scum of the Earth for her outspoken advocacy of Taiwanese independence. Her supporters call her Taiwans Nelson Mandela because of her years as a political prisoner when Taiwan was ruled by the Kuomintang (KMT) party. Either way, Taiwans vice president, Annette Lu, tends to make headlines with blunt talk.

Interview With Chen Shui-bian, President of Taiwan
Edward Cody of the Washington Post interviews Taiwans president, Chen Shui-bian, about his rise in the Taiwanese independence movement, the inherent conflicts between Beijings policy of one China and Taiwans democracy, the U.S. role in the Taiwan Strait, and the upcoming presidential elections in Taiwan.

Whither China: From Membership to Responsibility?
Former Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick summarizes the Bush administrations understanding of the U.S.-China relationship.

Annual Report to Congress: Military Power of the Peoples Republic of China, 2007
The Department of Defenses annual report to Congress outlining the military growth in China often underscores the argument that the United States should be more concerned about Chinas military spending.

Americas Coming War with China: A Collision Course over Taiwan.
Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute argues in this 2006 book that the policy of strategic ambiguity risks thrusting the United States into a disastrous war with China. Better, says Carpenter, to abandon the U.S. military commitment to defend Taiwan and sell the island the weapons it needs to defend itself.

Supplemental interview footage

Right-click to download videos in Quicktime format.

Full interview: Michael D. Swaine

Full interview: Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson

Full interview: Ambassador Chas. W. Freeman Jr.

Full interview: Ashley J. Tellis

Editor's Note: This video has been edited since its original posting. A small portion was removed at the request of an interviewee.