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Based on Taiwan Relations Act, U.S. will help Taiwan defend itself. One important reason that Taiwan is strategically important to United States is that it has a very strong semiconductor industry. However, U.S. government has been prioritizing domestic semiconductor manufacturing and research and development in recent years and TSMC also has plans of building new factories overseas, for example in Arizona, United States. This indicates that one day Taiwan's semiconductor industry may no longer be irreplaceable.

This gives rise to a natural question: why should United States care about the defense of Taiwan if not for Taiwan's role in the supply chain of semiconductor industry? Or in others words, is/why is Taiwan still strategically important to United States without its semiconductor industry?

By "strategically important", I am asking from a purely utilitarian point of view.


My question is more from the point of view of United States. I asked a question about this from the point of view of China before.

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  • 1
    You should not forget China in this context.
    – convert
    Mar 10 at 22:10
  • 2
    @convert Right, that is why I included China in the labels. I could write a lot about China in the body of my question but I also realize that I should refrain from expressing my too much of personal opinions in my question. BTW I have very poor understanding of the importance of "first island chain" or "using Taiwan as a bastion against China" and wish someone could address that in their answer (with convincing arguments)
    – No One
    Mar 10 at 22:17
  • Doesn't see the US China as their biggest future threat? Letting China potentially invade Taiwan may be seen as weakness.
    – Trilarion
    Mar 10 at 22:25
  • @Trilarion Well, I mentioned that I am asking from a purely utilitarian point of view. Being seen as "weakness" is not quite "utilitarian“. For example, at the moment not sending troops to Ukraine is also seen as "weakness" to some people although it is completely "utilitarian"
    – No One
    Mar 10 at 22:29
  • 2
    I think the posturing over defending Taiwan comes from the fact the US military thinks it can do it without risking an all-out nuclear confrontation with China in the near future, because China has much fewer nuclear weapons. If China had as many nukes as Russia does, the US would probably not be so eager to appear ready to get into a hot war with China over Taiwan. See politics.stackexchange.com/a/69440/18373 for some detail on the nuke balance (or rather lack thereof) between US and China.
    – Fizz
    Mar 10 at 22:59

1 Answer 1

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I'm not sure you'd get a better answer than what Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Affairs, has formulated in a recent (Dec 2021) hearing:

I’d like to begin with an overview of why Taiwan’s security is so important to the United States. As you know, Taiwan is located at a critical node within the first island chain, anchoring a network of U.S. allies and partners—stretching from the Japanese archipelago down to the Philippines and into the South China Sea—that is critical to the region’s security and critical to the defense of vital U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific. Geographically, Taiwan is also situated alongside major trade lanes that provide sea lines of communication for much of the world’s commerce and energy shipping. It is in part for these strategic reasons that this Administration, like those before it, has affirmed our commitment to our one-China policy, as guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint U.S.-PRC Communiques, and the Six Assurances.

Taiwan is also integral to the regional and global economy. Its free-market economy embraces innovation, entrepreneurship, and private-sector led growth, which has helped Taiwan become a valuable economic and trade partner for the United States. Indeed, our economy—like many others around the world—has come to count on Taiwan as a critical supplier of high-technology, including semiconductors.

Moreover, Taiwan is a beacon of democratic values and ideals. In stark contrast to deepening authoritarianism and oppression in the PRC, Taiwan has proven the possibilities of an alternative path to that of the Chinese Communist Party.

Regarding the 1s para, the Island Chain Strategy never seems to get old for the Pentagon.

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  • Thanks for this reference! I thought I was always alert about news on Taiwan, but somehow missed this one...
    – No One
    Mar 11 at 22:44

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