Andy Barr: Defending Taiwan is vital to U.S. national security and economic interests. | Opinion

I recently traveled to Taiwan with a bipartisan congressional delegation consisting of members of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees. We were the first American delegation to visit with Taiwan’s new President Lai Ching-te and Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim since their May 20 inauguration.

The trip was more than a routine diplomatic mission. It was purposely designed to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to Taiwan at a time of serious and escalating tensions with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

We traveled despite bellicose calls from Beijing to end our support for the island democracy and despite the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) “Joint Sword” military exercise just before our arrival, involving 111 fighter aircraft and 53 naval ships in the airspace and waters surrounding Taiwan.

And it came after an escalating period of pressure against Taiwan, including near-daily PLA air operations into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone, routine Chinese naval and Coast Guard patrols across the Taiwan Strait median line, and unmanned combat aerial vehicle flights near and encircling Taiwan.

Our bipartisan message was unequivocal: There should be no doubt about American resolve to support Taiwan militarily, diplomatically and economically to deter Communist Chinese aggression.

Taiwan’s strategic importance should not be underestimated. It is a mature democracy with a high standard of living, the United States’ eighth-largest trading partner and a capable security partner against rapidly growing aggression from the Chinese Communist Party.

The island produces 90 percent of the world’s advanced semiconductors, including those which power artificial intelligence and other technologies of the future. It produces roughly half of less advanced but critical chips that go into everyday consumer products like Apple iPhones, Lexmark printers, and Toyota Camrys.

More than 75,000 Americans are in Taiwan on any given day. And approximately half of the global fleet of ships that carry freight containers pass through the Taiwan Strait every single year.

Joseph Wu, Secretary-General of Taiwan’s National Security Council, highlighted for our delegation that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would cost the global economy around $10 trillion, surpassing the impacts of the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2008 global financial crisis.

According to the U.S. Army War College, PRC control over Taiwan would create a “geographic wedge” between two U.S. allies (Japan and the Philippines) and a “gateway to the open ocean,” allowing the PLA Navy, which has ballooned in size over the last decade, to send submarines into the Pacific and operate near U.S. coastlines.

Losing a conflict with China or failing to aid Taiwan would weaken our alliance system in the Indo-Pacific and embolden the CCP to use military force to resolve territorial disputes.

In 2022, at the CCP’s 20th National Congress, Chinese leader Xi Jinping emphasized that the forced unification with Taiwan is necessary for the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” and refused to renounce the use of force. In 2023, CIA Director William Burns stated that Xi had instructed the Chinese military to “be ready” to “conduct a successful invasion” of Taiwan by 2027.

The American people deserve to know, at a time of rising isolationism in both major political parties and when our national debt stands at $34 trillion, why U.S. security assistance to Taiwan is so critical.

The answer is simple: A Chinese blockade or invasion of Taiwan would be catastrophic. The entire global trading system would go down within hours. The world’s most sophisticated chip manufacturer, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC) would shut down immediately.

The good news is that there is bipartisan support in Congress for deepening the U.S. - Taiwan relationship, enhancing deterrence and building upon the Taiwan Relations Act, which authorizes the United States to make available to Taiwan defense articles to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.

Last year, Congress passed the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act, which authorized foreign military financing for Taiwan to purchase U.S. arms. More recently, Congress enacted the Indo-Pacific Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, which provides $2 billion in foreign military financing for Taiwan and other key Indo-Pacific allies and security partners confronting Chinese aggression. The American Institute in Taiwan, which performs the same functions as U.S. embassies elsewhere, reported to our delegation that the $19.7 billion backlog of purchased but undelivered U.S. arms has been cut in half.

As we navigate this complex geopolitical landscape, it is imperative that we maintain our unwavering commitment to Taiwan. The security and stability of this region are not just critical to the people of Taiwan but also to the global economy and international order. Our bipartisan efforts are designed to advance peace through strength. The stakes are too high for complacency. We must continue to strengthen our partnerships, uphold our values, and ensure that freedom and democracy prevail in the face of authoritarian threats. The future of Taiwan is the future of global stability and security.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr

U.S. Representative Andy Barr (R-KY) is the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, and serves on the National Security Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, the Indo-Pacific Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.