Taiwanese doubts US would send troops if China invades

The Taiwanese negative views double from October as response to Ukraine war stirs doubts: poll

The share of Taiwan residents who do not believe the U.S. would send troops in response to a Chinese attack has doubled compared with before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a new poll shows.

According to a report, only one-third of Taiwanese watching America’s response to the war in Ukraine are confident they will receive direct U.S. military support in the event of a Chinese invasion, according to a new survey. One in six fear they will have to fight alone.

The growing security relationship between Taipei and Washington—marked by regular arms sales and backed by both the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government—is increasing favorable views of America on the island, but it has also raised the expectation of military assistance if China moves to annex Taiwan.

In a poll published on Tuesday, the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation (TPOF) think-tank found 34.5 percent of respondents believed U.S. forces would take part in a joint defense of Taiwan against a Chinese invasion, versus 55.9 percent who thought the opposite. It was a sharp decline from just six months earlier, when another TPOF survey recorded confidence in an American military response at 65 percent.

The survey, which interviewed 1,077 adults above the age of 20 between March 14 and 15, reflected fundamental concerns about the West’s indirect military support for Kyiv. Some 59.7 percent said they were worried Taiwan, like Ukraine, would have to fight China’s invasion force alone, while 78 percent of respondents said Taiwan wouldn’t be able to prevent a Chinese occupation by itself.

The findings—no doubt influenced by some recency bias—aren’t indicative of deeper skepticism of the White House or approval of the Kremlin. By all meaningful measures, Taiwan’s public sides with the West against Russia. The respondents don’t believe Vladimir Putin’s war is legitimate (73.2 percent); they sympathize with Ukraine (87.2 percent), and think their government is right to sanction Moscow (64.4 percent).

Although the majority of Taiwanese residents don’t believe a Chinese invasion is imminent, a December poll found seven in 10 were willing to take up arms to oppose annexation—Beijing’s “unification” of the Taiwan Strait. That number is likely to rise as a result of Ukraine’s ongoing resistance. In fact, more than three-quarters of the TPOF’s respondents were in favor of extending Taiwan’s conscription period.

Lastly, Tuesday’s TPOF survey was unable to capture complex factors behind the West’s response in Ukraine, such as reluctance among NATO members to become involved militarily. While a similar defensive bloc doesn’t exist in Asia, Taiwanese do appear to be counting on a reaction from Japan. 43.1 percent of those polled believed the Japan Self-Defense Forces would help Taiwan, falling by 14.9 percentage points from the think tank’s October 2021 survey.

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Prior to Russia’s invasion, Taiwan’s long-term faith in U.S. military support had been on the rise. Last month, polling figures reached 58.8 percent. Among those aged 20-29, that belief rose to nearly 70 percent, according to Taiwan’s CommonWealth Magazine. But regardless of what the Taiwanese believe, American public opinion will be a key factor in whether and how a future U.S. administration responds to Beijing’s attempts to capture the island.

A January poll by the Trafalgar Group and the Convention of States Action found only one in six Americans were in favor of putting U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine—most preferred other means of support. When asked about the defense of Taiwan, however, 58.1 percent approved the use of “U.S. military assets” in such a scenario.

The trend followed an August 2021 survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs think tank, which found 52 percent of respondents favored using U.S. troops to defend Taiwan if China were to invade the island, the highest level ever recorded since the question was first asked in 1982.

 

 

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