The Strategic Significance of Taiwan: Former AIT director William Stanton

On October 11, 2013, Dr. William A. Stanton, the former Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (August 28, 2009 to August 1, 2012), was invited by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation to give a presentation on the subject of “The Strategic Significance of Taiwan”. Dr. Stanton, a career diplomat, had served the US State Department since 1978. While he gave a disclaimer that the presentation is based upon his own opinion, and does not represent the view of the United States or the current American Institute in Taiwan, his experience and knowledge speak for itself.


Dr. Stanton states the people of Taiwan often underestimate themselves and their significance in the world stage. While Taiwan appears to be a small island, the size of its population and its economy are significant in the world economy. At the very least, Taiwan should act as a world middle power. The importance of Taiwan, however, goes beyond its economy. For China, the importance of Taiwan goes beyond the usual rhetoric of nationalism, it is strategic. Taiwan’s location prevents China from claiming complete control over the South China Sea and expand its naval power east-ward to compete against the United States. If China were to gain control of Taiwan, major ship lanes that go in and out of the South China Sea will be dominated by China, and major US allies such as Japan will be cut off from trades and supplies. These both have a detrimental effect on the U.S. economy, trade, and jobs here at home, and on U.S. security in the Pacific.

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