Why is China Turning up the Heat on Taiwan? A Debate


Beijing’s political and military pressure on Taiwan has been growing markedly, and some statements by senior Chinese leaders suggest a growing impatience for reunification.  These developments have spurred an American debate over the effectiveness of long-standing US cross-strait policies.  But whether and how to adjust US policy depends critically on assessments of Beijing’s motivations and intentions.  Have Chinese leaders given up on peaceful reunification?  Are they likely to attack Taiwan once they sense a favorable military balance?  Or are they reacting to perceived Taiwanese and American actions while looking for reasons not to use force?

On July 7, 2021, the Center for the National Interest hosted a debate between leading experts over why China is turning up the heat on Taiwan.  

•    Oriana Skylar Mastro is a Center Fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, where she works primarily in the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center and in the Center for International Security and Cooperation. She is also a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.  

•    David Stilwell was Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2019 to 2021. He previously served as the Defense Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, as the Director of the China Strategic Focus Group at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, and as an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the East West Center in Honolulu. 

•    Paul Heer is a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for the National Interest. He served for 30 years as an analyst in the U.S. government, having worked as an analytic manager and member of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Senior Analytic Service prior to becoming NIO for East Asia, a position he held from 2007 to 2015. He was a Visiting Intelligence Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 1999 to 2000, and was elected a Life Member of CFR in 2001. 

•    Lieutenant General Wallace ‘Chip’ Gregson, Senior Director for China and the Pacific at the Center for the National Interest, and a former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and Pacific Security Affairs, moderated the debate.