Using ‘Chain Power’ To Redefine Taiwan’s International Status

The 2024 election in Taiwan has attracted global attention, with the international media often conducting various analyses of what lies ahead for the island. In the election’s aftermath, the focus has been on the impact of the results on relations between the United States and China and the regional situation in East Asia. The main reasons for the comprehensive media coverage the election received were Taiwan’s geopolitical value and its influence on the interactions between the major powers.

After a comprehensive examination of the changes to the international context, major countries’ expectations toward Taiwan, and Taiwan’s national interests, this commentator believes that the term “chain power” may accurately describe Taiwan’s geostrategic value and said national interests.

“Chain power” refers to the power exerted by a particular country based on the links of geography, economy and universal values. One of the characteristics of chain power is its “irreplaceability”: This includes irreplaceability in terms of the robust links created by geographic location and global economy and industry. Taiwan — located centrally among the East Asian island chains, controlling the global supply chain of semiconductors and promoting the values of freedom and democracy — is in simultaneous possession of the “chain power trinity,” namely the island chain, the supply chain, and the democracy chain.

On May 20 of this year, Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party will take office, and it will have to manage both a mercurial situation on the international front and the three major foreign relations that are those between Taiwan and the U.S., Taiwan and Japan and those on either side of the Taiwan Strait. In this context, Taiwan and its chain power can focus on continuously strengthening its own and the island chain’s defense capabilities in the Taiwan-U.S. relationship; it can jointly develop the competitiveness of the semiconductor high-tech supply chain in the Taiwan-Japan relationship, and can carry out dignified and reciprocal exchanges across the Taiwan Strait, through its links to the free and democratic international community.

In international politics and in response to the dramatic changes in the global situation, concepts such as “soft power,” “smart power” and “sharp power” emerged with which to analyze the growth and decline of power in various countries — but beyond the 2020s, it is the era of chain power that will come to dominate the overall context. For the foreseeable future, international relations will continue to be affected by the interplay between technological supply chains and geopolitics. But how to take stock of Taiwan’s tripartite chain power and redefine its international status through security and diplomatic strategies will be the key to shaping the direction of global, regional and Taiwanese development.

The author is a professor at the National Chengchi University’s College of International Affairs and chairman of the Taiwan Japan Academy.

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About Matthew McKay 105 Articles
A British citizen and raised in Switzerland, Matthew received his honors degree in Chinese Studies from the University of Oxford and, after 15 years in the private sector, went on to earn an MA in Chinese Languages, Literature and Civilization from the University of Geneva. Matthew is a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and an associate of both the UK's Institute of Translation and Interpreting and the Swiss Association of Translation, Terminology and Interpreting. Apart from Switzerland, he has lived in the UK, Taiwan and Germany, and his translation specialties include arts & culture, international cooperation, and neurodivergence.

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