In this talk, I investigate how Taiwan assesses the intentions of, and the threats posed by, a rising China. I seek answers to questions such as these: Is a rising China perceived by Taiwan as an imminent threat? What causes the perception of threat toward China to vary and through what mechanisms? When and how, if possible, can Taiwan’s fear of a rising China be reduced to a modest level? In answering these questions, I first offer a theoretically guided and empirical falsifiable new measure of threat perception. With this new measure, I show that, contrary to prominent existing arguments in East Asian security, Taiwan does not perceive China as that big of a threat as many pundits imagine it does. Second, I introduce a new theory of regional threat perception to account for this empirical puzzle. This new theory synthesizes the balance of threat theory and the liberal argument of peace by trade and economic interdependence, spiced with a dose of political psychology. Using election manifestos, congressional record, newspaper reports, public speeches delivered by national leaders, official documents, as well as public surveys as data, I demonstrate that Taiwan’s threat perception toward China is a function of Taipei’s perceived level of revisionism of Beijing, which is determined by a sequence of two variables: first, whether China exercises restraint in its interaction with Taiwan in terms of sovereignty disputes; and second, whether economic assuring factors associated with China are present or absent.
RONAN TSE-MIN FU
Ronan Tse-min Fu is a Ph.D. Candidate and Sherman Fellow in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Southern California. His research interests lie in the intersection of international relations theory and security studies, with a specific focus on grand strategy, East Asian security, Chinese foreign policy, and the historical basis of contemporary relations in East Asia. He has published in International Security, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and Political Geography. His current book project examines how East Asian states perceive and cope with China’s rise. He received a BA in Diplomacy at National Chengchi University and an MA in Political Science at National Taiwan University.