By Jonah Khu and Taiwan Digital Diplomacy Association

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the growing divide between democratic and authoritarian countries have opened eyes globally to the fragility of the current international system. Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has approached this challenging environment by strengthening ties with democratic partners while enhancing Taiwan’s military capabilities and ensuring economic security.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal published on July 4, the DPP’s 2024 presidential candidate Lai-Ching Te outlined his comprehensive four-point peace plan to preserve peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. 

The Vice President emphasized deterrence through military strength, economic security, democratic partnerships, as well as steady and principled cross-Strait leadership as the core of his plan to “work towards peace and stability for Taiwan and the international community.”

The article set off a debate in Taiwan regarding whether the plan was feasible, and people have been comparing Lai’s framework to that put forward by the Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP). In this article, I asked what foreign nationals from Israel, South Korea, Ukraine, and the United States thought about Lai’s plan and the future of cross-Strait relations.

All interviewees expressed positive views about the DPP-led government’s foreign policy, but they weren’t all satisfied with Lai’s plan. 

When asked about Lai’s support for extending the four-month military service to one year, Eran Bracha, a former officer in Israel’s Defense Forces, said that this policy change doesn’t go far enough.

“Two years is an ideal length for military service. When I hear about a service of four months it sounds very short. You need a longer system of training to build a profession. It’s irrational to shorten the military service,” said the Israeli in reference to KMT proposals to revert to the prior four-month service requirement.


Strengthening partnerships with democracies

All interviewees expressed approval of Lai’s commitment to building stronger relationships with democratic countries. 

Daniel Isaacson, an American Masters student, said “democracies have a moral and strategic commitment to strengthen ties with Taiwan.” 

Isaacson said that the United States can work harder to strengthen ties with Taiwan through trade and investment agreements, helping Taiwan participate in international organizations, and enhancing educational and cultural exchanges.

In his article, Lai mentioned that a record number of parliamentarians, nongovernmental organizations, think tanks, and official delegations have visited Taiwan during the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen, showing that Taiwan is not alone.

Joshua Buchalter from Israel shared his Isaacson’s view, saying that, “Taiwan has done exceptionally well, keeping in mind their status,” but notes that while, “there can be exciting collaboration between Taiwan and Israel, the relationship can only go so far if there isn’t clarity on the (cross-Strait) issue.”

Yulgong Lee from South Korea said South Koreans “understand why Taiwan is urgently looking for friends in the international community and the feeling towards the DPP’s policies is positive.”



In his op-ed, Lai reiterated his commitment to strengthening cooperation with partner militaries to boost combat readiness.

“You cannot be a democracy and only be dependent on yourself. You must have allies,” said Bracha. “You must be strong enough and willing to fight for your rights.” The former military officer pointed to Israel’s experience, adding that “in tough times you need a strong military.”

Buchalter is more pragmatic. “If you depend on yourself and if you're capable to look after yourself, then regardless of what other countries do, when it truly matters and war is unfolding, you can protect yourself, continue to exist, and move forward.”


Cross-Strait peace and stability

Lai said that he will not rule out the possibility of dialogue with Beijing, saying though that any talks must be premised on reciprocity and dignity. 

Issacson said while the military should be built up, “political solutions should be prioritized,” both due to the power imbalance and the ambiguous approaches of democratic countries in the possible event of a military conflict.

All interviewees agreed that Taiwan should continue enhancing military capabilities, in order to “raise the stakes and costs” for possible cross-strait adventurism, as Lai’s op-ed put it.

Regardless of the outcomes of the upcoming presidential elections, Bracha said,“Taiwan is on the right side of history.”

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)

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