Search Icon
4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Perry World House, 3803 Locust Walk
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Penn Museum, 3260 South St.
7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center Lobby
7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St.
Search Icon
Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences
Military drones and live fire drills are just one part of the latest conflict between Taiwan and China, which claims the island under its “One China Principle.” The drills, which began on Aug. 4 after Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s departure from Taipei, continued for an additional 72 hours through Aug. 7. Additionally, China has arrested a Taiwanese activist, sent ships and aircraft to the Taiwan Strait, and imposed new import/export bans. China also announced sanctions against Pelosi and her family, canceled eight bilateral talks and meetings with the United States, and announced that it would now conduct regular drills in the area.
Penn Today spoke with Thomas J. Shattuck, the Global Order Program Manager at Perry World House, to find out more about the conflict. In addition to numerous visits, Shattuck has spent three years living in Taiwan, first on a Fulbright English Teaching grant and later earning a master’s degree in international studies from the National Chengchi University in Taipei.
In 1949, when the political party Kuomintang (KMT) lost the civil war in China, the KMT fled to Taiwan and outlying islands along China’s coast. The Chinese Community Party immediately established what is now known as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), but they never had the power to finish the war, conquer the outlying islands, get over to Taiwan, invade, and fully dispel and defeat the KMT, Shattuck says. The Chinese military attempted to invade one of the outlying islands, Kinmen, but was repelled quickly and decisively in October 1949, largely due to superior weapons supplied by the United States.
While the KMT lost the war, they were able to control Taiwan with the additional protection and support of the U.S., Shattuck says. In 1954-55, the U.S. signed the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty, promising that, were the Chinese to attack certain parts of Taiwan, it would be considered an attack on the U.S and the U.S. would intervene. (This treaty expired in 1979-80, after the U.S. severed its official diplomatic ties with Taipei.)
“Fast forward to 2022, when China has developed its military power. It is now challenging Taiwan politically, economically, and militarily, while trying to prove that the U.S. [either] will not come to Taiwan’s defense or will no longer be enough for Taiwan to maintain its sovereignty,” Shattuck says. “China’s goal is to force a peaceful reunification, so that way China doesn’t have to fight a war to gain control over Taiwan.”
To China, Taiwan represents one of the last few pieces of territory that the CCP believes is rightfully theirs. After the Sino-Japanese war in 1895, the Qing Dynasty had to cede Taiwan to Japan. From 1895 until the end of World War II, Taiwan was a Japanese colony.
The PRC views any territory that was historically Chinese as part of their territory, Shattuck says. “This is the last little bit that they need in order to achieve the ‘Chinese dream.’”
Strategically, with control over Taiwan, China will be able to push beyond the “first island chain,” a string of countries that have security agreements with the U.S., including Japan and the Philippines, and into the Pacific. China could then, in theory, avoid the radar and ships of the U.S. military and their allies. The first island chain provides a ring of defense for the U.S. and its allies. If China has control over Taiwan, that would open up the Western Pacific to Chinese military assets, Shattuck says.
“The question right now is, what will the U.S. do in response?” Shattuck says. “The last time something like this happened was in 1995-96, after the president of Taiwan, Lee Teng-hui, went to Cornell and gave a speech that included controversial remarks about the status of Taiwan.” To protest these remarks, China conducted live fire missile tests in the Taiwan Strait.
“In response, President Bill Clinton sent an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait to show his resolve and displeasure with Beijing,” Shattuck says. “This time, in 2022, the tests are much closer to Taiwan, going over Taiwan’s landmass and capital.”
The U.S. has a historic relationship and a commitment to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, Shattuck says. “If the U.S. does nothing, it would be a severe blow to our credibility in the area.”
The Taiwan Strait is one of the world’s busiest shipping arteries. Almost half of the world’s global container fleet has used the strait this year so far, Shattuck says. Now, China has ships surrounding Taiwan that simulate a blockade. If ships don’t have access to the strait or if they have to divert away from it, this could potentially damage the global economy and incur further shipping delays on an already stressed supply chain system.
China began live fire missile tests on Aug. 4, continuing until Aug. 7. The trajectory of the at least one missile went over the capital in Taipei, landing in the Pacific Ocean within the Japanese exclusive economic zone. State security police also recently arrested Taiwanese activist Yang Chih-yuen. Since Pelosi landed in Taiwan, government websites have gone done due to distributed denial of service attacks.
In addition, China announced new import/export bans, banning the import of Taiwanese products like fish, citrus, and snack foods, while banning the export of natural sand, which Taiwan uses to make semiconductors. Taiwan is the world’s foremost manufacturer of semiconductors, chips used in electronic devices. These countermeasures will likely continue well after the exercises end on Aug. 7, Shattuck says.
“A lot of things are happening that are less flashy than shooting missiles, and those are the things that really matter, because they’re going to damage Taiwan,” Shattuck says.
Campus & Community
President Liz Magill launches University-wide collaborative effort to inform strategic next steps.
Campus & Community
The inauguration ceremony for Penn’s ninth president Liz Magill on Oct. 21 will incorporate decades-long traditions and centuries-old University symbols.
Science & Technology
Through a Projects for Progress award and other University support, students in West Philadelphia are gaining greater access to STEM learning resources at the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Center.
Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences
The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new season and a planned building expansion. Penn Today looks back at the Center’s history—and where it’s going under Penn Live Arts.
If there’s news at Penn, you’ll find it here. We strive to bring you faculty, staff, and student profiles, research updates, and the latest happenings on campus.


Shop Sephari