The Taiwan Strait: What Can Canada Do?


Threat Assessment | Vol. 1 

The Taiwan Strait: What can Canada do?

Dr. Scott Simon

On January 4, 2023, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former NATO Secretary and founder of the Alliance of Democracies, appealed to the world to support Taiwan. Meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, he said, “The world’s democracies represent 60% of the global economy. If we can work together, then we are representing a formidable force that will create respect in Beijing and other capitals of autocratic nations. Today, Taiwan is a solid democracy, that belongs to the families of the world’s democracies” (Formosa News 2023). Rasmussen’s intent is to deter a military invasion similar to Russia’s war on Ukraine. Due to Taiwan’s geography on a mountainous island across the Taiwan Strait, China cannot get boots on the ground as easily as Russia could in Ukraine. This gives the world time to implement strategies that can deter unilateral aggression in the Taiwan Strait. This protects the United Nations Charter, which seeks to maintain peace and upholds principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. Canada, as a founding member of NATO and Indo-Pacific state, can contribute. 

Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy calls for a “once-in-a-generation global shift” (Canada 2022a: 4) that includes a commitment from Canada to “grow its economic and people-to-people ties with Taiwan while supporting its resilience” (Canada 2022a: 22). Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly announcement that “We need to make sure that the question of the Taiwan Strait is clear and that it remains an international strait” (Sevastopulo 2022) clearly requires new military investments. Although the published strategy is necessarily short on details due to the nature of the exercise, it commits Canadian investment in the military to three areas: 1) enhancing Canada’s security and defence contributions through additional resources and increased engagement in international exercises and operations; 2) augmenting its naval presence, including increasing the number of frigates and collaborating with allies and partners; and 3) expanding capacity building, especially in Southeast Asia, to advance joint priorities and interoperability (Canada 2022a: 15). The initial budget of new funds allocated to the Strategy over the next five years is nearly $2.3 billion, with almost $500 million to reinforce Canada’s Indo-Pacific naval presence and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) participation in regional military exercises (Canada 2022b). 

The goal of this assessment is to identify how Canada, especially the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), can contribute to Taiwan’s resilience. It is not intended to be a Canadian version of military assessments that have already been provided by Japan (Japan 2022a), Taiwan (Dotson 2022), the United States (United States 2022a) and think tanks (Cancian, Cancian, and Heginbotham 2023), but rather to understand where Canada and CAF can contribute. The Indo-Pacific Strategy calls Canada back to the duty defined by former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson: “For collective security to have real meaning for peace, all members must be prepared and willing to join in precisely the kind of action, economic or military, which is necessary to prevent or defeat aggression” (Pearson 1972: 101).  What can Canada do? 

I. Historical Background

A. Taiwan

Until 1624, when the Dutch established a trading colony in what is today’s Tainan, Taiwan’s only permanent settlements were those of the Austronesians who became today’s Indigenous peoples. After the Dutch left in 1662, Hokkien and Hakka settlers from China began taking over the western plains of the island. When Canadian missionary George Leslie Mackay arrived in 1871 (beginning people-to-people relations between Canada and Taiwan), Indigenous peoples still enjoyed autonomy in the mountains (Mackay 2005 [1895]). After Japan took the island in 1895, the inhabitants started to consider themselves as a people with rights to self-determination, a position supported by Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong in his 1936 interview with journalist Edgar Snow (Snow 1968: 110). This history is important because it reveals the falsehood of China’s frequent claims that Taiwan was always part of China. 

During World War II, Taiwanese people fought as Japanese citizens and survived Allied aerial bombings, but Japan’s defeat put them on a new trajectory. Based on wartime agreements between the Allies, the Republic of China (ROC) under President Chiang Kai-shek took administration of Taiwan on the day Japan surrendered. The transition proved difficult for the Taiwanese and, after uprisings in 1947, Chiang put the island under martial law. The Taiwanese appealed to the United Nations and US occupying forces to recognize their rights to self-determination, but their calls were unheeded. The ROC, founding member of the UN and member until 1971, was able to block such initiatives. 

After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, Chiang’s government retreated to Taiwan. In 1952, the San Francisco Peace Treaty that ended the war with Japan and the Taipei Peace Treaty between Japan and the ROC solidified Chiang’s rule over Taiwan. The six million Taiwanese who had lived through the Japanese period and more than one million Chinese who arrived with the ROC eventually found a modus vivendi for living together, creating modern Taiwan. But, the PRC and the ROC never concluded a peace treaty, and even clashed in two Taiwan Strait crises in the 1950s. 

Most Taiwanese simply wish to live in peace. Surveys reveal that only 1.3% want unification and 5.3% independence as soon as possible, but 87.2% prefer maintaining some variant of the status quo (National Chengchi University Election Study Centre 2022). Since the first direct presidential election in 1996, governments led by both the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have continued to use the name and symbols of the Republic of China. This is Taiwan’s “One China” policy. The PRC nonetheless seeks to annihilate the ROC through peaceful or other means, and euphemistically calls their goal to annex Taiwan “reunification.” One of their strategies is to coerce third countries to recognize their claims to Taiwan. 

B. Navigating Relations with China and Taiwan

Canada has always navigated relations with China and Taiwan in challenging contexts. Canada established diplomatic relations with the ROC on November 6, 1941. After the Communist revolution, the ROC retained an embassy in Ottawa, but Canada did not send a representative to Taipei (Hilliker and Barry 1995: 56). In contrast with the US, which signed a Mutual Defence Treaty with Taipei and stationed troops on Taiwan, Canada remained tepid about relations with the ROC. In 1955, Canada’s cabinet concluded that Taiwan’s future is an undetermined international issue (Canada 1955). By the 1960s, Canada was ready to recognize the PRC, hoping Taiwan would maintain an autonomous place in the world (Martin 1966). Dual recognition was impossible at the time, primarily because authoritarian regimes on both sides of the Taiwan Strait insisted that they alone are the legitimate government of China. Debates about which state represents China overshadowed considerations for rights of the peoples of Taiwan. 

When Canada and China began negotiations in 1968, both sides had firm positions. Cabinet instructed Canadian negotiators to not accept any commitment that would preclude possible future recognition of an independent state of Taiwan. China demanded three constant principles as pre-conditions for diplomatic relations: (1) recognizing the PRC as the sole government of China (excluding a “two China” solution), (2) recognizing Taiwan as part of Chinese territory (excluding a “one-China, one-Taiwan” solution), and (3) severing all relations with the “Chiang Kai-shek gang” and supporting PRC entry into the United Nations (Edmonds 1998: 206-207). Canada accepted two of the three constant principles, but the two sides could only agree to disagree about Taiwan. Canada made ingenious arguments, including that Canada does not ask China to endorse its claims to Arctic islands and that China should similarly not ask Canada to endorse its claim to an offshore island (Edmonds 1998: 209). Canada refused to reject a possible “one-China, one-Taiwan” future. 

  The joint communiqué, of October 10, 1970, stated, “the Chinese Government reaffirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China. The Canadian government takes note of this position of the Chinese government.” Secretary of State for External Affairs Mitchell Sharp added an explanation to Parliament that “take note” means that Canada will “neither challenge nor endorse” China’s claims to Taiwan. Canada considered that gloss to be an integral and important part of the recognition formula (Edmonds 1998: 212). Canada’s protocol to neither challenge nor endorse remains the cornerstone of Canada’s policy in the Taiwan Strait, as explained to Parliament on February 14, 2022, by Weldon Epp, Director General for North Asia (Canada 2022c). 

The Canada-China communiqué committed Canada to diplomatic relations with China, recognizing the PRC as China’s sole government. It ended Canadian recognition of the ROC as China, but did not end relations with Taiwan, simply because Canada never had state-to-state relations with “Taiwan” in the first place. Canada deliberately remained silent about Taiwan’s status, because disagreement would have aborted negotiations. Moreover, in Taiwan of those days, people promoting independence from the ROC were subject to persecution. Canadians knew about Taiwanese aspirations, because of reports from Canadian missionaries and Taiwanese in exile. Canada kept options open for Canada-Taiwan relations in the eventuality of political evolution. 

Ties between Canada and Taiwan flourished, even in the absence of formal diplomatic relations. Canada is represented in Taiwan by the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei; and Taiwan in Canada by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. Taiwan has become Canada’s 13th largest trading partner and the 5th in Asia (Canada 2022d).  An estimated 200,000 people of Taiwanese descent live in Canada; and at least 60,000 Canadian citizens live in Taiwan (Chase 2021).  Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, Taiwan has transformed into a vibrant democracy. Sharing progressive values with Canada, Taiwan is the only country in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage and is working on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The Indo-Pacific Strategy now commits Canada to support Taiwan’s resilience. Although Canada has never endorsed China’s claim to Taiwan, the Indo-Pacific Strategy is Canada’s most explicit public commitment to keeping the Taiwan Strait open as international waters. The government needs to keep the public informed about the importance of Taiwan to Canadian interests, the threats from China, and how Canada will respond. 

II. The Chinese Threat to Taiwan Today and Global Responses

A. The Threat from China 

One measure of China’s intent is the number of Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) warplane incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ). Because aircraft usually request prior authorization before entering a foreign ADIZ, an ADIZ permits an air force to identify potential threats, scramble jets, and repel unauthorized military aircraft. More sensitive yet is the median line in the Taiwan Strait has served as an effective boundary since it was drawn by the US in 1955. Until 1999, both sides respected a tacit agreement to not cross the median line. Since then, Chinese warplanes have crossed the line with increasing regularity. China now declares that there is no median line in the Taiwan Strait (China 2022). China’s active repudiation of the median line challenges the status quo. 

Data from the ROC Ministry of National Defence show increased PLA incursions. In 2019, only 11 to 20 PLA sorties violated Taiwan’s ADIZ over the Taiwan Strait. That increased to 390 in 2020, 972 in 2021, and 1,737 in 2022. 2022 was a major escalation because there were 564 crossings of the Davis Line, compared to 22 in 2020 and none in 2021. The PLA demonstrates increasing interest in the Southwest ADIZ over the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines. Incursions into the Southwest ADIZ increased from 127 in 2020 to 972 in 2021 and 1,166 in 2022 (Brown 2023). 

China often uses military actions to announce displeasure over US support of Taiwan. In August 2022, immediately after a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China launched comprehensive air and naval exercises in six zones around Taiwan, and even launched missiles into Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone. On December 25, China sent 71 warplanes to conduct a “strike exercise” just after President Biden approved up to $10 billion in military aid to Taiwan (Agence France-Presse 2023). These new military actions normalize PLA activity closer to Taiwan and shorten Taiwan’s response time. China’s framing of military escalation as a response to US provocation is cognitive warfare designed to hinder international support for Taiwan. 

Taiwan’s military identifies eight scenarios: 1) cognitive warfare; 2) grey zone operations; 3) joint military intimidation; 4) joint sea and air blockade; 5) seizing outlying islands; 6) decapitation warfare; 7) joint firepower strikes; and 8) all-out invasion (Dotson 2022). The PLA is already engaged in the first three. The intent is to target the mindset of Taiwan’s population, and dissuade other states from engaging with Taiwan. An all-out invasion may be unlikely in the near future because of unfavourable climatic conditions in the Taiwan Strait for most of the year, Taiwan’s asymmetric defence preparations against amphibious attack, the difficulty of occupying territory and maintaining supply lines in the face of military and civilian resistance, not to mention US involvement (Easton 2017). But even a blockade of Taiwan would be a global economic catastrophe. Nikkei estimates that 3% of the world’s gross domestic product would be lost in the event of sanctions against China, and that China would face an unprecedented food security crisis (Nikkei 2022).

China’s threats to Taiwan are only part of a more comprehensive military build-up. The nominal size of China’s announced defence budget has grown 39-fold since 1992, and the 2022 budget was 7.1% higher than in the previous year (Japan 2022a: 33). China has modernized its forces, invested in missile and nuclear technology, illegally constructed military facilities on artificial islands in the South China Sea, and made regular incursions in Japan’s sea area and airspace. China plans “intelligentized warfare” that integrates kinetic warfare with cognitive domains (attempts to manipulate public opinion and psychology). The PLA is bolstering Anti-Access/Area-Denial capabilities closer to home and preparing to project operational capabilities in the Pacific and beyond (Japan 2022a: 30-52).

China’s objectives are keeping international military assets out of the Taiwan Strait, preventing high-level contacts between Taiwan and third countries, and squeezing Taiwan’s diplomatic space. Those goals may seem peaceful, but they are part of China’s cognitive warfare and necessary pre-conditions for successful PLA offensive actions. They thus also provide hints as to how the world can respond. 

B. The Global Response

Taiwan and its democratic partners are determined to deter unilateral Chinese aggression. Japan, Taiwan’s closest neighbour, has been calling for a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” since 2016, building up on ideas that Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe first introduced in a speech to India’s Parliament in 2007. In its 2022 National Security Strategy, Japan highlighted the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait as “an indispensable element for the security and prosperity of the international community” (Japan 2022b: 14). Japan increased its defence budget by 26.3% and plans to meet the NATO goal of 2% of GDP by 2027 (Takahashi 2022). 

The US, historically the strongest supporter of Taiwan’s security, promises to support Taiwan’s self-defence capabilities and an environment in which Taiwan’s future can be determined peacefully in accordance with the wishes of the Taiwanese (United States 2022b: 13).  The US included the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act in its 2022 National Defence Authorization Act, which promised $10 billion in military aid to Taiwan. This law is a whole-of-government strategy to support Taiwan (United States 2022c). 

Various European countries, the European Union, NATO, ASEAN, and South Korea have also announced Indo-Pacific approaches, although they are rarely as explicit as Canada, the US, and Japan in support of Taiwan and sometimes avoid mentioning Taiwan at all. France’s Indo-Pacific strategy defines tensions in the Taiwan Strait as part of Sino-American tension, and commits itself to a multilateral international order based on law (France 2022: 10). France has nonetheless shown support for Taiwan by sending the frigage Vendémaiaire through the Taiwan Strait (Lagneau 2022), and France’s Senate calls for a stronger, more realistic strategy with increased support for Taiwan (France 2023). In the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt, its most recent integrated review of international policy called China a “systemic competitor” and identified China’s international assertiveness as the most significant geopolitical factor of the 2020s (United Kingdom 2021: 26). The UK has also sent warships through the Taiwan Strait (Agence France-Press 2021), and there are explicit calls to use AUKUS to defend Taiwan (Spinck 2022). NATO (NATO 2022) has explicitly identified China’s aggression in the Taiwan Strait as one of the greatest security risks today. 

A convergence toward supporting Taiwan against Chinese aggression is evident in the G7 Foreign Ministers August 3, 2022, joint statement: “We reiterate our shared and steadfast commitment to maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage all parties to remain calm, exercise restraint, act with transparency, and maintain open lines of communication to prevent misunderstanding” (Germany 2022).  

Democratic countries have responded to the threats from China by creating new security groupings. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad, for short), first introduced in 2007 for disaster relief, has the four members of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, but has embraced a flexible “Quad Plus” to include other states as needed. AUKUS, a trilateral security pact including Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, was launched in 2021 along with plans to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines. Five Eyes (FVEY) is an intelligence alliance that includes the AUKUS members, plus Canada and New Zealand. These groupings can all play important roles in preventing or deterring Chinese aggression against Taiwan. 

Of course, Taiwan has responded most urgently through military modernization, arms purchases, and preparation to deter any Chinese aggression (Easton 2017). The most recent change is that Taiwan began a comprehensive military force realignment that includes extending conscription from four months to one year. President Tsai Ing-wen said, “only be preparing for war can we avoid it, and only by being capable of fighting a war can we stop one” (ROC 2022). 


III. A Role for Canada and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)

Since 1979, the US has made it clear that diplomatic relations with the PRC depend on the expectation “that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means” (United States 1979). Canada is also increasingly clear-eyed about the fact that engagement alone has failed to dissuade China from military aggression. This is why Joly reiterates that “We will challenge China when we ought to, and we will co-operate with China when we must” (Asia Pacific Foundation 2022). China regularly warns other countries about crossing its red lines in regard to Taiwan. Democratic countries need to remind China that they also have red lines. 

China has been hostile to Canada, including “buzzing” Canadian military aircraft in the region on UN missions (Chase 2022), launching cyber-attacks (Canada 2022e), sending spy balloons over Canadian territory, and engaging in electoral interference. China also has ambitions in Canada’s Arctic (Lackenbauer, et al., 2018). Taiwan is the frontline of a broader Chinese threat, which makes their security concerns urgent for Canada.  

There are many things that Canada can do to support Taiwan’s resilience. First is to conclude the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement that Trade Minister Mary Ng first announced in January 2022 (Canada 2022f). Canada should support Taiwan’s entry into the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. Canada should continue supporting Taiwan’s entry into international organizations such as the World Health Assembly and the International Civil Aviation Organization. Canada’s “take note” formula may even serve as a useful model (McCuaig-Johnston 2021). Canada should not block Canadian companies from providing Taiwan with defence equipment and supplies needed in the event of an invasion. Canada should at all costs avoid self-censorship intended to please Chinese diplomats, as this only reinforces impressions that Canada is weak and can be intimidated. Canada must remind China occasionally that it does not endorse their claim to Taiwan, and that its policy has not changed. 

Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy promises to push back against any unilateral actions that threaten the status quo. In 2018, retired Commodore Eric Lerhe argued that clearer support of Taiwan is needed because China has not responded to engagement policies. Quite ominously, he suggested that if the situation deteriorates to levels similar to the 1995/96 Taiwan Straits crisis, the US would likely take action with support from other countries (Lerhe 2018: 28). Lerhe argued for incremental and multilateral Canadian actions. Canada already coordinates with the US, Japan, and other allies, but should not hesitate to consult Taiwan. Because China is likely to react with economic sanctions, economic security alliances are crucial to secure supply chains. Canada cannot change China, but can contribute to a modus vivendi that protects an inclusive, free, and open Indo-Pacific. 

The CAF should consider a number of actions to support Taiwan’s resilience and protect the peaceful status quo, within the framework of Canada’s China protocol. CAF actions will inevitably happen in the context of military relations with, not just the US and NATO, but also with Japan (Canuel 2022), Australia, and other like-minded countries. Military cooperation includes formal agreements, military-to-military exchanges, joint operations, and a permanently forward-deployed presence (Canuel 2022). In the absence of formal state-to-state relations, Canada cannot yet have the same level of exchanges with Taiwan’s military. Nonetheless, Canada can enhance its presence in the Taiwan Strait on the assumption that reinforcing Japan’s security augments wider regional peace. Supporting Taiwan’s resilience requires strong Japanese Self-Defence Forces, because Japan’s waters and airspace would likely be violated by China in aggression against Taiwan. This means that Canada needs to work with urgency toward bilateral information sharing and reciprocal access agreements with Japan.  

For Taiwan, I make the following recommendations:  

Protect and support freedom of navigation.  Canada must uphold, with allies, freedom of navigation as protected in international law, including in international waters of the Taiwan Strait (Robertson 2022). This requires Taiwan Strait transits, which the Royal Canadian Navy has done since 2018. Taiwan Strait transits remind China that the world is concerned about peace and security of Taiwan. Canadian presence is welcomed in Taiwan and signals support to partners such as Japan. The Indo-Pacific Strategy already promises more Canadian frigates. Canada does not always have to patrol the Taiwan Strait with the US. The RCN can also transit with Japan, the UK, France, Australia, India, or others. A varied security geometry may in fact be the most effective deterrence. This is a fundamental element of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. Allies can also communicate to Beijing that these actions will decrease if China recognizes the median line in the Taiwan Strait, ceasing its ADIZ incursions and maritime grey zone tactics against Taiwan. 

Increase participation in military exercises with allies and partners. As promised in the Indo-Pacific Strategy, the CAF should increase participation in US-led and Japan-led joint and bilateral exercises. Canada is already present at RIMPAC in Hawaii, as well as KAEDEX and Keen Sword, etc., and the RCN makes frequent port calls in Japan. Canada should prioritize military cooperation with the United States and Japan, but also seek cooperation with the UK, France, Australia, India, and ASEAN states. Canada should welcome US initiatives to invite Taiwan as an observer to RIMPAC and other exercises. Increased collaboration with the Philippines, considering the value of the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, would also be especially useful, and is already beginning.

Strengthen security dialogues.  A lot of attention in Ottawa has been paid to Canada’s absence in the Quad and AUKUS, but limited engagement with those groupings is also be an opportunity to invest resources elsewhere. Canada is already involved in Five Eyes. Canada can follow US and Japanese precedents by including Taiwan in bilateral military discussions. Canadian forces do not need to train in or with Taiwan (as do Singapore and the US), but can engage Taiwan in areas of common interest, such as diversity or inclusion of Indigenous peoples in the military. Dialogue on the shared threat of Chinese cognitive warfare is urgently needed. Canada should not hesitate to send delegations to Taiwan and even, following the Japanese example, engage in “private visits” at high levels. These should not be one-off events. Taiwan and Canada should include military analysts, equivalent to military attachés, in their representative offices. This is the kind of support for Taiwan’s resilience that cannot be publicly revealed in policy statements, but must be done discretely. The goal is to get to know each another and build trust for an ongoing working relationship.

Engage with the Coast Guard. The precedent for this suggestion is the US, which includes Taiwan in exercises and has a Coast Guard Working Group since 2021. US-TW Coast Guard MOU includes protecting maritime resources, combatting IUU fishing, and joint search and rescue operations. Canada can do this, too, maybe even selecting to collaborate with ROC diplomatic allies in Micronesia or the Caribbean. 

Dare to make port calls.  An RCN visit to Kaohsiung would be far less provocative that a US naval port call (which China explicitly has called causus bellus). Moreover, a port call doesn’t have to be the RCN in Taiwan. It could also go in the other direction, as Taiwan’s Navy could visit Canada. A precedent would be how Canada invited Japan to observe Operation Nanook. Port calls have the advantage of engaging troops and local civilians, as well as higher ranking leaders. They would show Canadian support to Taiwan, but also provide an opportunity for Canadians to learn about Taiwan and its importance. 

Research and development. Considering the ways in which China is pursuing military “intelligentization” to obtain its strategic objectives, Canada must invest heavily in research and development. This must include technology, including AI, but also in space, cyber and cognitive domains. Research in social science dimensions is needed to counteract cognitive warfare, but in use of human resources. Since Taiwan has strong resources in these areas, both Canada and Taiwan will benefit from accelerated research collaboration. 

Modernization of Canada’s Military: Considering that Canada already has important commitments to North American Defence, the Canadian Arctic, and Europe, the military components of the Indo-Pacific Strategy will require new resources. In addition to the parsimonious budget already allocated to specific projects in the Indo-Pacific, Canada will have to update its defence acquisition plans, especially for the Navy, if it is to have the capacity to help allies and partners deter Chinese aggression, and to be prepared for conflict in the event that deterrence fails.   



The objective of an increased Canadian presence in the Indo-Pacific and around Taiwan is not to fight a war, but rather to prevent one from beginning in the first place. Canada cannot do this alone, but can collectively work with allies and partners, including Taiwan, to continually raise the cost to China of unilateral aggressive action. The goal is not to “contain” China, but rather to create an external environment where its leaders know that aggressive military actions will have serious consequences. Simultaneously, there must be incentives for China to sustain the international rules-based order that has underwritten their own rapid economic growth over the past four decades. Taiwan’s security and resilience are strengthened by increased all-of-society integration with international partners. 

Canada calls the Indo-Pacific Strategy a once-in-a-generation shift. This will require not only political support, but also broad social acceptance of increased investment in the military, because increased military budgets entail sacrifices elsewhere. Canada needs to at least increase defence spending to meet NATO goals of 2% of GDP, if it is to attain the goals of the Indo-Pacific Strategy. A generational shift also requires getting more Canadians interested in military careers. The generation of Canadians ready to serve in the upcoming two decades have different values than those who remember a more active Canadian presence in wars and international peacekeeping. Canada must make it clear to Canadians that an enhanced Canadian military presence in the Indo-Pacific is an independent Canadian policy choice, designed to project the goals of the UN Charter, peace, and our own economic prosperity. It is not merely taking sides in some great power competition. The generational shift requires a visible change in the CAF, to meet evolving Canadian values in equity, diversity, and inclusion. Canada’s diversity is its advantage and can demographically make the CAF a truly Indo-Pacific force. The military needs to cooperate with other sectors of society to educate the Canadian public about the importance of the Indo-Pacific to our own security. 

Taiwan is a frontline democracy in a generational struggle against authoritarianism with an intensity that the world has not seen since World War II. Because Taiwan is the lynchpin of the Indo-Pacific, a Chinese conquest could embolden China further abroad, including in the Canadian Arctic. For now, Taiwan is economically and socially intertwined with Canada, and this relationship has made both countries more prosperous. Canada is protecting its own interests and values by supporting Taiwan’s resilience. Canada and Canadian Armed Forces have important roles to play in protecting and nourishing an inclusive, free and open Indo-Pacific, with Taiwan as a full partner. 


Scott Simon (Ph.D., McGill University, 1998), is a socio-anthropologist trained in both disciplines (anthropology and sociology). Co-holder of the Chair of Taiwan Studies at the University of Ottawa, he has lived in Taiwan for ten years and returns annually for field research. He has also done field research in Japan and Guam. His research interests include Indigenous rights, development, the contribution of Taiwan to the Indo-Pacific, Taiwan’s international status, and Canada-Taiwan relations. He has written four books and numerous articles about Taiwan. He does policy-oriented research as member of the Centre for International Policy Studies and the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa, and as Senior Fellow at Ottawa’s Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

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