U.S. citizens willing to risk defending Taiwan against China: survey

10/15/2020 02:30 PM
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The USS Barry, an Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyer that passed through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday. Photo from facebook.com/DDG52
The USS Barry, an Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyer that passed through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday. Photo from facebook.com/DDG52

Washington, Oct. 14 (CNA) Most U.S. citizens are "prepared to take considerable risk" to defend U.S. allies, including Taiwan, against military threats from China, according to survey results released Tuesday by a top U.S. think tank.

Conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the survey asked members of the U.S. public, as well as U.S. thought leaders -- experts in national security, business, academia and human rights -- about China-related issues.

One question the CSIS asked respondents was to rank how important it is to defend U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific if they come under threat from China, on a scale from 1 to 10.

A score of "1" represents "not worth taking any risk to protect them," while "10" signified "worth taking significant risk."

The average score among the public on the importance of defending Taiwan was 6.69, only slightly lower than that for defending South Korea (6.92) and Japan (6.88), but higher than that for Australia (6.38).

The opinion leaders, meanwhile, were even more willing to defend U.S. allies and friends, ranking the importance of defending Japan as the highest (average score of 8.86), followed by Australia (8.71), South Korea (8.6) and Taiwan (7.93), according to the results.

On the topic of war, 11 percent of the public said that a major U.S.-China military conflict is "inevitable," while 26 percent said that such a conflict is "likely," the survey results showed.

Sixty percent said that such a conflict is possible but not likely, while 3 percent said it would be impossible.

U.S. opinion leaders, on the whole, think that a major U.S.-China military conflict is "unlikely," with only 1 percent answering that it is "inevitable," 15 percent ranking it as "likely," an overwhelming 83 percent ranking it as "possible but not likely," and 1 percent thinking that it is "impossible."

Another question posed in the survey, which was offered only to national security experts, was whether the U.S. would prevail in a conflict with China in the Western Pacific.

Although 79 percent of the experts said the U.S. would win if the conflict took place today, only 54 percent were confident that the U.S. would prevail if the conflict happened 10 years from now, survey results show.

In a virtual event on Wednesday in which researchers analyzed the results of the survey, Bonnie Glaser, director of the CSIS' China Power Project, said that "support for Taiwan [in the U.S.] is much more substantial than it was even one year ago."

Video of the online event hosted by the CSIS on Wednesday.

In 2019, Glaser said, a survey by a Chicago think tank found that only 35 percent of U.S. citizens would be in favor of U.S. military action in support of Taiwan if China were to attack.

In the CSIS survey, however, "we found very significantly high scores showing the willingness of Americans to come to the defense of Taiwan," which represents a major shift in attitude, Glaser said.

She attributed the change partly to growing concern in the U.S. about China, as well as growing awareness about Taiwan, which has been prompted in part by Taiwan's "exemplary performance in fighting the spread of COVID-19."

The survey was conducted from July to August this year and the CSIS received responses from 1,000 members of the U.S. public and 440 U.S. opinion leaders, according to the Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

(By Stacy Hsu and Chiang Yi-ching)

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