Taiwan Gains Ground: Strategic Diplomacy through the New Southbound Policy

By Mark Bryan Manantan

Executive Summary

This paper examines how Taiwan uses its influence and integrates itself within the fabric of regional and international politics by means of strategic diplomacy exemplified by its New Southbound Policy (NSP). Understanding the limitations to its diplomatic maneuvering imposed by Beijing’s One China Policy and its growing influence through the Belt and Road Initiative, Taiwan is engaging with the Indo-Pacific region through specific and pragmatic areas of collaboration. From the lens of strategic diplomacy, this paper looks into how, through the NSP, Taiwan leverages its own strengths to achieve complementarity on “niche areas” among its target countries to foster new partnerships. This allows Taiwan to devise a strategic approach that permits greater policy influence in the changing geopolitical landscape.

 To demonstrate Taiwan’s strategic diplomacy, this paper assesses the concrete outcomes of the NSP’s engagement with the Philippines and Indonesia in four key areas: (1) economic engagement, (2) agriculture, (3) public health, and (4) people-to-people relations. In addition, it also provides key policy recommendations on how the NSP can move forward in other areas of cooperation. It concludes that Taiwan must continue to reinvent and reevaluate its strategic diplomacy. Furthermore, it must leverage on complementarity to maximize optimum outcomes rather than focus on zero-sum competition in a fast-evolving regional landscape.