This document shares the results of an exercise organized by the RAND Corporation to explore the risk of an escalation of Chinese activities in the gray zone to conventional warfare. The results showed an overall low risk of Taiwanese escalation due to Chinese military might and Chinese and US restrictions on Taiwanese decision-making. The US exercise team would consider escalation of military force only if Taiwan faced an existential threat, and the Taiwan team would not escalate without US support.
In addition, the US team was significantly more willing to intervene and supportive when Taiwan took steps to defend itself in line with the US strategy. The two countries face a prisoner’s dilemma in that their strategies security depend on each other, but each side is waiting for the other to signal a deeper commitment before implementing mutually beneficial policies.
This research was sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and was conducted within the International Center for Security and Defense Policy at RAND’s National Security Research Division (NSRD).
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