Taiwan’s Foreign Policy Transformation: Tsai Ing-wen and the New Southbound Policy

Date

2023-05-04

Authors

Waltz, Cameron

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Abstract

This thesis investigates the introduction of the New Southbound Policy and the evolution of Taiwan’s foreign policy more broadly. It asks why President Tsai Ing-wen introduced the New Southbound Policy, and how the NSP makes her foreign policy distinct from her predecessors. This thesis introduces an analytical framework for explaining how international forces, domestic forces, leadership, and constraints collectively shape Taiwan’s foreign policy. It then applies this framework to ROC Presidents Lee, Chen, Ma, and Tsai to explain their foreign policy choices. My argument is that Tsai Ing-wen introduced the New Southbound Policy as a response to both international and domestic concerns. The NSP was designed not only to further Tsai’s foreign policy interests by reducing economic dependence on China but also to serve her domestic agenda by delivering economic growth. At the same time, this thesis argues that the NSP was chosen over more aggressive options due to domestic political constraints and institutional constraints. The NSP sets Tsai’s foreign policy apart because it introduces new methods of economic and soft-power engagement that innovatively uses Taiwan’s limited set of foreign policy tools. Importantly, this thesis contributes to the existing literature by emphasizing the significant role that domestic politics and constraints play in motivating and shaping the foreign policy choices of Taiwan’s leaders.

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