Tue. Oct 3rd, 2023
Taiwan Must Fortify Satellite Communication Infrastructure Amid Concerns Over Elon Musk’s China Ties

Experts have expressed concerns that Taiwan should strengthen its satellite communication infrastructure rather than relying on Elon Musk’s Starlink, citing his pro-China statements and extensive business interests in China. Jason Hsu, a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, and Richard Y.K. Chen, former vice minister for policy at the Ministry of National Defense (MND), emphasized in a joint article that Musk’s compliance with Chinese demands to shut down Starlink during a conflict in the Taiwan Strait could have severe consequences for Taiwan and the global economy.

The experts urged the Taiwanese government to enhance communication capabilities and ensure a reliable network system. They also recommended that the US establish a working group to collaborate with allies in safeguarding uninterrupted communication with Taiwan.

The concerns outlined in the article include the risks of relying solely on Starlink, the potential alignment of Musk’s interests with Beijing, and his pro-China stance, which even included suggesting Taiwan becoming a special administrative region of China similar to Hong Kong. With these factors in mind, the authors warned that Taiwan’s national security would be at risk without control over its data.

To protect itself, the experts advised Taiwan to develop its own satellite communications and technology capabilities by consolidating resources through public-private partnerships. They also proposed streamlining procurement processes for startups to collaborate with defense contractors.

The article recommended cooperation between the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Digital Affairs, and the Taiwan Space Agency to establish a “defense-shield system” with partners like Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia. It emphasized the need for Taiwan to launch 120 satellites to ensure uninterrupted backup communications and urged officials to act swiftly and seek the support of allies.

In terms of the US’s role, the article suggested allocating funds from the CHIPS Act and the National Defense Authorization Act to jointly develop satellite communications technology and semiconductor chips with Taiwan. It also proposed that the US take the lead in forming an alliance, establishing working groups, setting technical standards, and scheduling high-level visits as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy.

While acknowledging Taiwan’s unique situation, including its separation from China by the Taiwan Strait and its heavy reliance on energy imports, the authors stressed the urgency of fortifying Taiwan’s satellite communication infrastructure amid potential risks.