Taiwan’s internet connectivity is essential but also vulnerable. A recent war game revealed that the island would face severe communication disruptions in the event of a Chinese blockade. This vulnerability was demonstrated earlier this year when Chinese vessels damaged two submarine cables connecting Taiwan to the Matsu archipelago, causing a months-long internet outage and exposing the island’s susceptibility to attacks. These incidents underscore the need for Taiwan to strengthen its communication capabilities and ensure robust and reliable internet connectivity.
Currently, Taiwan is connected to global telecommunications through 15 submarine cables. However, a Chinese invasion or prolonged blockade could cut off the island from the world, posing significant consequences for the global economy and financial markets, as well as the security of the United States and its regional allies. In light of these risks, the Taiwanese government must prioritize the enhancement of its communication infrastructure.
One potential solution could be partnering with Starlink, Elon Musk’s mobile satellite-internet system. Starlink operates thousands of low-earth-orbit satellites, providing global internet connectivity. The system has been crucial for Ukraine, enabling it to gather intelligence and securely communicate with NATO partners during Russia’s invasion. However, there are concerns about relying solely on Starlink. Musk’s alignment with China and his business interests in the country raise doubts about whether he would prioritize Taiwan’s interests in the event of a conflict.
To protect itself, Taiwan must develop its indigenous capabilities in satellite communications and technologies. This would involve establishing public-private partnerships and consolidating resources to rapidly increase capacity during wartime. The government should also facilitate collaboration between the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Digital Affairs, and the Taiwan Space Agency to exchange intelligence and establish a defense-shield system with regional allies.
The US government should also play a role in supporting Taiwan’s efforts. Allocating funds from acts like the CHIPS Act and the National Defense Authorization Act to co-develop satellite communication technology and semiconductor chips with Taiwan would be beneficial. Additionally, the US should lead in establishing an alliance by forming working groups, setting technology standards, and arranging high-level exchanges.
While Taiwan’s situation differs from Ukraine’s, its digital connectivity vulnerability poses a shared geopolitical concern. It is crucial to invest in maintaining robust connections to the outside world to ensure Taiwan’s security and mitigate potential global crises.