Tim Tai, Photography Editor

As the war in Ukraine sheds light on the vulnerability of small nations bordering authoritarian powers, some experts at Yale and beyond fear that Taiwan — which shares maritime borders with China — might be the next target of invasion. 

Yale’s chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society — a national organization dedicated to educating students on foreign policy and national security — will host a moderated discussion entitled “Defending Taiwan” on Nov. 30, which will broach the subject of Taiwanese vulnerability in the Indo-Pacific region and interrogate whether or not the United States has an obligation to defend Taiwan.

This semester, due to great geopolitical crises in other parts of the globe, AHS noticed a lack of attention on Taiwan on Yale’s campus,” wrote Axel De Vernou ’25, a member of AHS executive board who will be moderating the Wednesday conversation.

The talk will feature professor David Rank of the University’s Jackson School of Global Affairs and Kenneth Weinstein of the Hudson Institute — a D.C.-based conservative policy think tank.

Rank has spent almost three decades in U.S. Foreign Service positions, with ample experience in U.S.-China relations. In 2015 he was awarded the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award for aiding in the release of the only American service-member held in Afghanistan. Following Trump’s 2016 election, he served as the acting ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Weinstein is a prominent conservative intellectual and the Walter P. Stern fellow at the Hudson Institute. In 2020, former President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Weinstein for the position of U.S. ambassador to Japan, which generated widespread bipartisan support.

“I’m thankful that we’ll have the chance to hear David Rank’s and Ken Weinstein’s contrasting perspectives in person, and I’m hopeful this event will spark further discussion on Taiwan among students,” wrote Abe Baker-Butler ’25, another AHS executive board member

De Vernou anticipated that Rank and Weinstein will share largely overlapping perspectives on the slated topics, and for that reason, the event will take the form of a moderated discussion with a question and answer portion where students can raise questions.

The discussion will focus on the potential for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and whether or not the U.S. is obligated to defend Taiwan in the case of a military attack. De Vernou explained that he hopes to center the conversation around the latter question rather than the former.

It is tempting for many Americans to think of Taiwan as irrelevant. After all, it is a small island in the Pacific Ocean less than half the size of West Virginia and thousands [of miles] away from the United States,” wrote AHS President Andrew DeWeese ’24. “Yet it has taken the center stage for geopolitical drama in Asia, and potentially soon the world. China claims it as its own, America pretends to respect this, and no one really knows what the future holds.”

The Alexander Hamilton Society is a national society with chapters at various universities, dedicated to “launching” foreign policy and national security careers “imbued with the Hamiltonian perspective of strong and principled American leadership in global affairs.”

The chapter at Yale seeks to educate  students on American geopolitical policy through a moral lens. To accomplish this goal, they host debates, discussions with leading experts in foreign policy, weekly dinners and seminars.

DeWeese explained that it is their moral imperative — identifying “what is at stake” in the Taiwan question — that Wednesday’s moderated discussion hopes to dig into.

“This event will be no home to utopian solutions or ideological indoctrination,” DeWeese wrote, “Rather, I hope students with many different perspectives and backgrounds will come together and help make this an event that gives clarity and nuance to a significant challenge that lies ahead for all of us.”

The event will take place on Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. in WLH 119.

Ines Chomnalez writes for the University desk covering Yale Law School. She previously wrote for the Arts desk. Ines is a sophomore in Pierson College majoring in History and Cognitive Science.