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How the Finlandization of Taiwan Benefits US Security

Work of DIIS researcher debated and applied in 'Foreign Affairs'

Bruce Gilley, ‘Not so Dire Straits. How the Finlandization of Taiwan Benefits US Security’. Foreign Affairs Jan/Feb 2010. Vol. 89, Iss. 1, pg. 44, 16 pgs.
Extract from the article, pp. 48-49:
‘Building on the works of others, the Danish political scientist Hans Mouritzen in 1988 proposed a general theory of Finlandization known as “adaptive politics” [‘adaptive acquiescence’]. Mouritzen stressed the fundamental difference between a Finlandized regime and a client, or “puppet,” state, explaining that the former makes some concessions to a larger neighbor in order to guarantee important elements of its independence – voluntary choices that the latter could never make. Unlike a puppet regime, a Finlandized state calculates that its long-term interests, and perhaps those of its neighbors, are best served by making strategic concessions to a superpower next door. These concessions are motivated chiefly by geographic proximity, psychological threats from the superpower, and cultural affinities between the two sides. Being so close, the superpower need only issue vague threats, rather than display actual military muscle, to change its weaker neighbor’s policies. Meanwhile, the small power perceives itself as engaging in an “active and principled neutrality,” rather than a cowering acquiescence, a distinction that is critical to rationalizing these policy changes domestically.
Finlandization posed a direct challenge to the dominant realist logic of the Cold War, which held that concessions to Soviet power were likely to feed Moscow’s appetite for expansion. Even if one rejects the theory of Finlandization, it is difficult to deny that Kekkonen played a constructive role in ending the Cold War. In 1969, for instance, Finland offered itself as the venue for a conference between the two blocs that eventually produced a shared document with clear commitments to human rights and freedoms: the Helsinki accords…
Taiwan shares many of the key features that characterized Finland in the late 1940s. It is a small but internally sovereign state that is geographically close to a superpower with which it shares cultural and historical ties. Its fierce sense of independence is balanced by a pragmatic sense of the need to accommodate that superpower’s vital interests. Most important, the evolving views of its leaders and its people today focus on seeking security through integration rather than confrontation. This approach could help defuse one of the most worrying trends in global politics: the emerging rivalry between China and the United States...
Under such a scenario, Taiwan would reposition itself as a neutral power, rather than a U.S. strategic ally, in order to mollify Beijing’s fears about the island’s becoming an obstacle to China’s military and commercial ambitions in the region. It would also refrain from undermining the ccp’s rule in China. In return, Beijing would back down on its military threats, grant Taipei expanded participation in international organizations, and extend the island favorable economic and social benefits…
In 1995, at the end of the first détente, Chen-shen Yen, a Taiwanese scholar and koumintang adviser, wrote a paper in the Taiwanese political journal Wentiyu Yanjiu extollong the logic of Finlandization (or fenlanhua in Chinese) for Taiwan…It has taken over a decade for Yen’s prescient views to gain currency, but they now have widespread support.’
To read the whole article, see:
Hans Mouritzen, Finlandization. Towards a General Theory of Adaptive Politics, Aldershot, UK: Gower/Ashgate, 463 pp., 1988 (dissertation, University of Cph.)


Updated: 01/02/10