Policy of deliberate ambiguity

Policy of deliberate ambiguity

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A policy of deliberate ambiguity (also known as a policy of strategic ambiguity) is the practice by a country
Country
A country is a region legally identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with a previously...

 of being intentionally ambiguous on certain aspects of its foreign policy
Foreign policy
A country's foreign policy, also called the foreign relations policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries...

 or whether it possesses certain weapons of mass destruction. It may be useful if the country has contrary foreign and domestic policy goals or if it wants to take advantage of risk aversion
Risk aversion
Risk aversion is a concept in psychology, economics, and finance, based on the behavior of humans while exposed to uncertainty....

 to abet a deterrence
Deterrence theory
Deterrence theory gained increased prominence as a military strategy during the Cold War with regard to the use of nuclear weapons, and features prominently in current United States foreign policy regarding the development of nuclear technology in North Korea and Iran. Deterrence theory however was...

 strategy. Such a policy can be very risky as it may cause misinterpretation of a nation's intentions, leading to actions that contradict that nation's wishes.

Beijing and Taipei

  • 1992 consensus
    1992 Consensus
    The 1992 Consensus or Consensus of 1992 is a term describing the outcome of a meeting in 1992 between the semi-official representatives of the People's Republic of China in mainland China and the Republic of China in Taiwan...

    : the governments of mainland China
    Mainland China
    Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

     (headquartered in Beijing
    Beijing
    Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

    ) and Taiwan
    Taiwan
    Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

     (in Taipei
    Taipei
    Taipei City is the capital of the Republic of China and the central city of the largest metropolitan area of Taiwan. Situated at the northern tip of the island, Taipei is located on the Tamsui River, and is about 25 km southwest of Keelung, its port on the Pacific Ocean...

    ) formed a consensus in 1992 that both sides recognize that there is one China
    China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

    , but remain ambiguous on the content of that concept, such as whether China here means Republic of China
    Republic of China
    The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

     or People's Republic of China
    People's Republic of China
    China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

    . See also Cross-Strait relations
    Cross-Strait relations
    Cross-Strait relations refers to the relations between People's Republic of China and the Republic of China , which lie to the west and east, repectively, of the Taiwan Strait in the west Pacific Ocean....

    .
  • Due to the controversial political status of Taiwan
    Political status of Taiwan
    The controversy regarding the political status of Taiwan hinges on whether Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu should remain effectively independent as territory of the Republic of China , become unified with the territories now governed by the People's Republic of China , or formally declare...

    , foreign governments have long felt a need to be ambiguous regarding Taiwan. In practice, they maintain different levels of ambiguity on their attitudes to the Taiwan issue: see Foreign relations of the Republic of China
    Foreign relations of the Republic of China
    The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan, is recognized by sovereign states. The course of the foreign relations of the ROC is dominated by maintaining diplomatic relations with these countries, as well as unofficial relations with other countries via its de facto embassies and...

     and Foreign relations of the People's Republic of China
    Foreign relations of the People's Republic of China
    The foreign relations of the People's Republic of China guides the way in which it interacts with foreign nations. As a great power and emerging superpower, China's foreign policy and strategic thinking is highly influential. China officially states it "unswervingly pursues an independent foreign...

    .

United States

  • Whether it would retaliate to a chemical or biological attack with nuclear weapons; specifically, during the Persian Gulf War
    Gulf War
    The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

    .
  • Whether it would defend the Republic of China
    Republic of China
    The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

     in the event of an attack by the People's Republic of China
    People's Republic of China
    China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

    . This policy was intended to discourage both a unilateral declaration of independence
    Taiwan independence
    Taiwan independence is a political movement whose goals are primarily to formally establish the Republic of Taiwan by renaming or replacing the Republic of China , form a Taiwanese national identity, reject unification and One country, two systems with the People's Republic of China and a Chinese...

     by ROC
    Republic of China
    The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

     leaders and an invasion of Taiwan by the PRC. The United States has since been much less ambiguous after George W. Bush
    George W. Bush
    George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

     stated to "do whatever it takes" to defend Taiwan, but has continued to express dissatisfaction over moves towards a unilateral declaration of independence
    Declaration of independence
    A declaration of independence is an assertion of the independence of an aspiring state or states. Such places are usually declared from part or all of the territory of another nation or failed nation, or are breakaway territories from within the larger state...

    .
  • Whether United States Navy
    United States Navy
    The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

     ships carry nuclear weapons. This led to a New Zealand ban from its ports.

Israel

  • Whether or not it possesses nuclear weapons
    Nuclear weapons and Israel
    Israel is widely believed to be the sixth country in the world to have developed nuclear weapons and to be one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty , the others being India, Pakistan and North Korea...

    .
  • Israel practices deliberate ambiguity over the issue of targeted killing
    Targeted killing
    Targeted killing is the deliberate, specific targeting and killing, by a government or its agents, of a supposed terrorist or of a supposed "unlawful combatant" who is not in that government's custody...

    s, never confirming or denying whether Israel is involved in the deaths of suspected terrorists on foreign soil.

Articles


Eric M. Eisenberg (2007), Strategic ambiguities: Essays on communication, organization, and identity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

External links