As predictions go, this is neither bold nor a stretch. Many have been keeping a close eye on China as they glare longingly at reunification by any means necessary. The Communist Party’s centennial is just over a year away and Xi Jinping is resolute in his desire to not only take full control of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, but also to cement his legacy as one of China’s most storied leaders.
Hong Kong is already giving Beijing the fuel they need to enact their plans there. As protests continue with no end in sight, the only thing holding China back is international backlash. They are waging a wide and very expensive propaganda game to try to rally the international community to want China to step in and end the uprising. Once they feel like they have justification to go in without much contention from the rest of the world, they will do so. And with Hong Kong, nearby Macau will fall as well. China will call it a “preventative” measure.
But Taiwan is the real prize. Xi desperately wants an excuse to go in and unify China once and for all. For now, their efforts have been focused on seeding pro-unification activists and politicians as best they can in the free state, but it hasn’t been effective. Some have been waiting for a cyberattack on their infrastructure that prompts chaos that could cripple defenses enough for China to slip in under the cover of virtual darkness.
As Nichola Kristoff noted in September, when the lights go out in Taipei, that’s when China could make its move.
The main worry of military planners here isn’t so much a full-scale amphibious invasion. Rather, they fear the mainland sowing chaos and disrupting the economy as a way of trying to bring Taiwan to heel.
Hence the concern about a cyberattack that would take out Taipei’s electric grid. Or sabotage of the underwater cables that bring data and internet to Taiwan. Or interference in the South China Sea with tankers carrying oil to Taiwan.
Wu added that China could also step up military pressure by increasing patrols in the area, or by holding military exercises. Even a partial blockade would have a substantial impact if it raised insurance costs and damaged confidence in the island’s future.
Xi may grow impatient with waiting for such tactics to work. He’s on a clock against the 2021 centennial. He may want to test his military against the outnumbered but technologically superior Taiwan military. To do so, he’ll need provocation, which is why they continue to ramp up patrols in the western part of the Taiwan Strait. All they need is someone with an itchy trigger finger to fire on these patrols. Once they do, China will invade. It’s so volatile, many are trying to monitor the situation as closely as possible to thwart any false flag attacks meant to give China the incentive to take back Taiwan under Beijing’s iron fist.
What would an invasion of Taiwan mean to the United States? Depending on the state of affairs, international reaction, and the state of the presidency at the time, it could mean military intervention. Our interests in Taiwan are great with the tiny nation supplying over 90% of the world’s advanced microchips, among other important products. It would be difficult to ignore a move against Taiwan as simply being a sovereign nation enforcing its sovereignty. We recognize Taiwan as its own sovereign nation even if most of the world has bowed to Beijing’s demands to consider them part of their “one country, two systems” policy that is currently plaguing Hong Kong and Macau.
Here’s an interesting take by Brian McGleenon at The Express:
President Xi Jinping’s report at the 19th Communist Party congress in 2017 offers some clues as to how China will step up its efforts to control their sphere of influence and reinforce the regime’s oppressive ideology in the coming year.
Addressing the 2,280 delegates assembled uniformly before him, he identified “one country, two systems” and the reunification of the motherland as a fundamental strategy of a “new era” for China, including the reunification with Taiwan
And firing a broadside towards pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong he vowed to never allow “any individual, any organisation, any political party, at any time or by any means, to split any single piece of Chinese territory”.
Would we go to war with China over Taiwan? The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 is still in place, and while it implies protections for Taiwan against China, it doesn’t spell out what exactly those protections entail. Are we committed to engage in all-out war with the largest military in the world over Taiwan? It all depends on who is sitting in the Oval Office at the time. While President Trump has not been the neocon warmonger that previous Republican presidents have been, he has clearly indicated full support for Taiwan. As the primary enforcer of laws and the Commander-in-Chief of the military, it is unfathomable that he would not respond harshly.
By contrast, the Democratic candidates seem less inclined to enforce the law Congress passed 40-years ago. While none of them have spoken of it directly and some of them have offered hardline stances against China in their campaign rhetoric, China is aware their best chance of avoiding a war with America should they invade Taiwan would be under a Democratic president. All they would need is the aforementioned provocation, a way to suspend disbelief and claim righteousness to make the United States blink.
The status quo has been working. As long as Taipei doesn’t push for independence and Beijing doesn’t push for unification, things can continue to be good for the nation and the world. But it seems clear Xi is not working on the eventual, natural reunification with the “lost province” of Taiwan. He has the intention of escalating the goal to fit within his own time as ruler and ahead of the centennial.
If I were a betting man, I’d say his plans would be to initiate a false flag attack against Chinese forces that would prompt an invasion shortly after a new American president is inaugurated. That means China is further incentivized to make President Trump lose in 2020.
As long as President Trump is in the White House, China is unlikely to risk sparking a war by invading Taiwan. Xi Jinping is working against the clock. He wants Taiwan under Beijing’s control and will interfere with U.S. elections to achieve his goals.
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