ANALYSIS – The most recent threats from Communist Chinese leader Xi Jinping to President Biden to not ‘play with fire’ over Taiwan, may show the communist bully may be looking at invading Taiwan a lot sooner than expected, possibly well before the end of Biden’s term in 2024.
While Taiwan’s top intelligence official, Chen Ming-tong, said in March that a Chinese invasion this year was “highly unlikely,” a recent New York Times (NYT) report says U.S. officials now believe China may make a strong military move against Taiwan within the next 18 months.
Previously U.S. and Taiwanese officials estimated a Chinese invasion timeline for Taiwan between 2025 and 2030.
This attack timeline may be moving up as China gains lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and fears increased weapons sales to Taiwan may make it much harder to take over in a few years.
Since President Trump provided offensive weapons to Taiwan for the first time ever in 2020 with long range SLAM-ER missiles and the HIMARS precision rocket launchers, the idea has been to turn Taiwan into a military ‘porcupine,’ too prickly to conquer easily.
Chinese leaders likely also see Biden as old, weak and distracted.
And the announced planned visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the first from a U.S. Speaker since 1997, is creating a sense of crisis in Beijing. That last visit 25 years ago was by Republican Newt Gingrich.
The timing is acute since the trip will come as Xi and other Communist Party leaders prepare in the coming weeks for the important 20th Communist Party Congress where Xi is expected to break Communist Party norms and extend his rule for an unprecedented third term. NYT reports:
“If the United States insists on going ahead, China will take firm and resolute measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the U.S. will be responsible for all of the serious consequences,” Zhao Lijian, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said at a briefing on Monday.
This is why U.S. officials see a greater risk of conflict and miscalculation over this trip than any other recent event.
Biden on Wednesday said the U.S. military has concerns about Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan.
“I think that the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now. But I don’t know what the status of it is,” Biden told reporters, according to The Hill.
However, canceling the trip now would be a sure sign of weakness and give Beijing the impression that its intimidation tactics work.
That’s a lesson we can’t afford to provide.
One possible scenario sees China sending jet fighters to “escort” Pelosi’s military transport plane and maybe even preventing it from landing.
And then, instead of an outright invasion, the NYT reports that China may opt to signify its intent by “trying to cut off access to all or part of the Taiwan Strait, through which U.S. naval ships regularly pass.”
There are also other ways China may show its displeasure and escalate, without a full scale invasion just yet. The NYT adds:
If China did move earlier than expected against Taiwan, it could do so piecemeal, perhaps by first invoking their recent declaration on the status of the Taiwan Strait and conducting a limited operation to gauge Washington’s reaction. Another theory is that Beijing might try to seize an outer island close to China’s coast.
Whatever specific course China takes; the growing intelligence consensus now is to expect China will create a serious military crisis over Taiwan before the end of Biden’s term. ADN