Taiwan

A Geopolitical Crisis Hiding in Plain Sight – The Diplomat

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With the war between Russia and Ukraine intensifying, there is an emerging geopolitical crisis brewing in the background, with major implications for the future of the international world order. It is increasingly clear that China is watching the world’s reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and developing a potential blueprint for an invasion of Taiwan. It is increasingly clear that the international community is far from being fully prepared to deal with an invasion as it occurs today.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the British foreign minister in London in July that China was now taking defensive measures to protect its economy against possible future sanctions. Ray called China’s activities “clues” of what they might be thinking and planning. CIA Director Bill Burns followed up Wray’s comments by saying China was gleaning insights from the Russian incursion and trying to determine militarily what they would have done differently because it involved using “decisive or overwhelming sexual force” and “how and when” to act against Taiwan.

In his opening speech to the upcoming 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Chinese leader Xi Jinping stated unequivocally: “The complete reunification of our country must be achieved, and there is no doubt that it can be achieved!” U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken It was then pointed out that China’s plans for Taiwan had been accelerated and that the timetable for action could be much earlier than previously expected.

These comments from Wray, Blinken, Burns and Xi should have grabbed headlines in newsrooms around the world, but the war in Ukraine — including Putin’s threat of nuclear force — combined with global economic concerns make this very urgent and challenging Issues of sex are marginalized.crowded news cycle

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While the drivers behind Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s possible invasion of Taiwan have their own historical, political, and strategic implications, the most important connection is that China is watching how the world responds to the current crisis. They’re particularly concerned about the sanctions imposed on Russia, including energy unbundling, and how unified the rest of the world is in their response. The response has been led largely by the U.S. and European allies through a combination of financial sanctions and arms shipments to Ukrainians.

While the sanctions isolate Russia from the international financial community, it is unclear how similar sanctions would affect China. China’s influence in the global economy is so great that a series of powerful sanctions will inevitably be highly punishing for the countries that impose them. While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had major implications for global energy markets and food supplies, the reality is that a potential military confrontation between the United States and China would have an even greater impact on the global economy. The supply chain issues we are seeing now pale in comparison to what we saw when China invaded Taiwan. Taiwan has more than 20% of the global semiconductor market share, and an invasion would immediately disrupt the entire global economy.

Additionally, China will be able to protect its currency valuation by forcing importers and exporters to conduct their transactions in renminbi rather than dollars. They can use their coercive power to mitigate potential economic consequences for their smaller ASEAN neighbors and economically dependent countries in Africa and South America. While Russia strangles European energy, China’s economic influence is omnipotent, reaching every corner of the world. In addition, China is watching the continued inability of the UN Security Council to police member states for misbehavior.

This begs the question, is China too big and powerful to impose meaningful sanctions and penalties for aggression against Taiwan?

strategic ambiguity

The United States has no formal defense treaty with Taiwan. Washington’s approach to Taiwan-US relations is governed by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which ushered in an era of “strategic ambiguity” by avoiding direct commitments to defend Taiwan.

The U.S. and China have been careful to work around the opaque policy since it was implemented. Tensions have escalated during the Trump administration as the United States sold Taiwan $5 billion in arms to offset continued military harassment from China. Additionally, the Trump administration passed the Taiwan Travel Act, allowing high-level U.S. delegations to travel to Taiwan. The visits have alarmed the Chinese, who regularly fly military aircraft into Taiwanese airspace before and after the visits.

Tensions have not subsided under the Biden administration. Indeed, tensions have risen as several gaffes by the president signaled a firmer commitment that the United States would protect Taiwan. In August, China held a large-scale military exercise, and Nancy Pelosi, the majority leader of the US House of Representatives, visited Taiwan, apparently sending a signal to Taipei and Washington.

A distraction superpower?

Unlike US President Joe Biden, Xi does not have to worry about the upcoming election. Polls at the same point in Biden’s presidency are well below historical averages, and the country is becoming increasingly polarized nationally and culturally. Regardless of whether Biden runs again in 2024, no matter who the US president is, the Taiwan issue will remain a prominent issue. The important question is how willing the American public is to support Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. While recent polls show that more than 50 percent of Americans support protecting Taiwan in the event of an invasion, the stakes would be far greater if the two largest superpowers were actually on the brink of a military confrontation.

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Furthermore, while Europe already provides a largely united front against Russia, it is hard to see Europeans willing to fully engage financially and militarily if China were to invade Taiwan. The invasion of Ukraine was a blow to Europeans, who had witnessed the horrors of war firsthand. But is an increasingly fragmented EU willing to put aside its commercial interests with its largest trading partner over a war thousands of miles away? Accusations of genocide in China’s Xinjiang region have had little impact on busy China-EU economic cooperation.

In addition, China is watching countries such as India and Israel, as well as the United States’ Gulf states, allies and strategic partners, hedge their positions on Ukraine. This does not bode well for a unified global response to the invasion of Taiwan.

There is no doubt that the response to an invasion of Taiwan will be led by the United States and its allies in Asia, including Japan, South Korea and Australia. Yet even Japan and South Korea, which have binding defense treaties with the United States, have strong economic ties to China and abhor military conflict.

It’s unclear what the immediate response to the invasion will be, but it’s increasingly clear that the United States and its allies must be fully prepared for all contingencies, even as they deal with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. The diplomatic challenge now is not to escalate tensions with China too much, while making it clear to China that they will suffer serious repercussions if they take action against Taiwan. While the US has done an admirable job of uniting the world against Russian aggression, are they really showing China that the costs of “unifying” China once and for all will outweigh the benefits?

domestic and global factors

Whether China decides to invade Taiwan will depend on a combination of domestic and global factors. At home, Xi faces a summer of discontent as citizens grow dissatisfied with a draconian zero-COVID policy and ongoing lockdowns. In addition, economists predict that China’s GDP growth rate will be below 3% in 2022, which is much slower than it has been in many years. Invading Taiwan could serve as a nationalist call to action, helping to divert attention from some of the systemic economic challenges the country is likely to face in the coming years.

Xi is a Chinese nationalist who views Taiwan purely in terms of territory and sovereignty. There is no greater achievement than the unification of China. Ultimately, however, Xi’s calculations will depend on his confidence in the military. U.S. defense leaders believe that China’s military buildup at least gives them the option and the right to prepare to invade Taiwan if they choose.

However, the last thing Xi wants is a fiasco at the hands of the United States, exposing the fraudulent practices of his military and the Communist Party, and potentially affecting his own personal legacy. The stakes of a potential invasion of Taiwan are extremely high, and Xi Jinping may not be as adventurous as Putin. But we also have to weigh the possibility that Xi may see a confluence of events that gives China a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shift hegemony in Asia away from the United States and ultimately unify China as a whole.

The question remains how the world will respond if and when China invades Taiwan. Can the international community clear the fog of the current crisis and fully prepare for a bigger crisis in the future?

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