The situation in Taiwan is tense. William Burns, the director of the American secret service CIA, believes it is likely that China will launch a war of aggression against its neighbor. Taiwan wants to prevent this by all means – and is arming itself vigorously.
Taiwan continues to prepare for a potential invasion by the army of neighboring China. Maneuvers have been taking place on the democratically governed island since Monday to prepare the local soldiers for day X.
The director of the American CIA, William Burns, spoke up last week and said that the danger of a war of aggression by Beijing was real. It’s a question of when, not if, Burns said.
The liberal government of President Tsai Ing-wen should not have been surprised by this stocktaking from the USA. Since she took office in 2016, harassment and threats from Beijing have increased. In order to be able to defy the People’s Republic, new weapon systems have been purchased and submarines ordered in recent years.
In competition with time, according to CIA man Burns, Taipei has only one chance to delay China’s attack and ultimately prevent it altogether. Namely that their own army is so well positioned that ruler Xi would have to reckon with large losses during the invasion.
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Sirens blared across the country for the first time on Monday. Just as they would howl if the invasion started. In China, as in Taiwan, the Kremlin’s Russian war of aggression against democratic Ukraine has been closely followed.
Xi Jinping and Tsai Ing-wen both know that the people living in Taiwan will not greet the invaders with hosannas and flowers, just as Ukrainians have been fighting back Vladimir Putin’s injustice regime for months. Wars are also waged with images and won through them.
With such powerful images, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has garnered the international attention he needs to rally support from around the world. Wanting to do the same, Ms. Tsai boarded a warship for the first time in her tenure on Tuesday to observe the progress of a sea maneuver.
With the attack on Ukraine, more and more Taiwanese have become aware of their precarious situation. In a March poll, just over 70 percent said they wanted to fight the invaders. That was 40 percent more than in a survey just three months earlier, in December 2021.
Support from the people of Taiwan for a new reservist training course that the Tsai government started in March is just as high. To show that it is not impressed by Taiwan’s self-exercise, Beijing sent war planes into Taiwan’s airspace the day before the maneuvers began.
These provocations have increased massively over the past two years. Any illegal advance into another country’s airspace can potentially herald war. Beijing appears to be forcing an escalation across or in the Taiwan Strait, the strait that separates free Taiwan from Beijing’s dictatorship.
Last week, the State Department threatened that the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would lead to military retaliation in the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese air force could try to push Ms. Pelosi’s plane away and force it to land.
The basis for this would be a “no fly zone” that Beijing would impose on sovereign Taiwan. At the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine, such a no-fly zone was demanded by the Ukrainian government.
Their establishment would have meant that US airmen might have to shoot down Russian ones, resulting in a direct confrontation between the two powers. Should Beijing now take such a step, it would be tantamount to a declaration of war on the United States and its allies in the region, above all Japan, South Korea and Australia.
However, Xi Jinping and his military do not only have conflicts with Taiwan in the region, which could escalate into war at any time. A few weeks ago, the Chinese Navy undertook maneuvers around the Spratley Islands, which belong to the Philippines but have been partially occupied by Chinese mercenaries for over a year.
The Western Pacific Rim is doing the right thing if they prepare for the worst and, like Taiwan is doing, stand up to an imperialist and warmongering China.
Such planning is all the more appropriate because China’s dictator Xi is under a lot of pressure at home: his CP is pursuing a failed strategy to manage the Covid 19 pandemic. The economy is in the basement, youth unemployment is higher than it has been for a long time.
At the same time there is a real estate, a banking and a credit crisis. There are protests in the streets by people who have lost everything in the past few weeks. Merely to ensure his survival, Xi could start a war now. To distract from his failure.
Alexander Görlach is a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York. The PhD linguist and theologian teaches democratic theory in Germany, Austria and Spain as an honorary professor at Leuphana University. In the 2017-18 academic year, he was at National Taiwan University and City University Hong Kong to conduct research on China’s rise. He is currently researching new technologies at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute and how they are used in democracies and abused in dictatorships.