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China unveils its Taiwan ambitions and enters new era of escalation

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 8/5/2022 Tom Rogan
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China suspended cooperation with the United States on climate change, criminal justice, and drug enforcement issues on Friday. Beijing also canceled military communications and maritime deconfliction with the U.S.

In the context of People's Liberation Army weapons drills surrounding Taiwan, it is increasingly clear that Xi Jinping's regime has embraced a new strategy of escalation. Motivated by a mix of ambition, paranoia, and genuine fury, Xi has decided that patience is no longer tolerable.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan was the immediate cause of this shift, but this has been a long time coming. Xi's sense that he must act more urgently and aggressively has been brewing for years. Beijing has been deeply alarmed by Taiwan's increasing international prestige and associated de facto sovereignty credentials and by the Biden and Trump administrations' willingness to strengthen Taiwan's defense.

Pelosi's prima facie rejection of numerous Chinese warnings against her visit will have suggested to Xi that he has now lost the strategic initiative. Considering China's global ambitions and Xi's personal leadership narrative, he evidently feels cornered and is lashing out in response.

China's actions this week are instructive in what they tell us about its evolving strategy. China's choice of weapons, military aircraft, and warships in its drills are focused on Taiwan specifically. The PLA has surrounded Taiwan and entered its sovereign waters. But the PLA has not, at least thus far, projected power beyond Taiwan in an effort to send an escalation message to the U.S. in the South China Sea or the Philippine Sea.

This evinces Xi's particular focus on Taiwan as his keystone concern. He does not want a war with the U.S. if he can seize Taiwan without it.

U.S. and PLA strategic nuclear forces have quietly moved to higher readiness posture levels in the Pacific. China's cancellation of military dialogue with the U.S. is also clearly designed to show a willingness to escalate if needed.

Beijing's fury has also led it to make a significant political miscalculation. The suspension of dialogue with the U.S. on climate change cooperation only lays bare to the rest of the world how unreliable a partner China really is. It will raise concerns in Europe and reinforce the idea that China views climate change only as a means to extract concessions from the West in other areas.

China has already hurt its standing with Europe by reacting harshly to a relatively mild G-7 statement expressing concern over its military drills. Nevertheless, the climate concern is instructive. China's positive rhetoric on carbon emissions, simultaneous with its ramping up of coal plant construction, has long evinced its duplicity on this issue, and so this suspension of climate dialogue has just made that duplicity more evident.

Prior to Pelosi's visit, most U.S. military and intelligence analysts believed that a PLA invasion of Taiwan was likely before 2030. That timeline is likely now shifting toward 2025.

 

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Tags: Opinion, Beltway Confidential, Foreign Policy, National Security, China

Original Author: Tom Rogan

Original Location: China unveils its Taiwan ambitions and enters new era of escalation

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