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Why China appears ready to go to war with the US over Taiwan

New York Post logo: MainLogo New York Post 3 days ago Rebekah Koffler

Last Friday, Chinese leader Xi JinPing won his third five-year term as president in a unanimous vote by the National People’s Congress. Having secured his grip on power quite possibly for life, Xi is executing China’s grand plan to re-establish control over Taiwan.

Indeed, so crucial is Taiwan – which broke away from communist China in 1949 – that Beijing appears willing to tussle with Washington over its long-term fate. 

As the only nation standing between China and Taiwan, US battle readiness has never been more vital. But the US remains woefully unprepared even as every sign from Xi suggests he’s readying himself to rumble.

First, the war drums – loud ones. In October, Xi installed a “War Cabinet” comprised of seven men, all Xi loyalists, after removing advisors favoring reforms from the all-powerful Politburo. 

© Provided by New York Post Chinese leader Xi JinPing recently secured another five-year mandate as his nation’s president. Armed with a decidedly hawkish new “War Cabinet,” Xi appears to be focused on returning Taiwan to the Mainland’s fold — and willing to battle with the US if necessary. AP

The next month, during a visit to China’s operational command center, Xi directed his military to be ready for war. “The entire military must . . . concentrate all energy on fighting a war, direct all work toward warfare and speed up to build the ability to win,” Xi said. CIA Director William Burns  estimates Beijing wants to be conflict-ready by 2027. 

Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan, head of Air Mobility Command, however, forecasts that the US and China “will fight in 2025.” He suggests China will mount an attack on Taiwan while Americans are distracted by the upcoming presidential election.

© Provided by New York Post China has nearly 25% more battle-ships than the US, which would provide Beijing with a serious advantage when trying to block access to US vessels in the South China Sea. Kyodo News Stills via Getty Images

Xi is also banking on America’s inability to simultaneously prosecute a war with both Russia and China, which is why he may act on Taiwan sooner rather than later – while the Russia-Ukraine war is ongoing. Indeed, with Xi set to meet Vladimir Putin in Russia next week, China is paying close attention to activities out of Moscow.

Meanwhile, as China augments its fighting prowess on the ground, it’s also beefing up defense capabilities in space as part of its Taiwan-invasion toolbox. Between 2019 and 2021, China doubled its number of orbiting satellites from 250 to 499, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency. During wartime, satellites deliver everything from missile warning and navigation to reconnaissance and command-and-control efforts.

On Tuesday, US Space Force Chief Gen. Chance Saltzman revealed that over the past six months, China launched dozens of spacecraft to target US forces.  At the same time, the Chinese military is developing and fielding weapons to attack US satellites and  “blind and deafen” US forces. They include kinetic-kill missiles, ground-based lasers, electronic warfare systems, directed energy weapons and orbiting space robots. 

© Provided by New York Post Even if they’re reluctant to actually deploy nuclear weapons, China understands the fear that such a confrontation brews within Washington, and is willing to exploit this hesitation for their advantage. Getty Images

Beyond space defenses, China is already looking to implement nuclear lessons learned from the Russia-Ukraine war. The threat of nuclear annihilation breeds fear in US leaders, preventing Washington from deploying forces into active theaters of war. In recent years, Beijing has accelerated the modernization of its nuclear forces. By 2035, China will likely triple its nuclear arsenal to 1,500 warheads, according to the Pentagon.

Beijing’s other WMD programs include chemical and biological warfare (CBW). Beijing has missiles, rockets and artillery that could likely be adapted to deliver CBW agents. Scientist’s at the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Fifth Institute of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Wuhan are conducting coronavirus research as part of China’s national biological weapons program.

© Provided by New York Post Like Russia, China is betting big on cyber-warfare, with an aggressive cyber-attack strategy intended to disrupt key US infrastructure in advance of any confrontation over Taiwan. Getty Images/iStockphoto

A weaponized engineered coronavirus could create another pandemic. And the notion of unleashing a COVID-like virus on the US in the run up to a Chinese attack on Taiwan has already been linked to China.

Such an attack would require China to augment and upgrade its current  forces in order to outmatch their US counterparts in any cross-straight attack. And this is already happening. Existing PLA rockets can almost certainly reach US forces and bases in the region. China’s 350 or so battleships now outnumber those of the US by nearly a quarter. And the PLA is ramping up military drills in the South China Sea, practicing tactics that would deny access to the US Navy.

Still, China knows the US wins big for technological superiority, and they’re hard at work trying to erode Washington’s edge. Which is why China’s cyberattack strategy is so focused on disrupting US computerized networks — which it apparently already has according to recent reports. A recent report from the Department of National Intelligence warns that if Beijing feared an imminent conflict with the US, it would “almost certainly” target “US homeland critical infrastructure and military assets worldwide” with crippling cyber strikes. The goal is to impede US decision-making and induce social panic, thus interfering with the deployment of US forces.

© Provided by New York Post The book “Unrestricted Warfare” details Beijing’s plan to achieve maximum battle-field success with the minimum of battle-field effort.

With its heavy reliance on high-tech weaponry, China believes that the US way of war is outdated, leading to a “dead end.” Beijing is emboldened by its assessment of America’s unpreparedness for “unrestricted warfare,” a concept developed by Chinese military theorists in the 1990s. Whether it actually shoots the first missile, Chinese doctrinal writings make clear that Beijing is preparing to fight and win a war with the US. 

To win that war, China will adapt existing methods and weaponry rather than merely developing new armaments, as America does. The spy balloon that China recently flew across the US, despite its unfortunate outcome, is an example of such thinking.

© Provided by New York Post The recently-downed Chinese spy balloon demonstrates Beijing’s investment in low-tech devices that could potentially deliver high-impact results. Such balloons, in the future, could be adapted to rain all types of weaponry upon the US. REUTERS

While the Pentagon mostly focused on the reconnaissance aspect of the balloon, the airship was also a useful delivery platform. Along with carrying multi-sensor equipment, it could have easily contained a kinetic or a chem-bio payload, presenting a much bigger threat to Americans.

China plans to exploit what it believes is the US obsession with “extravagant style warfare.” “An American-made bomber is like flying a mountain of gold, more costly than its targets,” note Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, the authors of “Unrestricted Warfare.”

© Provided by New York Post In its effort to “dominate” space, China has invested heavily in its satellite-development program, doubling the number of orbiting satellites it now has in place to nearly 500 in total. Getty Images

Shooting down China’s spy balloon demanded a $400,000 AIM-9X Sidewinder missile; the costly weapon is an example of how China could defeat the US by depleting its combat arsenal. Imagine China sending 100 balloons ahead of its attack on Taiwan. How many F-22s would be needed to down them all? Imagine air traffic disruptions across America. Imagine the panic that would ensue.

Chinese strategists have long described America’s way of waging war as “attacking birds with golden bullets” – and it’s a style they intend to exploit. Of course as Moscow now knows, even the mightiest militaries can blunder spectacularly. But Beijing’s bellicose behavior cannot be ignored. And the Pentagon is nowhere near understanding, let alone being prepared for, the Chinese way of war.

Rebekah Koffler is the president of Doctrine & Strategy Consulting, a former DIA intelligence officer, and the author of  “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America.” Twitter: @Rebekah0132


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