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Why Xi Jinping may not need 'the use of force' to 'assault' Taiwan: national security expert

Alternet logo Alternet 11/28/2022 Alex Henderson
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Critics of President Xi Jinping and his allies in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have not only been complaining about their aggression in Hong Kong — they also fear a military invasion of Taiwan. But according to Stephen Peter Rosen, who focuses on military and national security matters at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an “invasion” of Taiwan by Chinese Communist Party officials in Beijing wouldn’t necessarily be a military invasion.

“Sun Tzu wrote that the acme of strategy is to win without fighting,” Rosen writes in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on November 28. “It is worth gaming out how Xi Jinping, the head of the Communist Party of China (CCP), might contemplate trying to win Taiwan without fighting for it. Xi has not hidden his ambitions with regard to Taiwan, but a war would be costly for China and risky for him. What he would need to do, in order to fulfill Sun Tzu’s maxim, would be to create a situation in which, confronted with Chinese pressure on Taiwan, an American president would calculate that the use of force was not an option.”

These days, the Chinese Communist Party is really communist in name only. Mainland China had a full-fledged communist government during the era of Mao Tse Tung, but what the officials in Beijing favor in 2022 is really a mixture of crony capitalism and strict authoritarianism. And Jinping’s critics fear that he would like to extend that authoritarianism to Taiwan.

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According to Rosen, Jinping “is probably trying to learn from the war in Ukraine” and apply that lesson to Taiwan.

“Most likely,” Rosen argues, “(Jinping) has noted how important having a unified NATO has been for Ukraine’s success against Russia. Ergo, it would be reasonable to think Xi would seek to prevent a unified response by the powerful democratic allies and friends of Taiwan. Sure enough, over the last month, Xi engaged in a series of meetings with the German, French, and British prime ministers, in which he emphasized China’s respect for state sovereignty and the importance of a global order that does not exclude China so as to ensure prosperity and to protect the environment.”

Jinping’s game plan, Rosen writes, is to increase Beijing’s influence in Taiwan, but not with a direct military action.

“The message Xi was attempting to send the democratic world is clear: Xi is not (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, China is not Russia, and Taiwan is not another Ukraine,” Rosen explains. “The end result of these efforts is that the political basis for a unified response by the democratic world to a Chinese attempt to assert control over Taiwan is being gradually undermined. An American president facing a PRC challenge to Taiwan would work the telephone with his fellow democratic leaders and would hear words advocating restraint, prudence, and patient discussion.”

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Rosen wraps up his article by stressing that the United States needs to keep a close eye on the government in Beijing where Taiwan is concerned.

“The CCP might not try to invade Taiwan, but also, it might not have to,” Rosen warns. “Disruption of Taiwanese data links, harassment of its sea and air lines of communication, ambiguous sabotage and stoking political unrest could pressure Taiwan to end its efforts to improve its defenses and instead negotiate with the CCP…. We should continue and redouble our preparations to defeat a regular military attack on Taiwan, but we should also give equal attention to the problem of deterring and defeating an irregular assault on Taiwan.”

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