China and Russia flew six nuclear bombers over the Sea of Japan this week while President Joe Biden was in Tokyo. It was a spectacular show of unity that should remind us of the lessons we learned from Ukraine and should be ready to apply in Taiwan, perhaps soon.
China has doubled down on its bullying tactics towards Taiwan in recent months. Beijing sent an aircraft carrier group, led by its first commissioned aircraft carrier, Liaoning, to conduct military exercises in waters near Taiwan in April. “Similar drills will be conducted regularly in the future,” a Chinese navy official said. The following week, China sent 25 warplanes and nuclear bombers to Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Such incursions have become more common since September, with 77 warplanes dispatched in the first two days of October and another 56 on October 4.
According to some accounts, China is losing the battle for Taiwan, at least as things stand. Harlan Ullman, senior adviser to the Atlantic Council, said that with a potential defense force of 450,000 Taiwanese today, the traditional ratio of three attackers to defenders taught in war colleges dictates that China should deploy more than 1.2 million soldiers. . It would take thousands of ships and weeks of transfer time and, as Ullman notes, “China has a small fraction of the ships needed to execute a landing of this size.”
Still, China could have the numbers to pull off an invasion by the end of the decade. In his first trip to Asia since taking office, Biden suggested on Monday that if China invades, the United States will do more to defend Taiwan than it has done to Ukraine, where no American troops are ‘has been sent.
Speaking at a Tokyo press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Biden was asked if the United States would militarily defend Taiwan and he replied, “Yes, that’s the commitment we have. taken”.
“They’re already flirting with danger right now flying so close,” he said, adding, “but the United States is committed. We support the one-China policy, but that doesn’t mean China has the power to use force to enter and take Taiwan.
Later in the day, a White House official clarified that Biden’s apparent gaffe did not suggest any change in the United States’ position toward Taiwan or the one-China policy. Nevertheless, within hours, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin warned that China would “take firm measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests.”
It’s a worrying prospect, especially since the Taiwanese overwhelmingly oppose unification with China, which means any attempted invasion is likely to be met with fierce resistance and support from the United States and other Western powers.
In other words, we could see the horrors of Mariupol and Bucha unfold on Taiwanese shores, especially since Xi Jinping is apparently just as obsessed with Taiwan as Vladimir Putin is with Ukraine, and for similar ethno-nationalist reasons. For Xi, what matters most is not what Taiwanese want for themselves, but their racial identity. As he often says about Taiwan, blood is thicker than water. In other words, even the Pacific cannot separate the Chinese race. And like Cindy Yu from The viewer pointed out, he also likes to refer to Taiwan as part of the family not as an expression of affection, but as a warning to the United States and others that this is a family affair, so don’t get involved.
This begs the question: Now that we have taken a stand with Ukraine, and now that alliances once thought to be fading have proven more resilient than ever, will the line hold when it comes to Taiwan?
Of course, there are real differences between Ukraine and Taiwan. First and foremost, our economic relationship with China. Trade between the two largest economies is closely intertwined: the value of U.S. imports of goods from China rose from around $100 billion in 2001 to $500 billion in 2017, largely due to the growing role of China in global supply chains. And while this has led to job losses in manufacturing and technology transfers through intellectual property theft, not to mention labor and human rights violations in places like Xinjiang, our trade relations with China will make many politicians reluctant to continue the conflict and weaken the will of the West. sanction China as much as we have Russia.
As Timothy Snyder recently argued in a New York Times opinion piece: “We should say it. Russia is fascist. And many are already saying this, but few are willing to do so when it comes to China despite Xi’s emphasis on racial loyalty, despite concentration camps in Xinjiang or reports of genocidal forced sterilizations, despite extinction of one of Asia’s greatest democracies in Hong Kong, or an obviously unquenchable thirst to invade Taiwan.
The fact is that China is a more complicated problem than Russia. But given the political and economic weight of China, it is also a problem that is important to solve. Fortunately, we have learned some solid lessons from Ukraine. On the one hand, we learned that, despite what Biden said this week, direct conflict is not necessary. The United States can reshape the Taiwanese military with some of the same tools that worked well in Ukraine, namely the Stinger anti-aircraft and Javelin anti-tank missiles.
Taiwan has also learned these lessons. “The Ukrainian people are very brave, and one of the tactics that has been successful so far is asymmetric capability,” Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said this week, adding that he was referring specifically to the Ukraine’s use of Stinger and Javelin missiles, and that although Taiwan already has some of them, it wants to stockpile more.
But China has also learned these lessons. According to Gerald Brown, a DC-based defense analyst, some of the key lessons Beijing is likely to learn from Ukraine are the value of asymmetric weapons to Taiwan, the importance of strong logistics, and the need to strike with force. overwhelming in order for an invasion to succeed.
“Modern technologies allow the expensive systems necessary for an invasion to be defeated by relatively inexpensive systems such as anti-ship missiles and Stinger missiles, and this situation is exacerbated by the dominant nature of the region’s defense in which the PLA has to cross the Taiwan Strait to engage,” Brown said. they approach the invasion with overwhelming force. The conflict in Ukraine has shown that the fait accompli may not be a realistic model of success.
In other words, both sides learn the same lessons and attempt to counter their use, reminiscent of an old expression: what happens when an unstoppable force meets a stationary object? One thing that happens is that you end up with a lot of innocent lives lost. To avoid this, we must exhaust diplomatic measures without falling into the trap of pursuing diplomacy. We also need to prepare Taiwan for the threat ahead, and unlike Ukraine, we need to start now.