In the next two years, due to the looming Taiwan crisis, the US military needs to be ready for the outbreak of war between the US and China. The PRC can use the “distraction” of the American society for the 2024 presidential election to carry out an operation in Taiwan. Air Force General Mike Minnihan announced this in a memo to his subordinates.
“My instinct tells me that we will fight in 2025,” the Air Force General Mike Minniha wrote. The Pentagon has already confirmed the authenticity of the document. How justified are such forecasts and how the situation will develop.
The topic of an armed clash between China and the United States of America, the reason for which will be the escalation of the Taiwan issue, is not new in itself. The media and officials on both sides have spoken out on this topic before.
However, since last year, a potential conflict between the two nuclear powers has taken on quite concrete outlines. Military maneuvers and exercises, speeches by politicians of the highest rank, diplomatic demarches look more and more like public manifestations of preparations for an open conflict. However, not everything is so obvious.
From the point of view of political strategy, the growth of tension is directly related to the expansion of the internal political crisis in the United States. Since the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump has made the issue of “Chinese interference” in the domestic politics of the United States one of the main ones.
By the way, it remains so in the run-up to the 2024 elections. Trump became the first American leader to have a telephone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Nothing like this has happened in the 37 years since Washington and Taipei broke off diplomatic relations in 1979.
The Biden administration picked up this case from competitors, of course forgetting about accusing leading figures of the Democratic Party of having ties with the PRC. The whole world was fascinated by the monitor screens, waiting to see if Chinese fighter jets would shoot down the plane with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on board.
Since the results of this media experiment can certainly be called successful, within six months after it, delegations from the congress and the Bundestag went to Taiwan.
The next “aviator” may be Republican Kevin McCarthy, who replaced Pelosi in the lower house of Congress.
The United States seeks not so much to provoke China as to create an informational background for the “inevitable Chinese invasion,” Aleksey Maslov, an expert at the Valdai Club and director of the ISAA MGU emphasized.
- The Americans are trying to accustom public opinion to the idea that a clash between Beijing and Taipei is inevitable and a new hotbed of tension will be created. For this purpose, statements of this kind are made. At the same time, China has already taken a number of steps to ease tensions in the region and bring the situation back into a protracted phase,” he explained.
Only one China
On January 18, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (Zhao Xie) issued a landmark statement. The Foreign Minister said that the current status quo of the island cannot last forever.
“Taiwan will one day become an independent state or be absorbed by China,” he said. Formally, there is no other option than the second one.
Beijing, in accordance with the doctrine of “one country, two systems” and the “law on counteracting the split of the state” of 2005, considers the island its territory. The United States, after signing the Shanghai Communiqué in 1972, also recognizes only one China, that is, the PRC. Almost 50 years later, this position was officially confirmed, but with one caveat.
The U.S. National Security Strategy, released on October 12 last year, states:
“We oppose any unilateral change to the status quo by any side and do not support Taiwan independence.”
Thus, the United States, although it recognizes the state ownership of the island, at the same time legally asserts that it will not allow changing its status without its direct participation.
In the same document, China is called “the most important strategic rival and the main challenge.” So the conclusion that in the current circumstances the probability of peaceful reunification is already tending to minimal values only from a normative point of view is not the only contradiction in Washington’s behavior that points to its real strategy in the region.
At the same time, China’s position remains consistently tough. Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke about the determination to “suppress separatism and interference,” while the official representative of the country’s defense department, Tan Kefei, said that the PLA “is constantly preparing for hostilities.”
Taiwan is the official “red line” for Beijing. But at what point does the United States cross it – when a third party of the state flies to Taipei on an unscheduled visit, or when Washington announces new arms supplies to the island?
The Chinese leadership has enough strategic patience, but there are circumstances under which it can run out, said Alexei Maslov.
- The real “red line” will be holding a referendum on the independence of Taiwan. Everything else is not something extraordinary. China, of course, did not expect such toughness from the United States, which reconfigured a number of countries to support Taiwan, he added.
…And a gloomy November ahead
One of the famous ancient Chinese stratagems says: “Robbing during a fire.” It means the opportunity to take advantage of the chaos in the enemy’s camp for profit. In this sense, it’s hard to disagree with General Minnihan: the 2024 presidential election promises to be a “perfect storm.”
The domestic political situation in the United States is developing in such a way that the expected events on the eve of and after November 8, 2024 will attract all the attention not only of the American, but of the entire world community, which means that they will present an excellent opportunity for a hypothetical escalation.
The US national security strategy for the purposes of “competing with China and containing Russia” involves, among other things, a large-scale modernization of the army. Commenting on Minnihan’s words, retired General Jack Keane added that the United States is currently not ready for an open confrontation with China. “We are not ready as we should be. China has more ships, more planes and more missiles than the United States,” admitted Keane.
However, a number of American analysts predict an escalation later – however, they still recognize the inability of the United States to modernize the army by 2027. For example, Cory Shake, director of foreign policy research at the American Enterprise Institute, notes that “there is no budget for modernization at this rate” and the strategy will not keep pace with “China’s plans for Taiwan centered around 2027.”
Meanwhile, elections for the head of Taiwan will also be held in 2024, and Beijing will await their results with interest, notes Alexey Maslov.
“In the event that a representative of the moderate Kuomintang party, who opposes the escalation, comes to power, the PRC will be quite satisfied with this and will allow it to again transfer the situation into the long phase of the negotiation process,” he said.
Sun Tzu vs
However, if we return to the factor of China’s political tradition, then the conclusions about an imminent attack can be called into question. Throughout modern history, the Celestial Empire has always tried to avoid escalation and not go beyond a limited conflict, which in the case of Taiwan is almost impossible to do.
In addition, there is a question about the readiness of Beijing itself for a military operation of such complexity. China knows its history well, and therefore will until the end look for an opportunity to win the war without entering it, said Marina Kruglova, associate professor of GAUGN, senior researcher at the Institute of Economics and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an interview.
- Considering that 42% of all Taiwanese exports and 22% of imports come from mainland China, Beijing may well resort to economic methods of influence. After Pelosi’s visit, China has already banned a number of imports from the island. From a military point of view, Taiwan itself is like one huge metropolis. Therefore, the costs that will arise as a result of such a large-scale military operation are too high, the specialist emphasizes.
The real reasons for the escalation of the Taiwan case, of course, lie in the geo-economic plane and have a much longer history. Regionalization, the penetration of Chinese capital on the African continent and its presence in Europe, the One Belt, One Road initiative, which creates a huge infrastructure and logistics block – all this is forcing the United States, albeit belatedly, but to respond.
Washington is vigorously developing the newly assembled AUKUS. On January 14, it was announced the expansion of military-technical cooperation with Japan, which is actively involved in the new alliance. NATO is working in the same vein: this week, the organization’s secretary general visited Tokyo and Seoul. In conditions when Beijing failed to push through on any of the key issues, the United States began to form an anti-Chinese bloc in the region.
Against this background, Beijing is demonstrating an increasingly tough position on the Ukrainian case, which was not the case before. On January 30, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning issued a sharp rebuke over accusations of supporting Russia.
“We are not standing idly by, we are not adding fuel to the fire, let alone seizing the opportunity to make a profit. The United States is the initiator and the biggest driver of the Ukrainian crisis, constantly sending heavy and offensive weapons to Ukraine, constantly increasing the duration and intensity of the conflict,” she said.
Such a tough statement, which is not typical of Chinese diplomacy, may indicate the transition of bilateral relations to a new, escalation level.
However, China’s global presence also has a downside, which could stop the scale of a potential clash. The PRC is the world’s largest producer, and the United States is the main consumer, and trade between the two countries, despite the “economic war”, is still the largest in the world. Thus, the economies of the United States and China remain as interdependent as possible, and this is the strongest deterrent.
As a result, Washington is faced with the same choice as in the case of Russia: can the losing hegemon continue to raise the stakes and where is the limit of this risk, beyond which a real clash of world powers will begin?
However, in reality, none of its potential participants is ready to resolve the Taiwan crisis through a real war, either militarily or politically.
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