Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping is rapidly militarizing his country and has instructed its army to "prepare for war" and "fight and win" it. Just a few weeks ago, China expert (full disclosure: and Gatestone Senior Fellow) Gordon Chang warned:
"Chinese ruler Xi Jinping replaced the senior leadership of China's Rocket Force, which is responsible for almost all of China's 400 or so nuclear warheads. These personnel changes are part of what is almost certainly the most ominous development of this time. It looks like Xi is contemplating using or at least threatening to use his most destructive weapons. In other words, China is planning to go to war.
"Xi sacked Rocket Force commander, Li Yuchao, and its political commissar, Xu Zhongbo. Neither has been seen in public since. Li's deputy, Liu Guangbin, has also disappeared, along with Zhang Zhenzhong, a former deputy. At about the same time, Wu Guohua, deputy commander of the Rocket Force, reportedly took his own life in early July."
Xi is doubtless weighing the risk-reward ratio of launching an aggressive operation against Taiwan during US President Joe Biden's term of office. Xi is doubtless aware that his "window of opportunity" may be closing in 18 months, accompanied by a felicitously distracting US presidential election.
The timing of any Chinese assault on Taiwan will most certainly be determined by Xi's assessment of the domestic political strength of the Biden administration as well as the possible need for a strong diversion from his own imploding economy. Xi is also doubtless assessing the US president's resolve to back up his repeated declarations that US forces would come to the defense of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, as opposed to the US State Department's immediate walk-back of the promise.
Within the past year or so, the US leadership seems to have assumed that the increasingly provocative posture of China's army toward Taiwan was a mainly a consequence of visits to Taiwan by prominent US politicians, as well as the trip to Washington D.C. by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. The Chinese Communist Party claims that the US is treating Taiwan as an independent state and these VIP visits violate its "One China Policy." The truth, most likely, is that the CCP's repeated transgressions against Taiwan's air and maritime sovereignty, after then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's August 2022 visit to Taiwan, are actually just part of the CCP's military invasion exercises on its way to an all-out assault. The CCP's "rehearsals" have so far demonstrated its increased capability in amphibious landing exercises, air attacks, bombing runs, and naval maneuvers in support of its ground forces.
The CCP's Eastern Theater Command has, in addition, established a Joint Operations Command Center, responsible for coordinating all phases of an actual invasion of Taiwan. Military moves suggestive of the CCP's hostile intent toward Taiwan, included recent deliveries of wheeled armor vehicles to China's coastal province of Guangdong, an area with several natural launch points for an invasion of Taiwan. Another maneuver was the April 4, 2022 exercise displaying the CCP's most modern amphibious assault ship which, in an actual invasion, would be deployed in support of its Ground Forces, specifically the 72nd Group Army.
The CCP's contempt for international law can be seen in its repeated violations of Taiwan's air and maritime sovereignty. The country's aggressive behavior was repeated on August 19-20, when several People's Liberation Army (PLA) warplanes flew so close to Taiwan that the island's military scrambled its air defense.
The CCP has also violated other international agreements: the 2016 ruling of the International Tribunal at the Hague that awarded to the Philippines the waters and outcrop islets as being within their Economic Exclusive Zone; the Geneva Convention on the Laws of War, by allowing PLA troops to use medieval torture weapons against Indian troops in Himalayan Mountain clashes in 2020, and the UN's Universal Declaration on Human Rights by the mass imprisonment, rape and property destruction of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang Province.
In addition, China's Rocket Force, in April 2022, launched missiles that flew over Taiwan and landed inside Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone . Furthermore, since January of this year, Chinese aircraft and naval vessels have habitually crossed the assumed median line between China and Taiwan in the Taiwanese Strait.
"Western countries led by the United States have carried out all-round containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented severe challenges to China's development."
Xi has stressed that "the Taiwan question is the core of China's core interest" and has described as "wishful thinking" any expectation that China might compromise on the eventual incorporation of Taiwan into Communist China.
China has also rolled out a campaign of intimidation that shows China calling the shots. These began with the berating the US in Alaska, to which the State Department's response was "deep concerns" and continued with smuggling over the US border fentanyl and other drugs that have killed an estimated 200,000 civilians; renaming Confucius Institutes instead of closing them; establishing at least six illegal police stations in the US; sending a Chinese spy balloon over America's sensitive military and nuclear military sites before the Biden Administration shot it down, after the spycraft had sent back to China in real time all the information it needed; hacking and spying, and repeatedly rejecting US proposals to establish protocols of communication in a crisis between the United States and China.
Chinese Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu also summarily refused to meet with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in May 2023. China's pattern of negativity in trying to gaslight the US and perhaps the world into thinking the US is doing what, in fact, China is doing. For a finishing touch, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the spring of 2022, tried to sell the public the idea that the US is attempting the "full-blown containment and suppression of China."
The danger, of course, is that if Xi loses faith in the possibility of a peaceful union with Taiwan, which he may hope will come about on January 13, 2024 with the election in Taiwan of a new, more complaint president, and if China's economy continues to collapse, he could decide to incorporate Taiwan with military force. He will then need to decide on the most appropriate time to launch an invasion of Taiwan. After witnessing the Biden Administration's abandonment of Afghanistan, that would most likely be while Biden is still in power.
The most extensive exercises, the "invasion rehearsal," were executed in April 2023, when apparently winds and waves are conducive to amphibious operations. Early October would offer good weather for an invasion, too.
Political perceptions of an ideal time for an invasion, however, are probably the prime factor. It is apparent that the vast majority of Taiwan's population want to maintain the status quo with increased support for independence for the next generation of Taiwanese.
China's leadership might be calculating that as the months get closer to the 2024 US presidential election, the Biden administration will be too focused on campaigning to response in a serious way to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. There are sure to be parallel threats to the United States, thanks to China's greater knowledge of US military sites from the spy balloon; land purchases near military bases from which the Chinese could jam, disable, or entirely prevent a US response; and a new group of possibly up to 5,000 men, many single and of military age, brought into America over its southern border. These men, even now, may be militarizing China's new US "farmland" -- as they did on China's artificial islands in the South China Sea –- to sabotage US electric grids, water supply, power plants, civilian and military airports, communication centers, highways, tunnels, bridges, ports and other strategic infrastructure.
Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.