With the United States still reeling from the pandemic and having undergone a recent change in administration, the Chinese Communist Party now sees a “window of opportunity” to accelerate its plans to expand its territory in the Asian region, according to a former senior intelligence officer for the U.S. Navy.
“It’s a very dangerous time for the region, as Beijing is seeking to advance their strategy and their timeline,” James Fanell, who previously served as the director of intelligence for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told Epoch Times affiliate NTD in an April 9 interview.
In recent weeks, the Chinese regime has amassed more than 240 militia vessels on the disputed Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea, an area inside the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest to Beijing and sent a naval task force to patrol the area. In the past week, the United States has concentrated its warships in the region, including a carrier strike group and an amphibious group. As of April 13, only a handful of Chinese vessels remain in the reef, according to the Philippines.
Fanell, now a government fellow with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, said Beijing’s actions are serving as a test for the Biden administration. If the regime doesn’t see “stiff resistance from the Biden administration,” he said, it may accelerate its plans to take military action against Taiwan, and in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
For the past year, Beijing has ratcheted up its military aggression toward Taiwan, sending military aircraft near the self-ruled island on a near-daily basis. On April 12, the regime sent a record 25 aircraft, including fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers, into the island’s so-called air defense identification zone.
Citing the Chinese regime’s military advancements and its growing assertiveness in the region, U.S. Adm. Philip Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate in March that Beijing could invade Taiwan in the next six years. Adm. John Aquilino, the nominee to replace Davidson as head of the command, at his confirmation hearing later that month declined to set a time frame, but said the threat of a Chinese invasion is “much closer to us than most think.”
“When they say that, that should cause people to really wake up and pay attention,” Fanell said, of the two admirals’ warnings.
While analysts have predicted that the regime won’t act until after the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in February, Fanell’s approach towards Beijing is to “expect the unexpected.”
“All indicators suggest that they’re getting very very close to making a maneuver” against Taiwan, he said.
Fanell believes that Chinese military officials and other hardliners inside the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are “arguing vociferously” that now is the best time to take over Taiwan. If the CCP waits until after 2022, they’ll risk the Republican Party taking back control of the House of Representatives, and later the White House, thereby risking the United States taking a “much more demonstrable hardline” against the regime, he said.
These CCP officials are arguing that “we can’t afford to wait too much longer while that U.S. rearms itself and retools itself” to be able to defeat the CCP’s strategy to invade Taiwan, he said. “Those arguments are going on right now [within the CCP].”
“I’m very concerned that China could decide to do something very soon,” he said.
To deter the CCP, the United States needs to be more assertive diplomatically in calling out the regime’s predations, and enhance its efforts to counter Chinese propaganda, according to Fanell. On the military front, the United States should deploy forces to “get in the way of what China is doing” in areas like the South China Sea.
“The goal is to tell the People’s Republic of China and Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party that you cannot just bully people because you’re a big nation. That’s not the way the world works, and we’re not going to stand for it,” he said.
“Beijing needs to understand that if they really try to do what they think they can do, then they will pay dearly for it.”