Which War Is Beijing Preparing For?

Will China trigger an Asia–Pacific war over Taiwan—or is there another, more strategic plan afoot?
October 10, 2021 Updated: October 13, 2021

Commentary

It’s no secret that Beijing is preparing for war.

One of the main reasons is China’s cratering economy. The recent collapse of the Evergrande real estate development firm is only the latest in a series of dire symptoms that are fueling rising domestic discontent. The $8 trillion debt crisis in the shadow economy—more than half of its gross domestic product (GDP)—is also looming large in China’s ability to keep its financial system afloat. An aging, less productive population, higher production costs, and fleeing foreign investment all result in falling GDP.

China’s Power Has Peaked

The reality is that China’s economic power is already declining.

Sure, the statistics can be adjusted, but it doesn’t change reality. What’s more, this across-the-board economic decline is driving the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to impose even more extreme, oppressive measures against its people and businesses. The CCP’s response only worsens economic performance and civil unrest.

Concurrently, the regime in Beijing has been adjusting its internal arrangements for several years. For example, its National Defense Transportation Law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. The law restructured its legal framework, putting all commercial shipping under the direct authority of the CCP.

Externally, China’s deepening isolation from the world is clearly evident and underscores its ongoing decoupling from the global economy and the international norms of trade and diplomacy. This trend may well make a Taiwan invasion likely sooner than later, if only to divert attention from China’s domestic problems.

TAIWAN-DEFENCE-1
Taiwanese domestically built indigenous defense fighters take part in the live-fire, anti-landing Han Kuang military exercise in Taichung, Taiwan, on July 16, 2020. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Military and naval experts conclude that Beijing plans to use commercial transport ships to help transport up to 2 million soldiers in a Taiwan invasion.

Recent news reports seem to confirm such a conclusion. China’s official press, the Global Times, all but acknowledges the inevitable, if not imminent, invasion of Taiwan.

“China is prepared for the worst-case scenario—the US and its allies, including Japan, launch(ing) an all-out military intervention to interrupt China’s national reunification.”

Clearly, war or the threat of war is on the horizon, and all the nations in the Asia-Pacific region know it.

In response to China’s increasingly aggressive posture, including the commercial shipping arrangement, Taiwan and other nations are adding more long-range anti-ship missiles. Japan, which for decades has maintained a pacifist foreign policy, also has made a massive shift in its thinking, linking Taiwan’s security to its own.

The impact of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan wouldn’t be limited to just Taiwan. Should it occur, like Japan, it will be perceived by the United States and other nations as a strategic threat to their own national security.

This is partly because Taiwan provides more than 50 percent of the world’s semiconductors necessary for advanced data processing, automobiles, artificial intelligence, and other high technology. But an invasion would also threaten democratic nations in the region, as well as trade and international legal norms.

More Trigger Points

But Taiwan isn’t the only trigger point. China is also threatening the uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which Japan considers its territory. They’re also claimed by China and Taiwan, and could become a flashpoint for war. The Biden administration has recently assured Japan’s new prime minister, Fumio Kishida, that the United States would defend the Senkaku Islands if China should attack.

And as noted in an earlier article, the CCP has already put Australia on notice. Should Canberra acquire nuclear-powered submarines from the United States under the recent AUKUS military alliance, China would add Australia as a legitimate target for nuclear attack.

Epoch Times Photo
A type 094 Jin-class nuclear submarine Long March 15 of the Chinese Navy participates in a naval parade near Qingdao, in China’s Shandong Province on April 23, 2019. (Mark Schiefelnein/AFP via Getty Images)

South Korea has expressed clear opposition to Beijing’s ambitions in Taiwan. In a joint statement with the United States, and for the first time, both nations committed to defending international rules and norms in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. The unusual directness of the message is an acknowledgment of the imminent threat that China poses to Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region.

Further afield, China’s recent military skirmish with India in the Himalayan heights of the Galwan Valley has alerted New Delhi to the reality that China is seeking unambiguous hegemony over its neighbors, of which India is one. This has driven India to strategically align itself with the U.S.-led AUKUS alliance. Its recent participation in the Malabar joint naval exercises off the U.S. territory of Guam on Aug. 2629 sent a clear message to Beijing.

The linchpin to all of these arrangements is, of course, the United States. While it still maintains a significant naval advantage over China, what is less certain is the political will of the Biden administration to follow through on its military commitments. With the United States’ retreat from Afghanistan, the Biden administration is perceived as weak and more concerned with domestic economic and social issues than projecting U.S. power to protect the international order. Around the world, confidence in U.S. leadership is at an ebb.

Beijing is certainly aware of these facts, and it may be influencing its strategy with respect to Taiwan and the region as a whole. Chinese leadership may have concluded that the Biden administration’s weakness poses a unique opportunity to test the U.S. resolve in the region.

Such perceptions would help explain the new and greater threats to the United States that are coming out of Beijing. But Xi Jinping’s personal leadership and ownership of the CCP, coupled with China’s mounting domestic failures, are most certainly also contributing factors.

China would prefer to avoid war—at least until it can match U.S. military might in the region. But one area that it does lead the United States is in hypersonic anti-ship missile technology. Rather than clashing with its neighbors, could the CCP be planning a strike on U.S. naval forces to drive the United States from the region?

If so, how would the United States react? How would the region react?

Anything less than a full response by the United States to a Chinese attack would mean that the U.S.-led Asia-Pacific security alliance would immediately cease to exist. It would then likely be up to each nation to make their separate peace with Beijing—if that were even an option.

That would suit the CCP just fine.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

James Gorrie
James R. Gorrie is the author of “The China Crisis” (Wiley, 2013) and writes on his blog, TheBananaRepublican.com. He is based in Southern California.