Will China Invade Taiwan in 2022?

By Grant Newsham
Grant Newsham
Grant Newsham
Grant Newsham is a retired U.S. Marine officer and a former U.S. diplomat and business executive with many years in the Asia/Pacific region. He is a director at One Korea Network and a senior fellow with the Center for Security Policy and the Yorktown Institute.
January 31, 2022Updated: February 2, 2022


Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) predicts a Chinese invasion of Taiwan after the Winter Olympics. Maybe. Maybe not. It’s probably easier to predict who will win the Super Bowl than to predict when, if, and how China will make its move on Taiwan.

But, timing aside, McCaul is right—the threat is real.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has the hardware, weaponry, manpower, and capability to launch an assault across the Taiwan Strait. It’s been planning for decades and just might think it can succeed.

The PLA might not do it the way U.S. forces would, but the Chinese do a lot of things differently than the Americans. And they often do them very well.

However, this writer thinks they won’t do it—at least not an all-out assault to seize Taiwan.

They may do something more modest that still humiliates the United States and rattles everybody’s confidence in American might and protection, while at the same time demonstrating that China is the dominant military power in the region—not least because of its perceived willingness to use force.

If all Beijing achieves in the short term is publicly neutering the United States in the Pacific, it goes a long way toward moving the regime to its next step in bringing Taiwan to heel and regional domination.

That’s what Russian President Vladimir Putin is doing to U.S. President Joe Biden and the Europeans. Embarrassing the Americans, exposing weaknesses, and sowing doubt. Putin is exploiting fissures in the NATO alliance that over time can be widened by using military threats, economic pressure, and subversion—possibly leading to the fragmentation or diminution of NATO itself.

Beijing is no doubt taking notes.

So what are some of Beijing’s more “modest” options for Taiwan?

Epoch Times Photo
Flags of nations that recognize Taiwan are seen at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Taipei on Dec. 10, 2021. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)

Maybe a move against one of Taiwan’s offshore islands? Or interfering with shipping and aircraft to and from Kinmen or Matsu, or Pratas? Or perhaps force Taiwan and/or other countries’ shipping in the South China Sea to submit to Chinese monitoring, inspection, and approval before entering the waterway?

Chinese leader Xi Jinping no doubt has his people giving him even more options.

And they could be including in their calculations that if they make their move too fast and try to grab too much, it may force the Americans into a fight—that will bleed the PLA—and also put China’s overseas assets at risk.

The U.S. forces may have a hard time if a fight is around Taiwan, but they have the advantage beyond that—and can interdict (especially operating with partners) Chinese sea lines of communication and the vital oil, food, and trade that flows along them. The PLA still hasn’t got the global “power projection” capabilities yet.

Another tripwire Beijing may try to avoid triggering is Washington’s economic “nuclear option.” China is still vulnerable to being delinked from the U.S. dollar system or a complete shut-off of technology imports—as probably would happen in the event of a full-scale invasion of Taiwan.

All this to say Beijing might be inclined to wait a while and let its political warfare efforts simmer and melt potential resistance. Political warfare means using China’s prodigious economic, diplomatic, political, psychological, and implicit military pressure to establish influence in a nation.

It’s working well for Beijing so far. China has used political warfare to make inroads throughout the entire Pacific—the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Kiribati to name a few—and Southeast Asia is hedging its bets—with some nations already casting their lot with China. Cambodia, for instance, is allowing China to build a new naval base.

Apart from being gains in their own right, this is allowing China to increasingly isolate Taiwan economically, diplomatically, politically, psychologically, and militarily.

China recently dispatched a kinder, gentler ambassador to Australia, and if the Australian Labor Party wins this year’s election, even stalwart Australia might go softer on China. The Chinese regime is even locking up Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Across the region, pro-China leaders are winning elections and other nations are shifting into China’s camp. And Africa is looking pretty good from Beijing’s perspective, too.

The cumulative effect isn’t just a political warfare victory against Taiwan, but against China’s biggest target, the United States. Beijing is lighting so many small fires that can distract and overwhelm U.S. response, and ultimately could erode U.S. resistance. The regime is also helping things along by pumping the deadly drug fentanyl into the United States and killing well over 60,000 Americans per year—many of them of military age—and the Americans do nothing.

Thus, the plan might be to not do anything “too much” that would force the Americans to fight, but just enough to humiliate and discredit them. Hold your fire a bit, and Wall Street and U.S. business—which consider Taiwan at best a bargaining chip, and at worst a disposable irritant in the more important U.S.–China relationship—will praise Beijing for showing restraint while insisting Washington to do whatever it takes to avoid war with a “nuclear-armed China.”

The same American contingent will also argue that Beijing’s help on climate change/North Korea/fill-in-the-blank demands that the United States overlook Chinese moves against Taiwan—as long as they are “modest” and, thus, no “threat to American national interests.”

While this writer thinks the Chinese regime won’t invade Taiwan in 2022, there is one exception.

If in 2022, the United States has serious domestic problems such as widespread rioting, and appears chaotic, distracted, and unable to put up a fight, Xi just might be tempted to take his chances against Taiwan.

And that’s even more likely if the U.S. military is short of funds and its leaders are more focused on rooting out imaginary extremists, social engineering, and fighting climate change than winning wars.

Indeed, read the news each day, and it seems the Biden administration and America’s ruling elite are trying to give Xi a reason to go for broke.

So that’s my take for 2022.

From 2023 onward, however, I think China will assault Taiwan—either because the United States is still chaotic and appears unable to defend Taiwan or even its position in Asia. If somehow the Americans get their wits about them and strengthen their capabilities and alliances—Beijing just might see its window of opportunity closing.

Either way, the United States and free nations can’t say that what’s coming will be a “strategic surprise.” The test of how they respond will come soon enough.

As for the Super Bowl, it’s the Cincinnati Bengals by a touchdown.

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

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