Is Taiwan in real danger? After the visit of Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Chinese military movements have increased around the Taiwan Strait, leading to a discussion about a potential military invasion or economic blockade and the possible repercussions. Although military exercises have been carried out for years, after the invasion of Ukraine the alarms are set due to a potential Chinese aggression against the democratically-ruled island.
In this week’s #Forum2000online Chat, J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based policy analyst, a senior non-resident fellow with the Global Taiwan Institute, and senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa, Canada, joined Martin Ehl, journalist and author working at Czech Economic daily Hospodářské noviny to talk about the Chinese military movements, Taiwan, and the role of the United States and the European Union around these tensions.
“Every day we live under the constant threat of Chinese military aggression, intimidation, coercion,” says Mr. Cole.
According to J. Michael Cole, you will learn that:
- The Taiwanese are constantly threatened, intimidated, and suffer aggressions by the Chinese Government and Army. The recent increase of air incursions by the Chinese military aviation and other movements are being used as a deterrence tactic against the U.S. support to Taiwan.
- The Chinese action is accompanied by a diplomatic strategy to justify the military movements. However, these movements are not new.
- A blockade has been one of the main options of China against Taiwan. However, sustaining an embargo around Taiwan is a difficult proposition because of the economic interdependence between Taiwan and other regional powers. The blockade would cause great affection to third actors, which will provoke a high pressure to break the blockade. Therefore, considering this action overstates the capacity of China to maintain it.
- Among the possible actions of China are seizure of some islands, sabotage, and misinformation campaigns. However, the first movement will allow Taiwan to prepare a strong defense. Sabotage and misinformation campaigns are already running to undermine the belief in the Taiwanese democratic institutions and government. Nonetheless, the Taiwanese have developed a big resistance to these campaigns and their morale is not strongly affected.
- Washington has developed a strong commitment to and bipartisan support with the Taiwan affair by understanding the major role of Taiwan in the international fight against authoritarian regimes.
- The main role of the EU is to keep a united response in case of any Chinese aggression. A common response means a big challenge since China has been good at exploiting differences among the EU member states. The EU needs to seek internal cohesion and sent a clear signal that there will be a major cost both politically and economically in case of aggression. The EU should support regional powers to send a message of deterrence and take China away from the idea of an invasion.
- China is paying close attention to the situation in Ukraine. If China concludes that Taiwan will be ensured with a similar strong and common response from the international community, that will contribute to deterrence against China. On the other hand, China could learn that, in case of invasion, a stronger first strike than that of Russia against Ukraine should be done, because it will limit Taiwan’s response. Although a major strike would be catastrophic due to the limited terrain and density features, which could be detrimental for Chinese interests. Due to this, even though military options are on the table, they carry big costs that China might not want to assume.
The interview was recorded on August 15, 2022.