China and Taiwan: The ‘Punch’ Is Coming Sooner Rather Than Later

Communist China always telegraphs its punches—even if you don’t quite know when they’re coming.

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping told U.S. President Joe Biden in November 2023 in San Francisco that talking about Taiwan is well and good, but he won’t wait forever.
Before Taiwan’s election in January, Beijing warned that it was a choice between peace and prosperity or war and decline. So vote for the KMT. But most Taiwanese didn’t.

The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Joint Sword-2024A exercises in May were intended to “punish” Taiwan for the voters’ temerity in choosing their own destiny—and more are reportedly coming.

China’s defense minister was uncompromising at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue regarding Taiwan (and everything else). He wasn’t winging it.

Commentators offer a range of scenarios for what the punches might look like, including the Chinese regime blockading Taiwan, blustering, squeezing, and isolating until Taiwan folds, seizing Taiwan’s off-shore islands, or an all-out kinetic assault to take all of Taiwan.

There are arguments for all of these.

But it’s prudent to plan for the worst.What Did the PLA Demonstrate in Recent Drills?The PLA is exercising all “muscle groups” and will do more with Joint Sword exercise phases B, C, and D, which are said to be planned.

The Chinese military is honing skills for joint/combined operations and practicing specific capabilities: rockets, naval, air, ground, logistics, cyber, electronic, intelligence collections, targeting, and so forth. The PLA is tightening operational (and psychological) pressure on Taiwan and gauging Taipei’s and, most importantly, Washington’s reactions.

The PLA is at a point in which it can move from exercise to “the real thing” in relatively short order—if the political decision is made to do so.

These latest exercises seem to have come out of the blue, some have said with only 45 minutes’ notice.

Some imagine that we would probably get more than that for the real thing, but not necessarily months of advance notice.

And the idea that we have a “grace period” of 10 years (as retired Adm. James Stavridis claimed a few months ago) before the PLA is ready to fight the United States—as could happen if the Chinese regime attacks Taiwan—is comforting but wishful thinking.

Of course, it’s hard to fully ascertain PLA capabilities since the Chinese only report the positive aspects, there’s no foreign or free press coverage, and no friendly foreign military attaches are observing the exercises.

But the biggest weakness is that the PLA has never done joint, combined operations for real in modern times, nor fought an actual war. War is always harder than a military drill since people are shooting back and almost nothing is predictable.

So it’s a roll of the dice for the Chinese regime if it decides to start a war over Taiwan.

But that’s the case with most wars.

Plenty of experts—even some respected ones—said in 2022 that Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn’t dare invade Ukraine, and they had the “facts” to back it up.

They were also wrong.Taiwan’s Defenses StretchedTaiwan’s military faces “more things, in more places, from more directions, closer in, and more often” than ever. That’s a huge problem since Taiwan’s military has not kept pace with the growing threat of the Chinese military. A response that worked for years is now dangerously outmatched while wearing down its military and creating a sense of futility in certain civilian quarters.

The military exercises get the attention, but Beijing compliments its efforts with subversion and fifth-column activity directed against Taiwan.

The CCP has spent more than a half-century working on Taiwan and putting assets in place. And the opposition KMT’s recent power grab in the Legislative Yuan was likely done in collusion with the CCP.

Read the rest at Epoch Times.

Grant Newsham is a Senior Fellow at Yorktown Institute.

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