Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan is a rare and commendable act of strategic sense that received equally rare and commendable bipartisan support. Yet considering the geostrategic and economic conditions that China faces, it is not without risk. The CCP faces a closing window of opportunity. It must act soon to shape the battlefield and divide the United States from its Taiwanese partner. The U.S. should act accordingly, making contingency plans for a military response if needed, staging major exercises to demonstrate its seriousness, and above all, accepting that deterrence in this crisis will not reduce the possibility of conflict in the next one.
Leading Democrats and Republicans publicly opposed the Biden administration’s skittishness over Pelosi’s visit. Senators Bob Menendez, the Democratic Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and Republican John Cornyn, who visited Taiwan in 2021, agree on very little. But both explicitly endorsed Pelosi’s visit, demanding that the U.S. not cave to the CCP’s blatant public pressure.
Regardless, the Biden administration has been sent a clear message. Despite brutal domestic divisions over social policy, an intensifying inflationary crisis, and a still poisonous political culture, America’s major parties are in broad agreement on China policy. The PRC and CCP must be confronted. Beijing has designs on Taiwan. Capitulation to Chinese pressure today guarantees aggression tomorrow.
Nevertheless, the Biden administration is correct in a sense: the CCP will act, and it may do so sooner than expected. The so-called Davidson Window – named for Admiral Philip Davidson’s (USN, ret.) warning that China would move on Taiwan, possibly within the decade – assesses the situation correctly. The PLA is assembling the capabilities for a high-intensity amphibious assault on Taiwan to subjugate the island, shatter the U.S.’ Indo-Pacific position by breaking the First Island Chain, dominate East Asia’s sea lanes, and acquire Taiwan’s world-leading semiconductor industry.
However, the Davidson Window overestimates the time that China must achieve its ambitions. Domestic-economic, geopolitical, and military trends suggest that, by the end of this decade, China may be in a far weaker position vis-a-vis the U.S. and Taiwan than in the near future.
China’s domestic economy is on the brink of a severe contraction. The CCP is staring at a property crisis of a much greater magnitude than in the 2010s. Evergrande, China’s huge real estate company’s massive liquidity crisis was the canary in the coal mine. Additional major developers like China Properties Group have defaulted, while still others have halted offshore bond payments.
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