On July 18, Peter Enav, a former Associated Press reporter in Taiwan, published an article on the Taiwan Sentinel Web site, arguing that China might be ready to launch an attack on Taiwan by the middle of next year.
Unexpectedly, some of the reactions I heard accused the author of helping China and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) intimidate Taiwanese.
Perhaps many feel that the US is protecting Taiwan and so China would not dare attack, and that this will automatically lead to the establishment of a Republic of Taiwan.
While I do not agree with Enav that next year is the most likely date for an attack, I also think that the risk China will attack has increased, for several reasons.
First, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is an arrogant adventurist, whether he is dealing with internal enemies or external expansion. Because of his despotism, he is surrounded by sycophants and yes-sayers, which results in political miscalculations.
Second, if the life-and-death struggle among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) top leaders does not end soon, Xi might use his power to lead both the party and the army into an all-out war to establish his authority, and weak Taiwan — which would be seen as a legitimate target — could well be on the receiving end of such an exercise.
Most of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) exercises are aimed at Taiwan, and it is already routine for the PLA Navy and Air Force to circumnavigate Taiwan as they familiarize themselves with the territory.
Third, China no longer claims that the “one country, two systems” formula is a model for how it would treat Taiwan, which implies that it would apply a “one country, one system” policy in Taiwan. This means that the risk of military invasion has increased.
The CCP’s current United Front strategy is infiltrating and weakening Taiwan from the inside to prepare the way for military invasion and a subsequent collapse of Taiwan’s defenses.
Fourth, Taiwan is experiencing domestic chaos. The groups opposed to pension reform would likely welcome a Chinese invasion and there are also some confused people who would be willing to accept being entertained for free in China.
As the power struggle within the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is making members treat friends as enemies and enemies as friends, the party could lose its ability to resist China, while there is a lack of young people willing to join the military and defend the nation. All these are factors lead to an increased risk of invasion.
Fifth, Western nations’ appeasement of China is fanning its willingness to invade. When Nobel Peace Price laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) was dying, not a single G20 nation dared bring up the issue with Xi at a G20 summit, much like what happened at the Munich conference in 1938, which encouraged Adolf Hitler to invade Poland.
Sixth, the Taiwan-friendly group of people around US President Donald Trump have been weakened and pro-China forces might gain the upper hand, which could be the crucial factor that Xi needs.
Possibility is not the same thing as certainty. As long as we are fully prepared, risk will decrease, while blind optimism and lack of preparation will lead to increased risk.
If President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) continues to engage with the military, take a gentle approach to reform and work to minimize social division, she stands a good chance of fostering solidarity and unity against the enemy.
Regardless, China is Taiwan’s greatest enemy. If Xi dared to attempt an invasion, that would be the moment Taiwan should declare independence.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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