China appears determined on using force in Taiwan, with Russia’s experience in Ukraine affecting Beijing’s calculations on when and how — not whether — to invade, the head of the CIA said on Wednesday.
Appearing at the Aspen Security Forum, CIA Director Bill Burns said that China likely saw in Ukraine that “you don’t achieve quick, decisive victories with underwhelming force.”
He played down speculation that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) could move on Taiwan after a key Chinese Communist Party meeting later this year, but said the risks “become higher, it seems to us, the further into this decade that you get.”
Photo: Ann Wang, Reuters
“I wouldn’t underestimate President Xi’s determination to assert China’s control” over Taiwan, he said.
Burns said that China was “unsettled” when looking at Russia’s five-month-old war in Ukraine, which he characterized as a “strategic failure” for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had hoped to topple the Kyiv government within a week.
“Our sense is that it probably affects less the question of whether the Chinese leadership might choose some years down the road to use force to control Taiwan, but how and when they would do it,” Burns said.
“I suspect the lesson that the Chinese leadership and military are drawing is that you’ve got to amass overwhelming force if you’re going to contemplate that in the future,” he said.
China also has likely learned that it has to “control the information space” and “do everything you can to shore up your economy against the potential for sanctions,” he said in a live interview with NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell.
Speaking before Burns at the forum in the Rocky Mountains, Chinese Ambassador to the US Qin Gang (秦剛) said that Beijing preferred “peaceful reunification.”
He also said that the US was supporting “independence” forces in Taiwan.
“No conflict and no war is the biggest consensus between China and the United States,” Qin said, adding that Washington was “hollowing out and blurring” its stated policy of only recognizing Beijing.
“Only by adhering strictly to the one China policy, only by joining hands to constrain and oppose Taiwan independence, can we have a peaceful reunification,” he said.
US President Joe Biden in May said that the US was ready to use force to defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, appearing to shed the long-held US policy of strategic ambiguity on whether it would engage militarily, although the White House quickly walked his comments back.
Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he expected to speak to Xi “within the next 10 days.”
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