Beijing is pursuing its plans to annex Taiwan on a “much faster timeline” under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, reiterating warnings of global economic disruption if Taiwan were to be taken over and semiconductor production disrupted.
The comments came as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) met for its twice-a-decade congress, the most important meeting of its political cycle.
In a major speech opening the conclaves on Sunday, Xi made clear that his plans for Taiwan remain core to his plans of China’s “rejuvenation.”
In conversation with former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice at Stanford University, Blinken said peace and stability between China and Taiwan had been successfully maintained for decades, but Beijing had changed its approach.
“Instead of sticking with the status quo that was established in a positive way, [Beijing has made] a fundamental decision that the status quo is no longer acceptable, and Beijing is determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline,” Blinken said.
“If peaceful means didn’t work then [Beijing] would employ coercive means, and possibly if coercive means don’t work, then maybe forceful means to achieve its objective. That is what is profoundly disrupting the status quo and creating tremendous tensions,” he said.
While Beijing has made it clear it intends to take Taiwan, the timeline for such a scenario varies greatly. Senior US and Taiwanese military figures have said the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would have the capability within a few years, while analysts point to Xi’s goal of national rejuvenation by 2049 as a potential deadline.
“It is possible that Secretary Blinken is concerned about the pace and scope of China’s military modernization, which clearly is focused on Taiwan, but China’s military capability alone does not indicate intent to use force in the near term,” said Drew Thompson, an academic with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and a former US Department of State official.
“That said, Xi Jinping’s intent could change in an instant, whereas capability takes years to develop, as does building up Taiwan and US defenses against PLA power projection. The considerable time it takes to build defenses is a strong rationale for expressing a sense of urgency,” Thompson said.
China expert Bill Bishop said there was nothing in public documents or Xi’s speech to indicate an accelerated timeline.
“So is the US in possession of some intel that indicates a shift?” he wrote on Twitter.
Thompson said he did not see any indication in Blinken’s remarks that he was responding to “exquisite intelligence or an alternative assessment that differs from China analysts relying on open source indicators.”
The question on Taiwan was put to Blinken in the final minutes of an hour-long conversation, during which he warned that destabilization of the Taiwan Strait was of “profound concern to countries around the world.”
“The amount of commercial traffic that goes through the Straits every day and has an impact on economies around the world is enormous,” he said. “If that was to be disrupted as a result of a crisis, countries around the world would suffer.”
“If Taiwanese [semiconductor] production were disrupted as a result of the crisis, you would have an economic crisis around the world,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after the event, Blinken pointed to a global crisis beyond China, saying the Ukraine war had brought the “post Cold War-era to an end,” and technology is what would come to define competition between world powers.
“We are at an inflection point,” he said. “Technology will in many ways retool our economies. It will reform our militaries. It will reshape the lives of people across the planet. And so it’s profoundly a source of national strength.”
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