China is unlikely to attack Taiwan any time soon, as Beijing is focused on addressing domestic issues, National Security Council (NSC) Secretary-General Wellington Koo (顧立雄) told legislators yesterday.
Koo made the remarks in response to a question from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chiang Yung-chang (江永昌) during a meeting of the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee.
The national security head added that the recent death of former Chinese premier Li Keqiang (李克強) was not expected to increase the risk of Beijing starting a war with Taiwan.
The Chinese leadership is divided into two camps regarding the country’s overall strategy, he said.
A Chinese State Council-based group is advocating economic development, while a national security group is pushing for an aggressive stance on the world stage, he said.
Although the national security wing holds sway over policymaking, the Chinese government would probably act cautiously in the immediate future, Koo said.
Addressing economic problems stemming from declining foreign investments, local government debt, rising youth unemployment and weak domestic demand would likely absorb Beijing’s attention, he said.
China’s economy could face devastating consequences if Beijing pursues policies that could scare away foreign investors and businesspeople, including from Taiwan, he said.
Beijing’s demonstrated intent to manage risks suggests a preoccupation with addressing domestic concerns, which makes it unlikely that China would initiate an armed invasion of Taiwan in the near term, he said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is expected to try to ease tensions with Washington in a meeting with US President Joe Biden at an APEC summit in San Francisco this month, although the framework of US-China strategic competition would not change, Koo said.
The public show of grief over Li’s passing indicates that many Chinese long for a return to an open market economy, he said.
Xi appeared to be unnerved by signs of discontent and is shifting his focus to maintaining social stability and growing the economy, he said.
Koo also said that international focus on the Israel-Hamas conflict would not increase the likelihood of China launching a surprise attack on Taiwan.
The US’ commitment to defending Taiwan against Beijing’s aggression is not diminished by dealing with Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip, as a contingency in the Taiwan Strait would constitute a greater threat to Washington’s core interests, he said.
A war between Taiwan and China would spiral into a broader conflict in the Indo-Pacific region, which is crucial to US security interests, while the war between Israel and Hamas could be managed, he said.
Washington has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to maintaining the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, through public statements and its request that South Korea voice its support of that position at the G7 summit earlier this year, he said.
Taiwan’s security is crucial to the US’ goal of maintaining prosperity and security globally, Koo said.
Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel was intended as a political statement, which is not a military strategy suited for China’s intention to annex Taiwan, he added.
Seizing Taiwan would require amassing conventional forces and logistical preparations that could not be hidden from surveillance, he said.
China seeking to occupy Taiwan’s outlying islands, aimed at striking a blow against morale, is a more likely scenario than a direct invasion of Taiwan proper, which was highlighted in the US Department of State’s Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China report released last month, he said.
However, any military action by Beijing would lead to economic sanctions and other severe consequences, which lowers the probability of Chinese attacks on these territories, Koo said.
Taiwanese defense and national security officials continue to monitor China closely, he said, adding that maintaining public morale in Taiwan would be the key factor should Beijing attack the outlying islands.
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