Taiwan Action May Depend on China’s Domestic Situation

As the West’s punishment of Russia escalates, how will it affect Beijing’s plans for Taiwan? Commentary With the Russian invasion of Ukraine underway, many people are wondering just how long it will be until China attacks Taiwan. It’s reasonable to assume that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may trigger the Chinese regime’s potential invasion of Taiwan. And why not? A Shared Authoritarian Vision of the World Beijing and Moscow share a vision of a new world order that challenges the United States as the global hegemon, NATO as the source of international security, and liberal democracy as a model for the world. Consequently, Beijing supporting Moscow’s conquering of Ukraine, even though Russia is globally condemned as the aggressor, is no surprise. And there’s no doubt that China’s leader-for-life Xi Jinping will enjoy Russia’s support when, or if, he gives the order to attack Taiwan. No guessing about that. Both countries affirmed this arrangement just before the Winter Olympics began in Beijing. Each vowed that the “friendship between the two States has no limits,” and that “there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.” Not surprisingly, Beijing shares Moscow’s perspective that the United States is to blame for war breaking out. Russia Paying a Steep Price Be that as it may, Russia is paying the price for its violation of Ukraine in a variety of ways. For example, major Western businesses are cutting ties with Russia. These include BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and other multinational businesses. That alone means billions of dollars in lost revenues. Plus, boycotts of Russian goods in Europe and elsewhere are also in place. Russian banks are losing access to the SWIFT global financial clearing service, and access to its $630 billion foreign reserves has been restricted. Russian stock markets have been closed, the benchmark interest rates have doubled to 20 percent, and the Russian ruble is now worth less than a penny. In the West, funds with Russian assets are seeing their prices fall, public outcry and media condemnation in Europe and North America is non-stop, and Europe and Canada have banned Russian planes from their airspace. Even yachts owned by Russian oligarchs are being seized, which admittedly is more symbolic than strategic. In response, Moscow is trying to make it difficult for foreign firms to leave Russia, at least in the short term. China to the Rescue? To counteract lost markets in the West, China is now importing grain from Russia, a major wheat supplier, among other agreements. But even that is proving problematic. Russian President Vladimir Putin (C-L) meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on Feb. 4, 2022. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images) And at the moment, the Ukraine invasion presents a few challenges for Beijing to consider as well. One is balancing their “unlimited support” for Moscow with avoiding Russia’s fate of being decoupled from the global financial system. Another is risking international condemnation and economic penalties. That begs the question of whether an invasion of Taiwan would lead to a similar outcome for China. Beijing Weighing the West’s Potential Response It’s not exactly clear how Western trading partners would react to a Chinese move against Taiwan. If their reaction bore any similarity to the Ukraine invasion, its impact would be devastating. Decoupling from the global system would be difficult and costly for China, as well as every other nation involved, for years ahead. But an invasion is not the only way for Beijing to achieve its objectives with regard to Taiwan. For example, there is the possibility that Taipei may react to the death and destruction of Ukraine by offering to agree to some sort of non-confrontational arrangement with Beijing. Such a compromise could look more like the Hong Kong from 1997 to 2018 than 2022 Ukraine. If that were arranged, it may spare China the pain of potential economic dislocation with its Western trading partners, while allowing Taiwan some level of autonomy in the economic realm. Granted, that scenario is dubious at best, given Beijing’s recent takeover of Hong Kong. Can China Afford Losing the West? However, what is clear is that China has deep economic interests in the West, particularly in the European Union and the United States. The impact of losing access to those markets is certain to be on the minds of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership. That’s why Beijing is carefully assessing the West’s response to Russia and is calculating potential economic costs that could come in the aftermath of an invasion of Taiwan. However, it is also critical to understand that for China, political and geopolitical priorities take precedence over economic concerns. In short, Beijing is willing to endure the economic costs to take control of Taiwan. But that’s not the only challenge. Uncertain Future for Xi Jinping? There are indications that Xi does not enjoy

Taiwan Action May Depend on China’s Domestic Situation

As the West’s punishment of Russia escalates, how will it affect Beijing’s plans for Taiwan?

Commentary

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine underway, many people are wondering just how long it will be until China attacks Taiwan.

It’s reasonable to assume that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may trigger the Chinese regime’s potential invasion of Taiwan.

And why not?

A Shared Authoritarian Vision of the World

Beijing and Moscow share a vision of a new world order that challenges the United States as the global hegemon, NATO as the source of international security, and liberal democracy as a model for the world.

Consequently, Beijing supporting Moscow’s conquering of Ukraine, even though Russia is globally condemned as the aggressor, is no surprise.

And there’s no doubt that China’s leader-for-life Xi Jinping will enjoy Russia’s support when, or if, he gives the order to attack Taiwan.

No guessing about that. Both countries affirmed this arrangement just before the Winter Olympics began in Beijing. Each vowed that the “friendship between the two States has no limits,” and that “there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.”

Not surprisingly, Beijing shares Moscow’s perspective that the United States is to blame for war breaking out.

Russia Paying a Steep Price

Be that as it may, Russia is paying the price for its violation of Ukraine in a variety of ways.

For example, major Western businesses are cutting ties with Russia. These include BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and other multinational businesses. That alone means billions of dollars in lost revenues.

Plus, boycotts of Russian goods in Europe and elsewhere are also in place. Russian banks are losing access to the SWIFT global financial clearing service, and access to its $630 billion foreign reserves has been restricted. Russian stock markets have been closed, the benchmark interest rates have doubled to 20 percent, and the Russian ruble is now worth less than a penny.

In the West, funds with Russian assets are seeing their prices fall, public outcry and media condemnation in Europe and North America is non-stop, and Europe and Canada have banned Russian planes from their airspace. Even yachts owned by Russian oligarchs are being seized, which admittedly is more symbolic than strategic.

In response, Moscow is trying to make it difficult for foreign firms to leave Russia, at least in the short term.

China to the Rescue?

To counteract lost markets in the West, China is now importing grain from Russia, a major wheat supplier, among other agreements. But even that is proving problematic.

Epoch Times Photo
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C-L) meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on Feb. 4, 2022. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

And at the moment, the Ukraine invasion presents a few challenges for Beijing to consider as well. One is balancing their “unlimited support” for Moscow with avoiding Russia’s fate of being decoupled from the global financial system.

Another is risking international condemnation and economic penalties. That begs the question of whether an invasion of Taiwan would lead to a similar outcome for China.

Beijing Weighing the West’s Potential Response

It’s not exactly clear how Western trading partners would react to a Chinese move against Taiwan. If their reaction bore any similarity to the Ukraine invasion, its impact would be devastating. Decoupling from the global system would be difficult and costly for China, as well as every other nation involved, for years ahead.

But an invasion is not the only way for Beijing to achieve its objectives with regard to Taiwan.

For example, there is the possibility that Taipei may react to the death and destruction of Ukraine by offering to agree to some sort of non-confrontational arrangement with Beijing.

Such a compromise could look more like the Hong Kong from 1997 to 2018 than 2022 Ukraine. If that were arranged, it may spare China the pain of potential economic dislocation with its Western trading partners, while allowing Taiwan some level of autonomy in the economic realm.

Granted, that scenario is dubious at best, given Beijing’s recent takeover of Hong Kong.

Can China Afford Losing the West?

However, what is clear is that China has deep economic interests in the West, particularly in the European Union and the United States. The impact of losing access to those markets is certain to be on the minds of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership.

That’s why Beijing is carefully assessing the West’s response to Russia and is calculating potential economic costs that could come in the aftermath of an invasion of Taiwan.

However, it is also critical to understand that for China, political and geopolitical priorities take precedence over economic concerns. In short, Beijing is willing to endure the economic costs to take control of Taiwan.

But that’s not the only challenge.

Uncertain Future for Xi Jinping?

There are indications that Xi does not enjoy the full support of the CCP. In fact, it’s noteworthy that Xi hasn’t set foot outside of China for more than two years. The reason, according to some observers, is that China’s “president for life’s” political survival is on thin ice.

It is, however, difficult to believe that Xi will be removed. Like his anti-corruption campaign of a few years ago, Xi’s current common prosperity campaign is not just about seizing billionaires’ assets and winning the people’s support with class warfare on the rich. It’s also a convenient cover for a political purge of his Party competitors.

On the flip side, the objective for both China and Russia is to de-dollarize their economies in a drive to establish a post-dollar global system. That certainly appears to be the case. Russia’s being “SWIFT-kicked” may accelerate their de-dollarization plans. Cutting itself off from the West under U.S. terms in the short term may be the price of doing so.

That may dovetail nicely with the CCP’s desire to protect China’s cultural and political identity from Western influences. If that’s the case, conquering Taiwan would serve that purpose as well. That wouldn’t be the first time China has chosen such a path.

It would not only be a challenge to U.S. power in two theaters, but it may be just what Xi needs to remain in power.

No wonder taking Taiwan is a top priority for Xi.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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James R. Gorrie is the author of “The China Crisis” (Wiley, 2013) and writes on his blog, TheBananaRepublican.com. He is based in Southern California.