Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told The Atlantic on Monday that he “is a real threat” of a Chinese invasion. China has insisted it will strive to reintegrate Taiwan through peaceful means, but if a conflict breaks out, Tsai will look to the West for help.
In an article written by Ben Rhodes, Barack Obama’s speechwriter and deputy national security adviser, Tsai said that “you have to prepare” for a possible Chinese invasion. “It’s true that this thing could happen to us” she went on to add: “There is a real threat there. It’s not hype.
Taiwan has governed itself since Nationalist forces led by Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island in 1949, after losing a civil war to the Communists. Beijing’s position is that Taiwan is an integral part of China – the so-called “one China policy” – and that China “will inevitably be reunited”, and a white paper published in August states that while Beijing will strive to achieve this reunification peacefully, it reserves the right to use military force.
While China’s military is stronger than Taiwan’s, Tsai has increased its defense spending by 13% and will spend $19 billion on its military in 2023. Taipei’s goal, Rhodes stressed, is to return the invasion too costly for China.
“If the [People’s Liberation Army] wants to do something drastic, [Chinese President] Xi has to weigh the costs,” Tsai told the former White House official. “He has to think twice.”
However, even with a double-digit increase in his defense spending and with the United States authorizing a billion-dollar arms sale to Taipei in September, Tsai would still need the West. to finance the Taiwanese army as it currently does for the Ukrainian forces.
“Western countries, especially the United States, are helping Ukraine. What we see from the war in Ukraine is that Western countries are coming together and helping Ukraine fight,” she says.
The US government has officially recognized, but not endorsed, China’s sovereignty over Taiwan since the 1970s, and while US President Joe Biden has repeatedly promised that the US military would help repel a Chinese invasion, aides from the White House have rebuffed these statements every time.
Shortly after Tsai spoke in Rhodes, China opened its biennial air show, demonstrating anti-drone weapons, fifth-generation fighter jets and hypersonic anti-ship missiles. Analysts described this show of military force as a warning to the West not to interfere with reunification with Taiwan.
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