Will Taiwan be the next Ukraine? – POLITICS

David Zweig is Professor Emeritus at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

If Xi Jinping considered intervening in Taiwan after Russia invaded Ukraine, he would probably think again. For the Chinese president, the war in Europe plays out like a cautionary tale. The use of brutal military force in the 21st century, he will have noticed, involves considerable risks.

The Ukrainians have demonstrated that people fight hard when their backs are against a wall, and the same is probably true of the Taiwanese, who value their democracy and independence from their larger neighbor just as much, if not more than the Ukrainians. Taiwan’s military may rightly be criticized for its poorly coordinated forces, and its government has been reluctant to invest in its own defense, but a Taiwanese people united by a common threat could fight much harder than expected.

Certainly China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would be more motivated than Russian forces – national reunification is a mantra buried deep in its core – but an amphibious invasion over 100 miles of sea would also be much more difficult to achieve than the current land of Russia invasion. And while the United States has rejected a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine because it would risk a nuclear confrontation, American planes flying from American aircraft carriers off the east coast of Taiwan could easily create a form of “no-fly zone” between Fujian and Taiwan.

The Russian invasion also demonstrated how seemingly modest leaders can rise to the occasion and rally an outgunned society to resist an invasion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has become an unlikely hero. Why expect less from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, whose tough stance against China has already earned her high praise? One can easily imagine the support she would get around the world in the face of a macho leadership of the PLA and the Chinese Communist Party.

US President Joe Biden, too, would have no trouble mobilizing his allies and partners to support US defense of Taiwan, leading to a very different dynamic than that currently playing out in Eastern Europe. These would include the UK, Japan, South Korea, Australia and possibly even India – the US partner in the quadrilateral security dialogue.

So far, the West’s solidarity during the Ukraine crisis will not be wasted on Xi either. The European Union is China’s main trading partner. To come up against this, as well as the United States and Japan, would be dangerous for a leader who knows he must raise the standard of living at home. China’s deep integration into the global economy and the leverage of Beijing’s $1.068 billion treasury bills would make Western sanctions more painful to implement, but these could not be ruled out, before or after an invasion of Taiwan.

As Putin wreaks havoc in Ukraine, an attack on Taiwan now risks appearing coordinated with Moscow. Such an attack would quickly be seen as an effort by the authoritarian Sino-Russian alliance to undermine democratic forces, rolling back years of Beijing’s soft power efforts, such as the Belt and Road Initiative – the massive global project. transport and infrastructure of China.

Moreover, at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China later this year, Xi will ask the party leadership to hand over supreme control to him for at least five years. Already, his willingness to wed China to Putin by declaring Sino-Russian relations a “boundless friendship” may have led some to question his leadership. A full-scale invasion of Taiwan would further highlight the risks of empowering an unfettered dictator.

Things are unlikely to improve for Xi after the war, when the US government, heeding its own lessons from Ukraine, will likely strengthen Taiwan’s defenses, strengthen its commitment to defending democracies and challenge expansion. authoritarian bullies.

But if Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a wake-up call for Xi, it remains to be seen whether he will heed it. If he chooses, however, to emulate his Russian counterpart’s attempt at empire building through his own reunification war against Taiwan, he will likely find that even absolute dictators are limited in what they can accomplish.


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