The People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) has announced an offensive exercise near Taiwan. Taipei is sounding the alarm and complaining about “Beijing’s growing pressure.” A number of Western analysts believe that the withdrawal of the US contingent from Afghanistan could provoke China to a military invasion. Gazeta.Ru examined the reasons for China’s military activity, as well as the prospects for the PRC’s invasion of the island state.
China has found a “mistake”
The Chinese military said that “in recent days” they conducted offensive maneuvers, during which they landed on the coast near Taiwan, whose independence Beijing does not recognize and considers its territory. According to the Chinese newspaper Weibo, the army “practiced a wide range of tasks to capture the coast.”
Earlier, the world media drew attention to the increased activity of the Chinese military aviation. 39 PLA Air Force aircraft flew to the waters of Taiwan. This became the most massive flight of military aircraft that simultaneously approached the air border in the entire history of the confrontation between the PRC and Taiwan.
The Financial Times published an article titled “The Moment of Truth Is Coming on the Taiwan Issue.” The material argued that Beijing could “erroneously” interpret the withdrawal of the American contingent from Afghanistan as a weakness on the part of Washington and launch a military invasion of Taiwan or conduct a “hybrid operation involving special operations forces and the establishment of a naval blockade.”
“In reality, China does not view the American withdrawal from Afghanistan as a weakness on the part of the United States. Yes, such statements can be found in the Chinese press, but these are nothing more than anti-American propaganda statements. In reality, Beijing realizes that Washington has created a big problem for China by withdrawing from Afghan territory, ”
– says the director of the Institute of Asian and African Countries (ISAA) at Moscow State University M.V. Lomonosov Alexey Maslov .
According to him, if anything provokes China to conduct an operation, it will be a provocation by the United States. In particular, Maslov did not rule out a scenario according to which a Chinese ship will be hit in the territorial waters of the PRC, or an aircraft will be attacked. In this case, the Chinese side will hardly be able to remain silent.
Red Line for Beijing
“Taiwan is now the most dangerous hotspot in the Pacific, East Asia. But it is becoming such, in many respects, due to the actions of the United States itself, because since the presidency of [Donald] Trump, the Americans have noticeably intensified their military-political ties with Taipei, they have begun to more actively influence Taiwan’s domestic policy, “the Center’s chief research officer is convinced. complex Sinology and regional projects of MGIMO , specialist in the Chinese military-industrial complex Vasily Kashin .
According to him, cooperation between Taiwan and the United States in the field of defense and security is growing, the level of contacts between Taiwanese and American officials is increasing, and American instructors are present in Taiwan.
A similar position is shared by Andrei Vinogradov, Associate Professor at the School of Oriental Studies at the Higher School of Economics , Leading Research Fellow at the Center for the Study and Forecasting of Russian-Chinese Relations at the Institute of the Far East . “Active actions on the part of Beijing may arise in response to provocations from the Taiwanese leadership (the next referendum on Taiwan’s independence) or active provocations from the United States and its allies. At the same time, a crisis inside China (socio-political due to economic failures), in my opinion, is unlikely, ”the expert emphasized.
In his opinion, the prospect for 10-15 years is another matter. If by the end of Xi Jinping’s tenure at the head of the CPC, the issue of returning Taiwan by political means cannot be resolved, China may well move to more decisive actions – the leader should remain in history as the next unifier of the country after Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
However, the conflict may occur earlier.
“The red line is any attempt to hold a popular vote on status in Taiwan. This will immediately lead to conflict. But even without this, the Chinese may come to the conclusion that there is no prospect of a political solution if anti-Beijing forces dominate in Taiwan as a result of local elections at the end of 2022 and general elections at the beginning of 2024,” – Kashin believes.
According to him, it is these considerations that have dictated Chinese military activity in recent years. This is a show of strength and a signal that in the next five years the Chinese are ready to consider a military scenario for solving the problem.
At the same time, the PRC may face the risk of reputational costs. “A military operation against Taiwan, especially one that will be accompanied by human casualties, will forever change China’s image in the face of the world community. After all, Beijing always acts from the position of a country that is a supporter of a diplomatic solution to any problems. Accordingly, the potential readiness of the Chinese side to do this matters, ”Maslov noted.
Counting the hours and days of war
Experts assess the Chinese army’s chances of success in the event of a military scenario differently.
“Success is guaranteed. It will take the Chinese army about a week already today to establish control over Taiwan. Let me remind you that the population of Taiwan is 23.5 million people. At the same time, there is a large pro-Chinese lobby – those who work on the mainland or have long-term trade and economic ties with it, ”Vinogradov said.
ISAA director Alexei Maslov also suggests that the Chinese army will have an easy victory.
“Technically, it is realistic for China to capture Taiwan. The PRC has everything it needs to attack Taiwan with practically no losses for itself. The operation will take from several hours to several days, depending on what kind of weapons will be used by China, ”the expert noted.
But Vasily Kashin draws attention to the “serious potential” of the Taiwanese army. “Taiwan has very powerful armed forces, about 300 thousand people, and in general, the task of capturing Taiwan is very difficult in itself. It has a powerful air defense system with modern complexes, the Navy, the Air Force, and coastal defense. They have a stock of weapons, a trained reserve, ”he said.