Washington’s Taiwan Deception
Our debate about defending Taiwan from increasingly likely Chinese attack is missing a vital component and Americans are only fooling ourselves about it
It remains to be seen whether this week’s brief visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has fundamentally altered U.S.-China relations. None can deny that Beijing’s overheated pushback against this Congressional delegation has been one for the record books. In response to the first Speaker stopover in Taipei in a quarter-century, the People’s Liberation Army has flown unprecedented numbers of warplanes close to Taiwan and fired missiles over the island, while running large-scale military exercises uncomfortably close to the Republic of China. Although Pelosi professed that her visit in no way contradicted America’s longstanding and artfully ambiguous “One China” policy, it’s evident that the Chinese Communist Party disagrees.
And the enemy always gets a vote.
While there’s broad consensus in much of the U.S. foreign policy community, including pro-Democratic circles, that Pelosi’s provocative visit was a silly mistake with scant upside for America, there’s been support too, including from the Right. Indeed, quite a few Republicans seem to think that the only flaw with Pelosi’s Taiwan trip was that it wasn’t long or provocative enough. Hence the growing sense in less partisan circles that war with China – perhaps more by accident than by design – may be inevitable, a view that’s increasingly shared by our Intelligence Community. If you incline to a pessimistic view of international affairs, there’s much to be concerned about here.
If you prefer a sunnier take, focus on the reality that the PLA hasn’t seriously fought anybody since 1979 – which didn’t go well for Beijing – plus the Chinese have zero modern experience with executing complex naval and amphibious operations. Given that any PLA invasion across the Taiwan Strait would resemble the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, in scale and complexity, it’s worth asking if the hungry yet untried Communists could pull it off. In the Pentagon’s concept, that one-of-a-kind PLA operation would represent an audacious gamble which even imperfect Taiwanese resistance might easily derail.
But what if that’s not Beijing’s plan at all?
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