China is currently closely monitoring and evaluating Western reactions to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to gauge the cost of invading Taiwan. This review represented experts in discussions with Business Insider.
China claims the island state with 23 million people off China’s east coast. Democratic Taiwan insists on its independence. The communist regime in Beijing has already openly threatened to use force to incorporate Taiwan into the People’s Republic.
Senior Taiwanese officials have long feared that China is preparing for an invasion. After Russia invaded Ukraine, the slogan “Today Ukraine, tomorrow Taiwan” spread in Taiwan.
In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the West has imposed harsh sanctions on the Russian state and its institutions, companies, individuals and products. Many international companies have gone too far, ending or shelving their business with Russia and at home. The sanctions quickly and noticeably damaged the Russian economy.
All of this is being closely studied in China, experts said. China has quickly become one of the world’s largest economies. The country is also already a technology leader in some areas.
At the same time, much of the country in China is still underdeveloped. Many millions of Chinese live near the absolute poverty line, meaning they have little more than a dollar a day to live on. Therefore, for its development and social peace, China depends on continued high economic growth and thus close economic ties with the rest of the world.
Unlike Russia, China is not a major energy exporter. However, Chinese companies supply many consumer goods to the West and are heavily involved in production chains. The strength of this interdependence was made clear recently when supply chains were disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“They are watching with great interest how the sanctions imposed on Russia could apply to China,” said Douglas Paal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to initiate the sanctions.
General Robert Spalding, former executive director of the US National Security Council, agrees: “What was done with Putin has really given Chinese leaders an idea of what to expect if they go after Taiwan.”
Spalding and Manoj Kewalramani, an associate fellow at the Takshashila Institution, said China is already trying to build tools to deal with sanctions and protect itself.
“They have an anti-sanctions law. They are thinking about other tools,” he said, referring to a pending law from 2021 that would allow the Chinese government to seize assets from companies that sanction China. The Russian government also had foreign companies, by withdrawing from Russia it threatened to nationalize their assets in Russia. .
Spalding cited China’s New Silk Road initiative as an example of how China is trying to build greater economic stability on its own terms.
“They have designed an economic ecosystem that is both financially and physically self-sufficient,” he said.
Taiwan has feared invasion from China for 70 years
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, US intelligence agencies again sounded the alarm about Taiwan’s security. US President Joe Biden specifically sent a delegation of former US officials to Taiwan to reiterate US support for the status quo.
CIA Director Bill Burns told the House Intelligence Committee on March 8 that China was shocked by the harshness of the Western response to Ukraine. “I would not underestimate the determination of President Xi and the Chinese leadership in Taiwan,” he said.
Michael Reilly, a former British representative to Taiwan, said that Taiwan has been aware of the threat of a Chinese invasion for many years.
“Taiwan realists have assumed for 70 years that one day China will invade and they will have to defend themselves. That hasn’t changed,” he said.
Referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the reactions to it, he said: “Does that make Xi Jinping more ruthless? As for the rhetoric and intimidation, Xi has been escalating since the election of Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan. So that’s changed, nothing has changed.”
“The Chinese approach has always been, ‘Let’s try to convince the Taiwanese to join us. That doesn’t mean they don’t use intimidation, but a full-scale invasion means they’ve been wrong for 60 or 70 years.’
Taiwanese soldiers in an armored vehicle during the National Day celebrations in Taipei on Oct. 10, 2021.
Chinese officials have criticized the US for comparing its intentions toward Taiwan with those of Russia and Ukraine.
“They are completely different things. Ukraine is a sovereign state, while Taiwan is an inseparable part of China’s territory,” Qin Gang, China’s ambassador to the United States, wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post. China regards the Taiwan issue as China’s internal affair.
Chinese attack on Taiwan would be devastating
In addition to monitoring sanctions, China will also learn military lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Paal, a Carnegie researcher, told Business Insider.
“China has seen that Russian-style troop buildup doesn’t work,” Paal said.
“They have tried other forms of encirclement and attack over the past decade, and I think Russia’s invasion will reinforce the course that China has prepared for militarily.”
“We would see a much more violent and comprehensive approach from China,” Spalding said. China would attack from the air. “It would be much more devastating.”
Although Russia and China have grown closer in recent years, China has not taken a clear position on the Ukraine issue.
For Paal, Beijing lives up to an old Chinese proverb: “Put your hands in your sleeves and watch.”
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