Conflict over Taiwan: What China could do next

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Conflict over Taiwan

What China might do next

China responded to Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan with military maneuvers. An invasion is feared, but the People’s Republic has other options to bring the island to its knees.

In Taipei, a customer at the hairdresser follows reports of the Chinese manoeuvres.

China is flexing its muscles off its coast. After the visit of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, to Taiwan on Tuesday and Wednesday, the People’s Republic launched the largest military show of force in decades. For Beijing, the island republic is part of the national territory and Pelosi’s trip is a provocation.

The answer is martial. Since Thursday, maneuvers have been underway in six restricted areas, some of which extend into Taiwan’s territorial waters. A look at the map makes it easy to see that the democratically governed island is being cordoned off. There is also live shooting, with Dongfeng ballistic missiles.

The People’s Liberation Army is officially flexing its muscles until Sunday. Whether peace will return afterwards seems at least questionable. For China’s President Xi Jinping, “reunification” with the “breakaway” island republic is a priority. It can be done by military means, but the People’s Republic has other options:

invasion

There is great international concern about the escalation in the Taiwan Strait. It is feared that the exercises are only the “prelude” to an actual invasion of the island. However, most experts consider such a scenario to be unlikely. China is (still) not sufficiently prepared for this, despite the massive build-up in recent years.

Superficially, the balance of power is clear: the Taiwanese army is far inferior to the Chinese. But it has the advantage of geography and topography. Taiwan is an island crossed by a mountain range. An invasion is more difficult than in Ukraine, where Russia also encounters great resistance.

Experts believe that the Ukraine war should give the leadership in Beijing food for thought and have a deterrent effect. Which doesn’t mean that an invasion is off the table. Senior US military officials expect it to happen in the second half of this decade, accompanied by “accompanying measures.”

cyber attacks

On Wednesday, a message appeared on screens in 24-hour 7-11 stores: “War monger Pelosi, get out of Taiwan!” At the same time, the websites of several government institutions, including the Office of the President, the State Department and the Defense Department, were paralyzed by DDoS attacks.

According to Digital Minister Audrey Tang, the volume of cyber attacks on Taiwan was 23 times the previous daily record. The authors are suspected in Russia and especially on the Chinese mainland. From there, cyber attacks are almost the order of the day. This includes trolls and fake news campaigns against politicians.

With this, China tried to stop the re-election of President Tsai Ing-wen two years ago, albeit in vain. According to one expert, however, the attacks surrounding Pelosi’s visit are “more theater than a threat”. Earlier attacks on the financial system, for example, were more sophisticated and damaging. They show what is possible.

economic blockade

But Taiwan is particularly vulnerable when it comes to the economy. If China blocks the airspace and waters, the island is effectively cut off from the outside world and can be downright strangled. However, an economic blockade is also risky, because in one area Taiwan is indispensable for the world economy: in semiconductors.

The government has specifically promoted the sector and is particularly superior when it comes to complex, high-performance microchips. China’s economy is also dependent on it, which has been bothering Beijing for a long time. In the “Made in China 2025” strategy, the goal is to cover 70 percent of demand from in-house production by that year.

According to industry experts, this requirement is illusory. Especially when it comes to tiny super chips, China is several years behind in development. The government is obviously furious about this. She has launched corruption investigations into key figures in the semiconductor sector, including the minister responsible.

The economic sanctions imposed on Taiwan following Nancy Pelosi’s visit include citrus fruits. They are therefore just as “toothless” as the cyber attacks and an indication that the Chinese Communist Party does not currently want to risk a military war or, given the disrupted supply chains, an economic war.

But the listing shows that Beijing has the means to bring Taiwan to its knees, possibly without firing a shot. As long as this danger persists, China can content itself with “symbolic” actions such as the current maneuvers. From his perspective, “bringing him home” from Taiwan is only a matter of time.

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