Beijing and Moscow intensified their strong ties in the months before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Although Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have a long history of collaboration, they officially solidified their relationship just weeks before the war started with a “no-limits” partnershi
Many commentators questioned if Xi was aware of the impending war due to the meeting’s time and the invasion that followed it, which occurred after the Beijing Winter Olympics were over. As Russian forces moved into Ukraine, they also questioned whether Taiwan would follow.
At least on the surface, Taiwan and Ukraine seem to have a lot in common. Both are democracies whose borders have historically been contested by neighbors who are much larger and more powerfully armed. By 2049, the year the Chinese Communist Party has designated for the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” 100 years after their triumph in the nation’s Civil War, Beijing has long promised to “reunify” with Taiwan by force or by peace.
When Nancy Pelosi, then the speaker of the US House of Representatives, made her first trip to Taipei in 25 years in August of last year, tensions across the Taiwan Strait increased even more. China’s response included a number of war simulations near Taiwan and an increase in its rhetoric. According to data prepared by Gerald C. Brown and Ben Lewis, independent defense analysts who track such incursions, Beijing sent a record 1,737 flights into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone in 2022, which spans the airspace above Taiwan and the coast of China. This exceeded the sum of the preceding four years’ numbers.
Now, on the eve of the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, questions about what lessons China may have learnt from its close friend have once again been raised in light of Russia’s efforts to progress in the war. Will China come to the conclusion that attacking Taiwan before it is better equipped to defend itself could be preferable? Or has Putin’s war demonstrated the risks of entering combat too quickly?
The short answer is that it is difficult to predict China’s behavior because most of its decision-making is hidden from the outside world. Instead, observers of China frequently focus on the past and small adjustments, such as the language of official declarations. From this, the specialists questioned by Al Jazeera came to the same conclusion: China is unlikely to invade Taiwan anytime soon, while there are long-term reasons to be concerned.
Naturally, the American intelligence agency is closely monitoring whether and when China intends to invade Taiwan. According to CIA Director William Burns, Xi had instructed the Chinese military to be prepared to invade Taiwan by 2027 despite the fact that he was probably “uncomfortable” about Russia’s failures in Ukraine.
Burns was cited as saying at a recent Georgetown University event: “We know as a matter of information that he’s commanded the People’s Liberation Army to be ready by 2027 to undertake a successful invasion.” Nonetheless, it serves as a reminder of the gravity of his focus and his desire. “Now, that does not mean that he has decided to execute an invasion in 2027, or any other year,” the author said.
Yet there are significant contrasts between Xi and Putin that are probably going to deter the Chinese leader from launching an immediate attack on Taiwan, according to experts.
One conclusion is that Putin’s imperial ambitions and his own worldview caused him to behave rashly, according to Tai Ming Cheung, director of the UC Center on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California, San Diego, who spoke to Al Jazeera.
“Xi, in my opinion, is far more practical. He takes great caution. His lack of risk-taking and hot-headedness concern me, and one of his largest deeds would be an invasion of Taiwan. It’s a pretty high-wire act, and there’s no telling if it will succeed.
Cheung warned that if a full-scale invasion did not proceed as planned, China may suffer “very, very serious” repercussions. At the moment, Xi might not be ready to take such a risk.
China would also find it difficult to handle the economic repercussions of a blockade or additional sanctions on top of those the West has already put in place at a time when its economy has slowed, according to Ivy Kwek, a China fellow at the International Crisis Group, a think tank in Brussels that assesses the risk of international conflict. , she
While Beijing continues to employ what she called “grey zone tactics” meant to demoralize Taiwanese citizens, Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the German Marshall Fund’s Indo-Pacific programme, told Al Jazeera that at the moment, “common sense” would suggest that Beijing is wary of following in Russia’s footsteps. They include defamation campaigns, cyberwarfare, and pressure from the diplomatic and economic spheres to isolate the government of Taiwan.