Red Lines: What could prompt China to invade Taiwan?

Presentation: Interregional Strategic Analytics

In the midst of the ongoing escalation between China on one side and the United States and Taiwan on the other, there are various trends that confirm the approaching Chinese invasion of Taiwan, especially in light of the many data that motivate the Chinese leadership to do so. However, there are obstacles and restrictions that prevent this from being achieved in In the foreseeable future, and in light of this, the “Stratfor” website published a report entitled “What could prompt China to invade Taiwan?”, which can be addressed as follows:

Governing restrictions

The report notes that there are a number of constraints that make the invasion of Taiwan unlikely in the short term, most notably the following:

1- The dependence of the Chinese economy on Western markets: China’s military power has risen in recent years after rising military expenditures and technological progress, while the US military – according to the report – is burdened with human capital and maintenance costs compared to technological research. However, over the next few years the invasion could lead to the West imposing severe trade and financial sanctions on China that would undermine China’s economy; Due to its deep dependence on Western markets.

2- The high cost of China’s invasion of TaiwanThe report suggests that the Chinese army is not yet ready for the invasion; Given the daunting task of such a large amphibious invasion, and the potential for US, Japanese and Australian military intervention, not to mention the potential for NATO involvement, the devastating loss of large numbers of military assets alone, accumulated over decades of military modernization, may be sufficient – according to the report – To dissuade China from invading, at least until the late 1920s, so that China has better capabilities, improves its chance of making a fait accompli on Taiwan.

3- Fear of local reactions in case of failure: Domestic politics may discourage Beijing from invading; Because failure to take over Taiwan militarily may lead to the downfall of the Chinese Communist Party, or at least its current leader, President Xi Jinping. In such a case, Shi will be held accountable; For his failure to achieve the so-called reunification of China, one of the great tasks of the party since its founding in 1949.

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4- China’s reliance on Taiwanese semiconductorsChina relies on Taiwanese exports of advanced semiconductors, and a destructive invasion (not to mention Taiwan’s potential plans to sabotage factories rather than hand them over to Beijing) could set China’s technological development back decades.

Accelerate the conquest

Despite these limitations, the report finds that a number of long-term strategic motives may make military action against the island an attractive option for Beijing. A combination of these motives could prompt China to speed up its timetable for the invasion of Taiwan well in advance of 2049, the year Xi promised to achieve the “Great Rejuvenation of China.” The motives can be addressed as follows:

1 – Taiwan turns into an opportunity to test the strength of the Chinese armyAccording to the report, most Chinese generals have never fought in a war, while a few have fought during China’s last major conflict, the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, which was before China’s military modernization. Hence, China’s battlefield systems, especially joint operations systems based on national coordination of military theaters, are not well tested for combat, and its soldiers and generals are unaware of their true capabilities outside of exercises in the report’s view. As a result, Chinese military leaders may have a poor understanding of their combat capabilities, while nationalism may increase their determination to fight, and Taiwan may be seen as an opportunity to test the strength of the Chinese military.

2- The Chinese president reinforces his image as a historical figure: President Xi sees himself as a pivotal figure in China’s history; Having enshrined the “Xi Jinping Thought” in the party constitution (along with the “Mao Zedong Thought”), he considered himself the leader of China’s return to the world’s leading superpower. So his claim that China’s national renewal hinges on reunification with Taiwan might prompt him to try to make significant progress on the “Taiwan cause” to cement his legacy.

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3- The pace of armament of the Taiwanese army has accelerated to an alarming degreeThe longer Beijing waits to attack Taiwan, according to the report, Taipei will be able to mobilize more weapons through security agreements, such as the $1.1 billion US arms deal signed on September 6 for missiles and surveillance support. Taiwan has enough to change the balance of power across the strait or threaten China’s coastal security, such as selling hypersonic missiles. To circumvent this, Beijing might choose to launch urgent military action in Taiwan.

4- Anti-China sentiment grows inside TaiwanAccording to the report, with each generation, the Taiwanese people are increasingly opposed to living under Chinese rule. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang Party – a traditional friend of Beijing – is losing ground in the elections and adjusting to this pro-Taiwanese shift. Hence, Beijing may be eager to invade sooner, before the population becomes more anti-China and difficult to control.

5- Frequency of short-term provocative eventsThe report believes that short-term tactical and provocative events can also motivate China to escalate military action against Taiwan and change the status quo; This is evidenced by the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei in August 2022, which prompted Beijing to launch military exercises with live ammunition in areas closer to the coast of Taiwan.

The report believes that similar events may push China to escalate its use of economic and military coercion against Taiwan, and may eventually push it up the ladder of escalation toward invasion; Similar to the “Taiwan Policy” law currently being introduced in the US Senate, which would designate Taiwan a key non-NATO ally, other legislatures could pass bills that would upset the volatile stability across the Taiwan Strait.

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6- Nationalist pressure escalates inside China: Given that Beijing relies more on pro-China propaganda and anti-Western messages to confuse domestic criticism about policy failures, and outside criticism of human rights issues; Enthusiastic Chinese nationalists can put pressure on Beijing by launching protests calling on the government to take aggressive action against Taiwan. This could lead to new Chinese trade restrictions or military activities across the island.

7- The increased possibility of accidental collisions between the two partiesThe report asserts that the increasing pace of Chinese military overflights in the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), as well as flights and sea navigation beyond the midline of the Taiwan Strait, are stimulating Taiwan’s military response. These encounters risk accidental collisions, especially given the recent tactics of Chinese fighter pilots, which, such as the 2001 EP-3 spy plane incident, could trigger a political crisis, especially if there was a loss of life.

In conclusion, the report indicates that Beijing has a number of “red lines”, which, if crossed, could increase its perception of the threat to Taiwan, and justify the escalation that could reach the invasion. These include the US’s formal defense agreement with Taiwan, the stationing of US forces in Taiwan (similar to bases in Okinawa), Washington’s abandonment of strategic ambiguity in favor of a clear position on Chinese actions that would prompt US military intervention on Taiwan’s behalf, Taiwan’s declaration of constitutional independence, and global recognition Taiwan is a sovereign country.


What Could Push China to Invade Taiwan, StratforSeptember 20, 2022, accessible at:–could–push–china–invade–taiwan

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

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