US, China enter dangerous territory above Taiwan
At a particularly tense time, in October 2020, U.S. intelligence reports detailed how Chinese leaders were concerned that President Trump was planning an attack. These concerns, which could have been misinterpreted, prompted General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to call his counterpart in Beijing to assure him otherwise.
“The Taiwan question has ceased to be a sort of narrow and confidential issue, and it has become a central theater – if not the central drama – in the US-China strategic competition,” said Evan Medeiros, who served on the council. President Obama’s National Security Council.
The ambitious Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, now presides over what is arguably the most powerful army in the country’s history. Some argue that Xi, who set the stage for reigning for a third term from 2022, may feel compelled to conquer Taiwan to crown his era in power.
Xi said in Beijing on Saturday that Taiwan’s independence “is a serious latent threat to national rejuvenation.” China wanted peaceful unification, he said, but added, “No one should underestimate the unwavering determination, steadfast will and powerful ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” .
Few believe that a war is imminent or predestined, in part because the economic and diplomatic aftershocks would be astounding to China. Yet even though recent flights into Taiwan’s self-proclaimed Aerial Identification Zone are intended merely as political pressure, not a prelude to war, China’s financial, political and military ascendancy has made preservation island security an extremely complex undertaking.
Until recently, the United States believed it could contain Chinese territorial ambitions, but the military superiority it has long held may not be enough. When the Pentagon staged a war game in October 2020, an American “blue team” battled new Chinese weapons in a mock battle over Taiwan.