In his book The Chinese Invasion Threat, Ian Easton, research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, argued that China has developed secret plans to invade Taiwan by 2020. Since Xi Jinping took office in 2012, Beijing has become increasingly bellicose, attempting to isolate Taiwan internationally and threatening it with war.
Some believe that Xi, who in March was reappointed as President with no term limits, regards the Taiwan issue as one of his priorities. “If Xi Jinping can pull off this national reunification by so-called liberating Taiwan, then he has something in the history books,” Willy Lam, a professor at the Centre for China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told CNN.
Both Washington and Taipei are worried about China’s threats. The Taiwanese government has boosted its defence budget and sought to improve the nation’s asymmetric warfare capabilities. An elite unit has been set up to protect President Ts’ai Ing-wen from a possible Chinese assassination attempt. At the end of 2017 the Chinese army staged a military drill that included a mock assault on a full-scale replica of Taiwan’s Presidential Palace in Taipei.
On March 26 two United States Senators, John Cornyn and James Inhofe, urged President Donald Trump in a letter to sell Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 fighter jets to Taiwan. “These fighters will have a positive impact on Taiwan’s self-defense and would act as a necessary deterrent to China’s aggressive military posture across the Asia-Pacific region,” they wrote. “After years of military modernization, China shows the ability to wage war against Taiwan for the first time since the 1950s.”
After Ts’ai Ing-wen won the 2016 presidential elections, defeating the candidate of the pro-China Guomindang (Chinese Nationalist Party), Beijing through its state-controlled media launched a propaganda assault on the Ts’ai administration and the Taiwan independence movement.
On March 27 the Communist Party newspaper Global Times published an op-ed by vice admiral Wang Hongguang (王洪光) arguing that the PLA has the necessary capabilities to occupy Taiwan within three days in order to bring about “reunification by force” (武统).
“Because Ts’ai Ing-wen and the Democratic Progressive Party authorities refuse to acknowledge the ‘1992 consensus‘, and because the ‘Taiwan independence’ movement has not stopped, a considerable amount of people in mainland [China] have lost faith and patience with respect to the peaceful reunification of Taiwan,” Wang wrote.
“‘Reunification of Taiwan by force’ is gaining momentum with each day that passes,” he argued. “On March 16 US President Donald Trump, in spite of China’s opposition, signed the ‘Taiwan Travel Act’ facilitating exchanges between American and Taiwanese officials, turning cross-strait relations once again into a focal point. Therefore, whether the mainland has the confidence and the capability to quickly occupy Taiwan at the lowest possible cost, is a question both sides of the Strait are paying much attention to.”
Wang stressed the importance not only of military capabilities, but also of other tactics that he views as necessary to achieve the goal of occupying Taiwan within three days. He argued that the PLA needs to focus on strategic targets, which he categorized as targets to be destroyed (摧毁目标), inhibited (压制目标), seized (夺占目标), monitored (监控目标), temporarily held (暂时保留目标), among others. According to Wang, there are between 200 and 300 military targets in Taiwan.
Wang wrote that the PLA must target critical infrastructure, including airports, ports, and the internet. He also argued that mainland China must wage “psychological warfare” against the Taiwanese army and population. “Psychological warfare (心理战) … is useful not only to weaken Taiwanese officers’ and soldiers’ resolve to resist, but also in order to intimidate the leading figures within the ‘Taiwan independence’ [movement], causing the ‘Taiwan independence’ camp to split apart and crumble, while the supporters of unification will respond en masse and their morale will be boosted,” Wang wrote.
The increasingly aggressive rhetoric of China’s state-owned media may be a sign that Beijing is trying to rally support for a war and prepare Chinese public opinion for a military campaign to occupy Taiwan by force.