May 29, 2022

The majority of Taiwanese don’t identify themselves as Chinese according to a 2020 Pew Research survey. This is consistent with other polls showing that people in Taiwan increasingly identify only as Taiwanese. Xi Jinping, though, doesn’t care. His political ambition to bring Taiwan into the Chinese fold is the most influential factor in China’s policy over Taiwan—but even Xi’s ambitions may be insufficient when measured against the practical realities arrayed against him.

‘); googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1609268089992-0’); }); }

A leaked memo from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in March 2022 suggested that Xi was planning an imminent attack against Taiwan. To that end, Xi instructed family members of senior CCP officials to sell all overseas assets to avoid inevitable Western sanctions. On May 24, a leaked audio clip revealed the CCP’s top brass discussing the Taiwan invasion plan. This was the first-ever recording of a Chinese military leadership gathering.

Taking advantage of Taiwan’s open society, the CCP’s military espionage activities have flourished since 2000. In the past decade, at least 21 serving or retired Taiwanese officers with the rank of captain or above have been convicted of spying for China.

In 2021, Taiwanese courts convicted two men who’d revealed President Tsai Ing-wen’s security details. Shortly after that, a retired lieutenant colonel was found guilty of building espionage networks for Beijing. Then, three high-ranking men in the Military Intelligence Bureau went on trial for allegedly recruiting spies for China.

‘); googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1609270365559-0’); }); }

According to retired Taiwanese Lt Commander Lu Li-shih, Beijing has infiltrated almost all military ranks in Taiwan. Chinese intelligence first approaches the targeted officers with lavish gifts and holidays and then offers huge payments for information. After the first few exchanges, they start blackmailing them for more information, with less payment.

The manual for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) also includes “decapitation operations” in its campaign to subdue Taiwan. To that end, the Chinese National Defense University’s 2020 Science of Military Strategy calls for delivering “heavy blows” against Taiwan’s military and political leaders, command, and control networks, and politically symbolic sites…as major targets of “system destruction warfare.”

With its special operations units, the PLA would kill or capture national and local leaders who command and control forces, organize resistance, and (the CCP hopes) galvanize international support. The CCP would try to prevent the rise of a Taiwanese version of Ukraine’s President Zelensky, who has held the ground in Kyiv throughout all battles.

Taiwanese defense officials have been warned about this threat. In fact, they take the danger very seriously, and their joint unit is dedicated to countering such a decapitation strike by China.

Another planned PLA tactic is a blockade before a larger air and missile campaign. It could be implemented under the guise of fleet or missile exercises, and air, maritime, or undersea incursions with civilian or paramilitary fleet deployments. With a blockade, Beijing could invade Taiwan’s sea and land areas with little warning.

In addition to its tactical planning, the latest Pentagon charts show China’s military advantage over Taiwan. In theory, to take over the island, the PLA would need at least 400,000 troops—and it claims to have over one million. Taiwan’s ground force amounts to 88,000 active-duty personnel.