In an angry tirade riddled with logical contradictions and vitriol, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed that the PRC has not given up its ambitions to annex and subjugate sovereign Taiwan.
On one hand claiming that the Russia-Ukraine conflict and China’s designs for Taiwan were, “not comparable at all,” he later went on to suggest that rather than China being the expansionist aggressor threatening the 23M people in Taiwan with the might of 1.2B Chinese, that the PRC was actually the victim analogous to Ukraine, having its sovereignty threatened by separatists and the meddling West. This is despite the fact that the PRC has at no point in history ever exercised sovereignty over Taiwan, which itself hosts a vibrant democracy.
This rhetoric is like a response to world conditions, as China is likely watching in awe as Western economic and political sanctions threaten to destabilize Putin’s control over Russia, after many even in the West believed that most governments lacked the political will to cut Russia out of swift, or threaten to cut of its oil exports because of the costs involved.
There have been significant moves in the last 24 hours to cut off Russian oil exports, their main source of revenue, leading Russia to preemptively threaten to cut off NordStream1, despite winter being essentially over.
The PRC, like the Russians, must have been also shocked at the tenacity and viciousness of the resistance to the Russian invasion, and the persistence of Zelenskyy, with reports that nearly 10,000 Russian troops have already been killed, with Russia having almost nothing to show for its losses so far.
The Chinese Communist Party is, above all, obsessed with stability and the maintenance of its own rule. For this reason, despite its bellicosity and constant threats to use force to retake Taiwan, the PRC must be seriously reconsidering the viability of those threats.
While of significant symbolic value to the Chinese Communist Party as the bastion of the fleeing KMT during the Chinese Civil War, Taiwan’s size and economy represent very little strategic value for China, especially if its cities are levelled by war. Taiwan would certainly not be worth the cost of regime collapse, should the costs prove as high as the invasion of Ukraine.
Many suggest the costs of taking Taiwan would be significantly higher than Ukraine even, as Taiwan is a heavily fortified island. Unlike Ukraine with land borders, Taiwan is an isolated island, leaving its people nowhere to flee, suggesting that they would be forced to fight in dense urban combat to defend the territory. Moreover, the likelihood of American intervention is also almost certain, with US President Joe Biden making it clear that he would intervene in the event of an unprovoked PRC attack on Taiwan.
For this reason, Wang Yi made significant threats regarding the US forming a NATO style alliance in Asia, even though with AUKUS and the Quad groups have already formed in recent years to challenge Chinese hegemony and expansionism.
He stated that such alliances, “would not only push Taiwan into a precarious situation, but will also bring unbearable consequences for the U.S. side… Taiwan will eventually return to the embrace of the motherland.” Polling suggests that Taiwanese adamantly reject the PRC as their homeland, with less than 5% willing to accept annexation by the PRC.
If Kiev is ever taken by Russia, it is likely that there would be a persistent insurgency which Russia will be unable to fully quash, threatening the central Russian state itself. With the parallels, if such an outcome does occur, its appearance and threat may put the final nail in the coffin of PRC aims to annex Taiwan, as the Chinese military lacks the preparation or capacity to conduct an extended counterinsurgency, or sustain its costs. Adding this to the global isolation and destabilization that would occur from the invasion itself, it seems unlikely that the CCP would be able to hold onto control should they attempt such a move.
This leaves China in an awkward place defending its expansionist ambitions amidst a world unwilling to tolerate militarism aimed at redrawing sovereign borders.