100 Years of the CCP: Tension with Taiwan and an uncertain future

100 Years of the CCP: Tension with Taiwan and an uncertain future

100 Years of the CCP

“Listen to the party, be grateful for the party and follow the party.”

Xi Jinping’s voice echoed across a sea of Communist party members. The speech he gave at the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party was fiery, pugilistic, proud, and replete with allusions to potential conflict with Western powers. It becomes clear from this speech that the People’s Republic of China of 2021 is a global power with enough geopolitical might to stand up to anything the West has to throw at it. It is even more clear that Xi Jinping knows this.

The speech comes at a time when tensions between China and Taiwan are reaching a boiling point. China has been accelerating its action against Taiwan in recent years, always walking the tightrope between shows of force and all-out aggressive action with acrobatic deftness. These actions prove particularly chilling when coming from a nation already called the chief geopolitical threat to American hegemony by Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State. 

A prolonged invasion

“We must take resolute action to utterly defeat any attempt toward Taiwan independence.”

He stood at the podium in a grey suit, a symbolic reference to the iconic portrait of Mao Tse Tung that sits to one side of Tiananmen Square. His speech touched heavily on “resolving the Taiwan question,” leaving no room for a future where both countries can coexist independently.  

During recent years China has gradually ramped up its aggression towards Taiwan, carrying out multiple airspace incursions into Taiwanese territory and carrying out regular shows of force with battleships and land exercises. They designed these “grey zone tactics” to slowly reduce the operational space afforded to the Taiwanese military. It simultaneously serves as an intimidation tactic for the Taiwanese government, its military, and, most tragically, its people. 

It is tempting to take this as an empty threat: a paper tiger designed to scare Taiwan into being favourable to reunification. Our world leaders, however, are not as confident as we may hope for them to be. The escalation of both rhetoric and action has prompted the US and Japan to conduct joint war games to prepare for a potential all-out invasion.

China’s aggression towards Taiwan has not limited itself to the military theatre. During Taiwan’s 2020 election, China used tactics deeply entrenched in the warfare of the 21st century: misinformation, cyberattacks, and propaganda campaigns. At the time of the 2020 election, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led smear campaigns targeting President Tsai, a supporter of Chinese independence, as she ran for re-election. They fabricated rumours that she had faked her doctoral degree at the London School of Economics and used a cyber army to flood social media with the false rumours. In a scarily familiar move, the CCP also led campaigns to discredit the integrity of the Taiwanese elections by using state-controlled media to spread rumours of CIA tampering.

While arguing outright that these are preparations for an invasion would be overzealous, it certainly seems that there is an acceleration in aggression occurring between the two nations. Therefore, there is certainly reason to be concerned.

What will happen, when will it happen, and how will it go?

“The Chinese people will never allow foreign forces to bully, oppress, or enslave us. Whoever nurses delusions of doing that will crack their heads and spill blood on the Great Wall of steel built from the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese people.”

These words, spoken from a podium, echoing out over Tiananmen Square, leave an ill taste in the mouth of many. On the surface, they seem to be defensive; however, there are many reasons they may be profoundly worrying to Western powers; the CCP fully considers Taiwan to be a breakaway Chinese region. As such, there is little reason for the CCP not to declare any Western intervention in their reunification plans to be bullying, oppression, or enslavement.  

If an invasion were to occur now, China would try to defeat Taiwan quickly and definitively, as the non-intervention of the US would be pivotal to the outcome of any struggle between the two nations. If the war were to occur as China plans, airstrikes would decimate Taiwanese forces. Tens of thousands of Chinese ground forces would land on Taiwan’s shores, and the country would be on it’s knees before the US could meddle in the CCP’s plans. If it goes all wrong for China, the battle will get snagged on the heavily fortified Isle of Penghu. The US would intervene, and several blood-soaked weeks of battle would ensue.

However, how likely is all this to take place? Are we as close to all-out invasion as we seem to be? You would have to ask Xi Jinping. While China’s recent activities in the area seem to be gearing up for something, there are arguments to be made for the idea that the war might be too costly for the People’s Republic of China. Taiwan has an incredibly modern and effective defense force. They have recently begun fielding supersonic ballistic missiles called Yun Feng. These can target both Beijing and Shanghai and all the PLA assets in between.

If we only started wars for good reasons, we wouldn’t start any wars at all. 

There have been convincing arguments that Xi Jinping would be motivated to pull the trigger on an invasion to secure his chances of maintaining power if much internal conflict arises within the CCP. This argument has not received ubiquitous support from analysts but is certainly something that could bring the invasion closer to reality.  

It is no secret that Taiwan is a thorn deep in the side of the CCP. A highly developed country with a high number of Chinese immigrants and (most frustratingly for Mr. Xi) a democratic population represents a threat to the entire ideological framework of the Chinese Communist Party. On top of all this, a pro-independence sentiment has been growing in the small island country.  This plays an important role in China’s concerns with Taiwan. However, should it reach a boil, there are no more predictions.

As for timescales, there is no way of knowing exactly when it would happen if it were to happen at all. The predictions are that the PLA will reach complete modernisation by 2035. They expect to be a “world-class military capable of fighting and winning wars in any theatre of operations by 2050”. These two dates seem to be significant in any timeline, although we should also consider the West’s track record for intervening in annexations.

Overall, China’s probability of invading or otherwise taking control of its neighbour is murky, but its capacity for imperialism remains a deep concern. As such, I leave you with these words from the party themselves:

“Resolving the Taiwan question to realise China’s complete reunification is the shared aspiration of all Chinese people and is in the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation.”

Written by Leo Black.

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