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SPF China Observer

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SPF China Observer


No.49 2024/04/11

Japan-Taiwan Military Cooperation in a Taiwan Strait Crisis (Part2) -Background of Taiwan Strait Crisis (Immediate Causes) -

Masayuki Hironaka (Former Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security (CNAS))

2. Background of Taiwan Strait Crisis (Immediate Causes)

There is no doubt that from now on, the U.S.’s leadership will weaken with the relative decline of its national power, which means that it will begin to hesitate to get involved in conflicts in other countries. At present, the Democratic government is able to maintain a certain level of stability, but if the Republican Party takes over the administration, it is quite conceivable that the rivalry between the U.S. and China will intensify. In addition, Donald Trump, whose peculiar thinking and behavior worries many concerned parties, may get reelected as president this fall. In the short term, as the U.S. finds itself in a challenging position both in domestic politics and foreign relations, it will inevitably have to continue its battle with China. Although Danger Zone is astute in pointing out that the U.S.-China rivalry for hegemony may not extend into a “hundred-year war,” the U.S. will pay an exorbitant price if a short-term decisive battle takes place (as proven by the results of various war games). Therefore, strategically, the U.S. will have to aim for a protracted war with China. That is to say, the U.S. must use all possible means to deter a Taiwan Strait crisis, and in the event it fails to do so, must turn the situation into a protracted war to win victory in the end. The status quo in the West Pacific can only be maintained with the U.S.’s victory, and this is the only way to prevent China’s reunification of Taiwan.

Based on the background of the Taiwan Strait crisis, if deterrence fails, an actual crisis will probably occur in the following cases:

  1. The CPC leadership adopts a hardline foreign policy to divert the people’s discontent with the slowdown of China’s economic growth. With the deteriorating domestic economic and social situation, power struggle intensifies in the CPC, with growing criticism of the present regime’s foreign policy, and the CPC is forced to respond by adopting tough policies.
  2. The dictatorial regime of the CPC leadership, particularly Xi Jinping, makes a wrong judgment similar to Putin’s judgment in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that an armed invasion will be easy. In this case, the PLA, overconfident of its ability to defeat the U.S. forces, strongly recommends such action.
  3. With Taiwan suddenly declaring its independence officially (which is very unlikely since Taiwan government leaders adopt a realist policy), the CPC loses its legitimacy. For this reason, China has to prevent Taiwan’s independence immediately, even by resorting to force.
  4. An (extremely unlikely) accidental conflict occurs between the PLA and forward deployed U.S. forces which escalates into a crisis.

Frankly speaking, Japan has no direct or indirect role in any of the above scenarios of the occurrence of a Taiwan Strait crisis. Whether the CPC leadership and Xi Jinping will come to have a strong motive to use force at the risk of going to war against the U.S., or Xi’s evaluation of the U.S.-China military balance, is definitely the most important factor determining whether a Taiwan Strait crisis will occur. Therefore, it is clearly much more probable for such a crisis to occur because of a calculated CPC policy decision than as an accident. The U.S.-China summit meeting in November 2023 agreed to resume dialogue between senior defense and military officials toward the relaxation of tension. A meeting between senior military officers of both countries, Chairman Charles Brown of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and PLA Chief of Staff Liu Zhenli, took place in December. Unfortunately, this channel of communication focused only on the prevention of accidental conflict, which is extremely unlikely to happen.

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