After Ukraine Taiwan?
The war in Ukraine has taught us that the unthinkable has the fatal habit of occasionally becoming true. Or, conversely, that dictators are never predictable, especially when they make loud territorial claims.
The war in Ukraine, along with Russia's other territorial claims in Europe, has focused attention on China's ambition to conquer the island nation of Taiwan (Formosa). These territorial claims are so loud and so sustained that we are unfortunately forced to reckon with the fact that the "unthinkable" may "occur" at any time. Just as a new viral pandemic can rock the world at any time after COVID 19, we must realize that the Ukraine war can be followed by a Taiwan war at any time.
The Ukraine scenario shows that we should not expect any advance warning. Xi Jinping, as Putin taught him, will deny the intention to invade until the last second. Less likely is that Xi will repeat Putin's mistake of keeping his own military in ignorance until the last second. The fact is that for months China has concentrated such strong forces on the coast opposite Taiwan that some experts believe an invasion attempt on the island is possible at any time. Other observers, however, believe that China so far lacks the resources for a major amphibious operation, while Taiwan is armed to the teeth.
There is no point in speculating now about Xi's intentions and sincerity. The threat is there, and the world must reckon with it. So the question is: What will happen if China attacks Taiwan?
Will there be a global outcry like the day of Russia's egg march into Ukraine? Will the United Nations General Assembly show overwhelming solidarity with those under attack?
The answer is no. Outrage yes, outcry in the media perhaps. Solidarity with Taiwan in the General Assembly? Partially, perhaps. Because unlike Ukraine, Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations (anymore). A subtle but important difference.
Russia was condemned in the Assembly because it is small fry compared to China.
Russia may be the world's strongest nuclear power and the second strongest military power, but economically it ranks 11th behind South Korea and just ahead of Brazil, Australia, and Spain. Russia's gross domestic product is only one-tenth the size of China's.
Clearly, many countries that depend on China would think twice about voting against it. African and Asian countries that are heavily indebted to China, as well as European New Silk Road partners such as Greece and Italy, will be reluctant to vote for Taiwan. The dragon's revenge would be merciless.
Where the moral tailwind of the Assembly is lacking or weak, it will be left to the "West" to bring China to its senses through sanctions, as it is doing with some success in the Ukraine war. So, in the case of Taiwan, there will be a re-imposition of sanctions.
Sanctioning China is more difficult than in the case of Russia for many reasons. China is far less import dependent and under Xi has massively promoted import substitution by domestic production - overtly in anticipation of the planned Tainwn invasion and a resulting Western economic blockade.
Hoarding panic buyers and empty supermarket shelves will not be easily seen in China. Moreover, the surveillance of citizens in China is now so sophisticated that hoarding purchases and other socially harmful behavior seem all but impossible.
But are sanctions like those in the case of Russia even conceivable? The volume of "Russian" sanctions against China would be exorbitant. For many countries, China is one of the most important trading partners, if not (as in the case of Germany) the most important of all. "Russian" sanctions against China would hit both sides deeply and lead to empty shelves in many industries in the "West" as well as in China.
So far, so bad. What about the withdrawal of Western companies from China? Will Ikea, Volkswagen and Starbucks be ready to pull out of China? To close their factories, their stores and espresso bars, and possibly say goodbye?
Would the companies survive the loss of their most important market? And how would other companies that ignore or circumvent the sanctions and remain in China explain this to the world? Would they be excluded from government support operations?
Questions that must be answered now if we are not to be surprised by Chinese landing craft and airborne troops. Questions that need to be asked and answered across the EU.
Heinrich von LoeschUpdate
The Ukraine war and Beijing's extensive solidarity with Moscow show even more strongly than before that China can be relied on less and less as a partner. Foreign policy and geopolitics are increasingly dominating economic relations. The EU has demonstrated its ability to act quickly in the sanctions against Russia. This and the unity of the Western alliance are also warning signals for China should the Communist Party there consider annexing Taiwan.
Update II(ANSA) - BEIJING, MAY 19--If the U.S. insists on playing the Taiwan card and goes "further and further down the wrong road, it will definitely bring the situation to a dangerous point," is the warning of Yang Jiechi, head of Chinese Communist Party diplomacy, in his phone call with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan yesterday.
Yang said Washington should "have a clear understanding of the situation," reported an overnight note from Beijing's Foreign Ministry.
"China will definitely take decisive action to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests," he added