The risk that China will use military force against Taiwan will increase in the next few years, with China President Xi Jinping determined “to ensure his country has the capability to undertake such an action should he decide to move in that direction,” CIA Director William Burns said.
Burns, who spoke Wednesday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, said Chinese leadership is “trying to study the lessons of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and what it tells them. I think our sense is that it probably affects less the question of whether the Chinese leadership might choose some years down the road to use force to control Taiwan but how and when.”
In recent years, China has ratcheted up its military threats against the democratic, self-ruled Taiwan, The Guardian reported. China considers Taiwan a part of its territory.
Burns downplayed the potential that China could move militarily on Taiwan following a key Communist Party meeting later this year, according to The Guardian.
Russia’s now five-month-long invasion of Ukraine, which he called a “strategic failure,” has “unsettled” Chinese leadership.
Since Russia’s invasion began in late February, Putin has become an international pariah. He recently embarked on a mission to shore up what friendships he has left, mainly those countries with fellow authoritarian regimes. He visited Iran and, in a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had to wait for fifty seconds, awkwardly fidgeting in front of the cameras, before his counterpart finally walked in.
Burns added that China likely learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that “you don’t achieve quick, decisive victories with underwhelming force.”
“I suspect the lesson that the Chinese leadership and military are drawing is that you’ve got to amass overwhelming force if you’re going to contemplate that in the future,” he said.
China Takes Lessons From Russia’s War on Ukraine
China, he added, also looked to the war in Ukraine as a reminder to “control the information space” and “do everything you can to shore up your economy against the potential for sanctions.”
Last October, it was reported that roughly 24 United States troops had been stationed on Taiwan since the start of 2021. Their presence was announced by officials after renewed tensions between the nations came to the fore when China flew roughly 150 military aircraft over Taiwan. Taiwan hinted at an alliance with the U.S. after selling the country billions of dollars of military hardware in the recent past.
Putin and Xi met just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, announcing their unification against the United States on the issue of Ukraine. In the leadup to the invasion, Putin made several demands from NATO. The Russian leader asked for NATO to stop its expansion and refuse Ukraine membership.
Xi backed Putin in their meeting while Russia stood by Xi’s position on Taiwan being part of China. Speaking on Wednesday, the CIA director also said he didn’t believe China was providing military support to Russia in its war against Ukraine.
On a related note, US President Joe Biden relayed military officials’ belief that it was “not a good idea” for House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan given the increased tension. That came after China’s Foreign Ministry said the country would take “resolute and strong measures” if Pelosi went ahead with the trip to Taiwan in the coming weeks.
Pelosi would be the highest-ranking American lawmaker to visit Taiwan, a close ally of the US for the last 25 years. Pelosi appears to be going ahead with her plans for the trip to Taipei as scheduled for next month.