Warnings about the risk of war in the Taiwan Strait have reached their climax. Admiral Philip Davidson, then commander of US forces in the Pacific, told US senators in March that the threat of a Chinese attack on Taiwan “is evident in this decade, in fact the next six years.” . Last week, The Economist described Taiwan as “the most dangerous place in the world”.
It is time to take a step back and ponder that much of the anxiety arose from the misinterpretation of a Chinese Communist Party document.
According to US defense officials, one of the main reasons behind Davidson’s prediction is the Chinese Communist Party’s speech on a new interim target, in 2027, for the development of the People’s Liberation Army. A US defense official calls it “a new intermediate step for the modernization of the PLA”, saying it is “an acceleration of eight years from 2035”.
Several things need to be clarified here. First, it is wrong to say that Beijing has changed its medium to long term goals for the development of its armed forces. After a high-level meeting in October last year, the Communist Party said it wanted “to ensure that the goal of 100 years of military construction is achieved by 2027”.
The South China Morning Post deduced from the statement that the party meeting called for “building a fully modern army by 2027” – the centenary of the founding of the PLA. But achieving a complete modernization of the military is a goal that the party leadership has set for 2035, and it aims to transform the PLA into a “world-class” army by 2049.
“Some say the modernization target of 2035 has been moved to 2027. This is just not correct,” said Meia Nouwens, a Chinese military modernization expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. She believes the misunderstanding arose because the party spoke of the need to “accelerate progress towards military modernization” in the same paragraph – common language that can be found in almost all Communist Party documents. concerning the APL.
Taylor Fravel, an PLA expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, points out that party documents released since the emergence of the 2027 target continue to mention the 2035 and 2049 targets, a sign that these two remain unchanged.
Moreover, experts dispute the idea, increasingly peddled by US military officials, that Beijing is becoming sufficiently confident in its military capabilities to risk an attack on Taiwan.
“They are convinced that they can pump modern ships,” Nouwens said. “But the operation is much more complicated,” she added, highlighting the huge challenges that remain in getting different PLA branches to work together and with the use of network technologies.
To start a war – which would likely attract the United States and its allies – Chinese leader Xi Jinping would have to be pushed into a corner or know beyond a doubt that there was no risk of losing this war, analysts said. .
None of this minimizes China’s growing military prowess or the pressure it is exerting on Taiwan by using it. Chinese military planes arrive almost daily in the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone, and these flights are increasing in both frequency and range.
But rather than a step towards war, these movements will likely be part of a campaign to intimidate Taiwan with so-called gray zone tactics. The constant fear about the risk of a war in Taiwan is only in the hands of such a Chinese strategy.
Some security experts view the US Indo-Pacific Command’s warnings of increased war risk as an attempt to secure budgetary funds to support the US military presence in the region, as well as to influence policy review. Chinese administration of the Biden administration.
“This is a defense-focused assessment in the United States, based more on their needs than on a careful analysis of the PLA,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior China expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. United States. “They have really done a disservice to American national interests.”