2022 was the year Russia invaded Ukraine. Will 2023 be the year China does the same to Taiwan?
“Smug Putin poses in his office as he oversees new warships just hours after pummeling Ukraine with 120 missiles in biggest onslaught for weeks: Devastating aftermath is laid bare as sobbing locals find homes destroyed,” was the ominous headline in the Daily Mail today.
It was a rude reminder of just how dire things are in Ukraine after the hopeful tone struck during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s surprise Congressional address last week.
Mr. Zelensky went to Washington to plead for more financial and military assistance from Ukraine’s biggest supporter — the United States. He got it, too; as well as pledges for more and pledges by House Republicans not to abandon Ukraine once their party assumes the majority in January.
The longer the conflict stretches in Ukraine, however, the greater the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin will escalate the conflict. Without the material and military support Ukraine’s western allies have been supplying since the conflict began, Putin probably would have won by now.
It is, after all, a conflict he initiated. But as Ukraine becomes a quagmire for the Russian army the likelihood Putin will move to the next stage of his nefarious plan — whatever horror that may be — increases exponentially.
As if the prospect of a global thermonuclear war weren’t enough, the United States has plenty of other problems, foreign and domestic.
Another global conflict is brewing has been brewing — just as the conflict in Ukraine was brewing — for many years now.
“Dozens of Chinese warplanes cross Taiwan median line,” reported the AP ominously on December 25.
“China sends 71 warplanes, 7 ships toward Taiwan in 24 hours,” was the AP’s grim follow-up report on December 26.
The next day, Taiwan announced it would be extending, “compulsory military service amid mounting tensions with China,” as The Guardian put it.
“Taiwan will extend its compulsory military service from four months to one year amid mounting military tensions with China, the island’s president has announced,” reported the Guardian on December 27.
U.S. President Joe Biden said in November he does not believe the Chinese Communist Party has any imminent plans to invade Taiwan. Then again, Biden isn’t exactly known for being right about foreign policy.
“I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” former Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates famously said of Joe Biden in 2014.
Biden’s assessment could also be wishful thinking. The U.S. isn’t exactly prepared for such a conflict.
“Why the U.S. isn’t ready for a fight in the Indo-Pacific,” declared POLITICO on December 27. “Pentagon’s promise to shore up its forces in the Pacific in 2023 is meeting skepticism.”
Whatever Biden told the press in November, with every day that passes, the Chinese Communist Party seems to be pushing closer to invading Taiwan. The probability of a full-scale military invasion of Taiwan akin to what Vladimir Putin has done in Ukraine is a growing threat.
Already, companies like Apple are working towards relocating some of their manufacturing operations outside of China. The over-dependence of Germany on Russian energy — exposed after Putin’s invasion — has corporate and government heads running scared.
“Just How Badly Does Apple Need China?” wondered The Atlantic helplessly on December 28.
Of course, relocating a manufacturing sector so heavily dependent on operations in China will take time. If Xi Jinping is smart, and he is, he would move against Taiwan sooner rather than later. Sooner, Xi still has leverage over Western companies inextricably dependent on Chinese manufacturing. Later, he is likely to lose that leverage.
With every day that passes, companies like Apple are diversifying their manufacturing operations to other countries, divesting of their Chinese manufacturing centers.
In one year, Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party will have less sway than they do today over wealthy western corporations.
Which means the time to move against Taiwan may be fast approaching.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)