Cheng Xiaonong: Taiwan: A “Hot Spot” in the U.S.-China Cold War?

China’s People’s Liberation Army has developed four operational methods of attacking Taiwan, and Australia and Japan clearly see the impending danger as a threat to their own security and are considering how to respond. China’s threat to regional security in the Western Pacific North and South has already been demonstrated, and the future of this region will produce a “hot spot” for war in the Cold War era between the United States and China.

I. The latest concerns about the Taiwan “hot spot”

The Economist magazine published the cover article “Taiwan: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth” on April 29, 2012. Since then, there has been a lot of speculation in the media about whether China will attack Taiwan.

On July 1 this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a speech at a conference celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) that solving the Taiwan issue and achieving the complete reunification of the motherland is a historical task to which the CPC is committed. A July 1 report in the British newspaper The Guardian noted that Xi’s speech promised to recover Taiwan; there are growing fears of an eventual military conflict around Taiwan, while each is preparing for it.

China has in the past refused to rule out the use of force to unify Taiwan as an option; on the other hand, the Taiwanese public is becoming less and less identified with China. The Pew Research Center, a U.S. polling and research organization, released a poll last May 12 on Taiwanese people’s attitudes toward the U.S. and China that was done in October-November 2019, before the outbreak of the new crown epidemic, so it had nothing to do with the impact of the epidemic on public opinion later. The surveyors interviewed 1,562 respondents by telephone and asked the Taiwanese people about their views on national identity. The questionnaire gave three options, self-identifying as Taiwanese, both, and self-identifying as Chinese. The survey results showed that 67% of the respondents felt they were Taiwanese (among them, 75% had a favorable opinion of the United States and only 23% had a favorable opinion of China); 28% identified themselves as both; and only 4% identified themselves as Chinese.

Clearly, given current public opinion in Taiwan, the majority of the Taiwanese people do not want to become one with the mainland, and under a democratic system, Taiwan’s ruling party will not take the initiative to negotiate with Beijing on how to reunify. With the implementation of China’s national security law in Hong Kong this year, political freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Hong Kong have been quickly stripped away, making China’s “one country, two systems” argument lose even more credibility in Taiwan. The Chinese government knows very well that it can only hope for a peaceful reunification of Taiwan; against this backdrop, Beijing is now making declarations such as “solving the Taiwan issue” with the real intention of taking Taiwan by force.

II. China’s plan to attack Taiwan

How does China intend to attack Taiwan and when might it attack Taiwan? This is a question that all countries would like to know. The author introduces relevant statements recently published by the official Chinese foreign propaganda media, Dovetail News, which clearly explain China’s war plans.

On May 9 of this year, in response to the above-mentioned Economist article, the media published an article “Why Taiwan is becoming the ‘most dangerous place on earth'”, in which it was clearly stated that “mainland China has to …… take The article clearly states that “mainland China has to take some necessary measures, including military action. This is the main reason why Chinese ships and aircraft have frequently circled Taiwan and crossed the so-called ‘center line of the strait’ in recent years, and the fundamental reason why Taiwan is becoming the ‘most dangerous place on earth’.” On June 13, the media also The media published an article entitled “Taiwan Strait Battle Projection: Success and Failure of the PLA’s “Armed Unification””, which analyzed the various possibilities and methods of operation for the PLA to take over Taiwan. It is mentioned that the PLA will have four possibilities to “achieve armed reunification”: first, siege without fighting, area denial, and yielding without fighting; second, “beheading” of Taiwan; third, regional war, a limited naval/air war outside the island; fourth, an all-round three-dimensional war in the Taiwan Strait, with the PLA boarding the island and taking over the island. Fourth, a full-scale three-dimensional war in the Taiwan Strait, with the PLA boarding the island to fight. These reports paint a preliminary picture of the Chinese authorities’ military intentions and war plans.

Following Xi’s aforementioned speech, the media outlet further propagated the Chinese authorities’ intentions. Its July 1 article was titled, “Xi Jinping Issues ‘Unification Manifesto’ to the World with Clear Goals. The article said, “Xi Jinping formally issued a clear ‘cross-strait unification declaration’ to the world. …… The ‘unification timetable’ is in the countdown and everyone should already have a good idea”.

The media even disclosed some specific details of China’s preparations for an attack on Taiwan in a July 5 article titled “A change in Taiwan’s eastern waters now allegedly affects PLA strategy to attack Taiwan”. The article quoted Taiwan’s Central News Agency as saying that the east coast of Taiwan is the only place where PLA marines can land because of the depth of the water. According to the article, Chinese military analysts report that the change in sea temperature along Taiwan’s east coast affects the flow of the Kuroshio tide and helps the PLA launch an attack on Taiwan, but at the same time it will encounter two problems, so the PLA will need to adjust its submarine operational plans. The article also cites a report in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post that Chinese military scientists have studied temperature changes in Taiwan’s black tide for more than a decade and have analyzed the impact of the black tide on China’s operational plans to attack Taiwan. From the details disclosed in this article, it appears that China’s plan to attack Taiwan is no longer a rough outline, but goes into specific details such as ocean currents, sea temperatures, and ship deployment.

While some argue that this propaganda is a form of psychological warfare designed to shake Taiwan’s will to resist, it is undeniable that China has indeed been carefully studying the implementation of its attack plan for a long time, and its preparedness measures are gradually being stepped up. The U.S. military is fully concerned, and Adm. Philip Davidson, former commander of the U.S. Navy’s Indo-Pacific Command, told a U.S. Senate hearing last March that China could attack Taiwan by force within six years as part of achieving its goals. China’s goal is to expand its influence throughout the region and replace the U.S. leadership role in the international order by 2050.

How do we view Taiwan as a “hot spot” in the U.S.-China Cold War?

Many countries around the world are increasingly concerned about the Chinese military threat to Taiwan.

Although the U.S. government now avoids using the expression that it is in a state of Cold War with China, the two sides have engaged in a series of large-scale maritime confrontations in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea in the first half of this year, as described in my article “The Latest Developments in the U.S.-China Cold War Confrontation” published on Radio Free Asia’s website on April 23 of this year. At the same time, both China and the United States are expanding their nuclear arsenals and expanding their military preparations in all areas, from naval vessels and naval tactics to unmanned weapons. This is a classic Cold War state of affairs.

Will Taiwan become the first “hot spot” in this new Cold War between the United States and China? The U.S. government is currently adopting a “local focus” approach to a possible war in and around Taiwan. Under this approach, the U.S. is focusing on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, strengthening contacts with the Chinese government to avoid a deterioration of the situation, and providing Taiwan with weapons to enhance its defense, while the U.S. Navy has declared that it can deter Chinese military action to take Taiwan, thus constituting a forceful deterrent to China.

Sea Power, the official publication of the U.S. Navy League, reported on June 30 that Sam Paparo, who took over as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in May, said on June 29 during a web conference at the Western Seminar 2021 organized by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the U.S. Naval Institute. I’m concerned about China’s intentions. …… Whether it’s tomorrow, next year or six years from now, it doesn’t make any difference to me,” he said during a web conference at the 2021 Western Symposium hosted by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the U.S. Naval Institute. In the Pacific Fleet and Indo-Pacific Command, we have a responsibility to be prepared to deal with the security threats facing the United States.” Paparo added that this responsibility includes thwarting any attempt by China to subvert the world order, including the reunification of Taiwan by force; “I also have confidence in our sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen …… and our operational plans, in the combined efforts of our allies and partners, to thwart such attempts.”

What needs to be seen, however, is that China will not be deterred by the forceful deterrence maintained by the U.S. relying on existing naval strength; rather, China is purposefully expanding its military preparations in an attempt to close the gap in naval strength between the U.S. and China as soon as possible, and in doing so, exert pressure on the U.S. in turn to create the conditions for the implementation of its operational plan to seize Taiwan.

Australia’s attitude toward the Taiwan crisis

Australia also faces the same military threat and continued economic sanctions from China, as I have analyzed in my article posted on this website. As noted in a July 7 report in the Voice of America, Canberra has not been overwhelmed by Beijing in the Australia-China contest, but has hardened its position.

Instead of focusing solely on the Western Pacific region in the southern hemisphere, Australia seems to have adopted a different perspective and response to the Taiwan crisis, namely, the “Eastern Hemisphere Linkage” approach. This way of thinking uses the international perspective of the future situation in the Western Pacific region in the northern and southern hemispheres to consider what kind of threat China’s plan to attack Taiwan will pose to the entire Western Pacific region once it is launched, and how to cooperate with the United States and act jointly to avoid escalation of the crisis and deterioration of the situation.

As early as last August, former Australian Deputy Defence Minister Paul Dibb pointed out in an article in The Australian that if China invaded Taiwan by force and Australia did not send troops to support the United States in protecting Taiwan, the U.S.-Australia-New Zealand Defense Pact alliance would collapse; Dibb argued that The possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan in the next few years is growing, and it is absolutely in Australia’s interest to help defend Taiwan. On July 6 of this year, Dibble published another article in the same newspaper titled “US Must be Clear: Hit an Ally and We Hit Back” (US Must be Clear: Hit an Ally and We Hit Back). According to the article, Chinese official media threatened that Beijing would retaliate with long-range missile attacks on Australian military facilities as “punishment” if Australia supported U.S. defense of Taiwan; Dibble said the U.S. must declare to China that “if an ally is attacked, the U.S. will hit back “. The same day Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was interviewed live on Melbourne’s 3AW radio station, and when asked whether Australia would support Taiwan if China attacked by force, Morrison replied unequivocally, “We have always honored our agreement to support the United States and our allies in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the official Chinese media Global Times, immediately published an article on Weibo the next day, saying that if Australia assists the U.S. military in defending Taiwan in the event of a military conflict in the Taiwan Strait, Beijing would impose “retaliatory punishment” on Australia, including “long-range strikes on Australian military facilities and related key facilities on the mainland. China could target Australian military targets with long-range missiles with conventional warheads.

According to Dibble, when a missile strikes, the attacked party will not be able to tell whether it is a “conventional warhead” or a “nuclear warhead” even with the most advanced detection instruments; one of the targets Hu Xijin mentioned could be the joint U.S.-Australian intelligence station “Song Song” in the Australian Northern Territory desert. One of the targets Hu Xijin mentioned could be the joint U.S.-Australian intelligence station “Pine Gap” in the Northern Territory desert of Australia, the purpose of which would be to paralyze the U.S. ability to detect nuclear missiles and pave the way for China to launch a nuclear war. During the U.S.-Soviet Cold War, if the Soviet Union had wanted to attack Australian military facilities, the United States would have assumed that the Soviet Union was going to start an all-out nuclear war. The fact that China currently has more than 200 long-range strategic nuclear warheads and is poised to double them in the near future means that Beijing’s nuclear weapons are not only intended to deter others from attacking. Australia should build its own missile defense system and upgrade its air defense destroyers to have missile defense capability as soon as possible.

Australian Finance Minister Josh Frydenberg also made clear that China has launched an unprecedented sustained and comprehensive economic retaliation against Australia over the past year or so, according to the Voice of America on July 7, “We will put the broader national interest first, and that means that as we stand up [to pressure], we have a very clear and coherent sense of where our national interests lie.”

V. Japan creates a sense of a colder lip

If China is preparing to carry out a long-range threat against Australia, then Japan’s feeling about China’s attack on Taiwan is that its lips are dying and its teeth are cold. If Taiwan is attacked, then U.S. bases throughout Japan, which defend Japan’s security, could be attacked at the same time, and Japan’s maritime transportation lifeline could be cut off, leaving Japan in danger of extinction.

Therefore, Japan has recently changed its foreign policy of maintaining a balance between China and the U.S. for many years. In a speech in Tokyo on July 5, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso said that if the Chinese Communist Party attacked Taiwan, the Japanese government would consider it an “existential crisis situation” under security-related laws and might exercise its restricted right to collective self-defense, according to the Japan Times. “The United States and Japan must work together to defend Taiwan.

“The “state of crisis of survival” refers to a situation in which another country closely related to Japan is attacked by force, resulting in “a state of danger that threatens the survival of the Japanese nation and clearly subverts the lives and rights of its citizens from the ground up. This situation is one of the requirements for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to exercise the restricted right to collective self-defense.

According to the Financial Times, six people familiar with the matter said that U.S. and Japanese military commanders began seriously planning for a possible conflict (with China) at the end of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, with specific actions including top-secret war simulation exercises in the South China Sea and East China Sea, as well as actual joint warfare exercises. The Chinese factor was a direct factor in the joint U.S.-Japan operation: China sent more fighter and bomber aircraft into the Taiwan Strait; the Chinese naval air force and maritime police became more active around the Diaoyu Islands. U.S. and Japanese diplomats are now examining the legal issues associated with any joint military operations, including access to bases and the logistical support Japan might provide to U.S. forces in the event of a conflict with China. The Financial Times quotes a former Pentagon military official as saying that the Japanese government increasingly recognizes, and even openly acknowledges, that defending Taiwan is equivalent to defending Japan. Therefore, the Japanese government attaches importance to the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad)” in its diplomatic strategy to cooperate with the United States, Australia and India, and intends to work with the United States and Australia to accelerate defense exchanges with India.

In the U.S.-Soviet Cold War, European countries were on the front line, so Western European countries became firm allies of the United States. The front line of the U.S.-China Cold War was in the northern and southern hemisphere regions of the Western Pacific, and Japan and Australia, which are relatively strong militarily in this region, also naturally became firm allies of the United States. How to avoid a situation in Taiwan similar to that of North Korea, the first hot spot in the U.S.-Soviet Cold War, is the fundamental reason why the countries concerned in the Western Pacific must pay attention to Taiwan, the first “hot spot” in the Sino-U.S. Cold War. It is important to remember that both the Korean War and today’s Taiwan crisis are caused by the same perpetrator, which never learned the lesson of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War when it created its own hotspots twice (the Korean War and the Vietnam War).