Adam Ni Profile picture
Aug 25, 2018 26 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
#China will attempt a forceful unification with #Taiwan by 2021, the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party. Xi's grand dream of national rejuvenation entails unifying all that #CCP considers Chinese lands, especially Taiwan.

This THREAD looks at this potential scenario.
The legitimacy of the #CCP regime under Xi is based on the twin pillars of economic growth and nationalism. For the party-state, unifying the mainland and Taiwan is critical to its aspirations of national rejuvenation and erasure of national humiliation.
Why would PRC force a unification as early as 2021? 1) 2021 is the centenary of the #CCP; anniversaries and dates have massive symbolic importance in China's political culture. 2) Xi wants unification to be part of his legacy. This is the only way that he can outshine #Mao.
3) The PRC's economic, political, and military capabilities are fast approach a point where the #CCP feels it can use force against TW while effectively deterring US and allied intervention.
4) #CCP's patience is running out; it feels the clock is ticketing on the window of unification, esp if nativist sentiments keep growing in TW and push it towards independence (both de jure or de facto).
So, how is this going to play out? In recent years, the #CCP has increased pressure on Taiwan through military posturing, economic inducement, political operations in TW, fighting a narrative struggle internationally, and attempting to restrict TW's international space.
These efforts aim to weaken TW's resolve, deter it from going down the road for independence, and to isolate TW internationally to add pressure. In addition to softening TW up, these efforts also pave the way for a further escalation of its coercive campaign.
The CCP faces a dilemma in determining how far to go in its coercive campaign. Going too far would backfire with TW's public as well as the international community, catalysing responses to counter China's efforts, both with respect to TW as well as its larger regional ambitions.
Not going far enough creates insufficient pressure to forestall the drift of TW further & further away from the CCP's vision of unification. It also a signal #CCP 's weakness to the nationalist public & on the international stage. Losing face can have terrible consequences.
Also, by using cocersive measures short of military force now, #CCP leaders believe that it could create conditions for some kind of unification arrangement in the future without the actual use of force.
Scenario 2021 is only 3 years away - what would such a scenario look like? Here it goes...

In recent years, the CCP's coercive efforts against TW have changed the status quo. TW's international space continues to shrink as the balance of power tip sharply in China's favor.
The shifting power relativity includes economic, political, diplomatic and military power. This is also true b/w China and the US, esp with the latter's tendency towards abducting regional leadership.
In this scenario, China continues to escalate its coercive campaign against TW in the hope of forcing it into a deal. Alas, its unsuccessful as the aspirations of the Taiwanese people fundamentally cannot be reconciled with the authoritarian character of the mainland.
The lack of an effective and concerted international response against China embolden the #CCP to escalate even further - the very real prospect of the use of force is on the horizon with the PLA involved in low-intensity actions short of war against TW.
A physical blockade in some form could be coupled with intense economic pressure, and cyber operations. This conflict escalates, and because of domestic nationalist pressure as well as factional infighting, Xi chooses confrontation instead of a backdown.
PLA cyber, missile, air and maritime forces are deployed against TW in order to neutralize its ability to defend itself. At this stage, an invasion is still not the preferred plan because that would entail a costly campaign involving amphibious assault and urban operations.
Instead, precision conventional missile, counter space, maritime/economic blockade, and cyber operations are used to bring TW to its knees. For the #CCP this is not only a campaign to obtain limited concessions, but to achieve its vision of unification.
What happens from here would depend on US response, TW's will to resist, international responses, and importantly, China's domestic political situation. We'll leave it there. The above hypothetical scenario is far from improbable. In fact, we are going down that road NOW.
What can we learn? First, TW, US, allies, and the international community need to be prepared for such a scenario with China pushing its unification agenda in the near future, including potentially with force. Status quo is not an option for China (or perhaps even for TW)
Second, the balance of power (tilting increasing towards China) makes CCP more likely to force a unification because it can effectively deter US intervention. If the balance tilts too far towards China then force may not be required to force an unification.
Third, policymakers & military planners in the region should start to prepare for a variety of scenarios, such as PLA cyber campaign against TW, or a soft maritime blockade, or mainland putting in place economic sanction with TW.
Fourth, to forestall forceful unification by China, we need to act NOW and we need to act consistently to protect the status quo (as much as that is possible). One way is to make clear to both China and TW that unilateral change to status quo is destabilising not acceptable.
What is unacceptable is China's pressuring of TW through aggressive military posturing; poaching of TW's existing diplomatic allies; and actively trying to shrink TW's international breathing space. If we don't respond in a concerted manner, China will only be emboldened.
I don't believe its in the interest of TW or the region for it to declare independence. It would be highly destabilising. But I'm also wary of China's coercive campaign against TW & the potential for a wider and more deadly confrontation if we don't protest & impose a cost.
Moreover, like #SCS if we don't respond effectively to China's attempt to change the cross-strait status quo with force, then it further emboldens it in other arenas to do the same. Do we want a regional hegemon that acts in that manner?
In conclusion, a conflict over TW is certainly possible by 2021. We should plan for such a scenario. If we want to head it off & preserve regional peace/stability, then we have to act NOW in a consistent & concerted effort to preserve the cross-strait status quo.


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More from @adam_ni

Aug 12, 2018
China will try to avoid military adventurism because of the lesson highlighted by American examples. But in the yrs ahead, it will find itself pulled towards foreign military entanglements because of its rapid expanding interests and footprint around the world.

1/ BRI routes
China's military, #PLA, is increasingly called upon to protect China's interests around the globe, including along the routes of the #BRI with its share of unstable polities. The rapid modernisation of the #PLA will enable China to project power much more effectively

The combination of the demand for #PLA to project its power in advancing China's interests globally as well as its modernising capabilities mean that the #PLA will be more likely than ever to be pulled into a foreign military entanglement.

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