NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned this week China is accelerating plans to take over the democratic-ruled island of Taiwan and disrupt a fragile status quo that has kept peace across the Taiwan Strait.
In recent years, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has altered its approach toward Taiwan, Mr. Blinken said Monday at a forum at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
“Instead of sticking with the status quo that was established in a positive way, a fundamental decision [was made] that the status quo was no longer acceptable and that Beijing was determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline,” Mr. Blinken said.
Beijing has said if peaceful means do not work in taking Taiwan, coercive measures will be applied, he said.
“And possibly, if coercive means don’t work, maybe forceful means to achieve its objectives, and that is what is profoundly disrupting the status quo and creating tremendous tensions,” Mr. Blinken added.
Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress in May that China is making progress in building forces for an attack on Taiwan. In particular, the People’s Liberation Army has strengthened joint warfighting capabilities; modernized command, control, computer, intelligence, and information systems; and expanded the use of advanced technologies.
“These advances would give the PLA an improved ability to execute a number of military operations, including the invasion of Taiwan,” Gen. Berrier said.
China’s military options against Taiwan include coercive military activities, increased military presence operations, “an air and maritime blockade, seizure of Taiwan’s smaller outlying islands, and a full-scale amphibious invasion of Taiwan itself,” he said.
No timetable has been announced for a takeover of the island, but in the past three years the PLA has increased its rhetoric and military activity around Taiwan, including large numbers of military flights into the island’s air defense zone. Since August, the PLA has deployed more warships to the waters around Taiwan and increased air incursions as well. Large numbers of Chinese warplanes have also crossed the median line separating the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait
Mr. Blinken’s comments were made a day after President Xi Jinping declared in a major speech that China will never renounce the use of force in its drive to reclaim Taiwan, which broke with the mainland in 1949 as Nationalist forces fled to the island during a civil war.
The Chinese leader blamed the current tensions on “separatist activities” seeking formal independence of Taiwan.
“We have resolutely fought against separatism and countered interference, demonstrating our resolve and ability to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to oppose Taiwan independence,” he said. “We have strengthened our strategic initiative for China’s complete reunification and consolidated commitment to the one-China principle within the international community.”
“The complete reunification of our country must be realized, and it can without a doubt be realized,” he said.
A spokesman for Taiwan’s presidential office said Taiwan is a sovereign nation and would not back down in defending democracy and freedom.
“Taiwan’s position is firm: no backing down on national sovereignty, no compromise on democracy and freedom, and meeting on the battlefield is absolutely not an option for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait,” said spokesman Chang Tun-han in a statement. “This is the consensus of Taiwan’s people.”
Xi Jinping commits to Marxism-Leninism
After several decades of so-called reform and opening up that fueled hopes the Chinese government was moving away from communism, Mr. Xi insisted on Sunday that his regime is still very much committed to Marxism-Leninism and other hard-line ideologies.
Since the Communist Party came to power, Marxism-Leninism was adopted by successive Chinese leaders, starting with Mao and Deng Xiaoping, each of whom placed his own spin on the ideology as identified by Mr. Xi.
“Over the past decade, we have stayed committed to Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the ‘Theory of Three Represents,’ and the Scientific Outlook on Development, and we have fully implemented the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as well as the Party’s basic line and basic policy,” Mr. Xi said in a speech opening the 20th Communist Party national congress now underway in Beijing.
Mr. Xi’s contribution to the governing ideology is called “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” which features a greater emphasis on consolidating power under his rule.
The comments by the Chinese leader on adhering to communism contradict the views of many experts on China affairs who have insisted the regime in Beijing is no longer strictly communist but has evolved into a state capitalist system.
Mr. Xi said that, under his guidance, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has “established and upheld a foundational system for ensuring the guiding role of Marxism in the ideological domain.”
“The party’s new theory for the new era has been embraced by the people, the core socialist values are resonating with the public, fine traditional Chinese culture is undergoing creative transformation and development, cultural programs are flourishing, and the online environment has seen continuous improvement. All this has brought overarching and fundamental changes in China’s ideological landscape,” he said.
Mr. Xi said the success of the party proves “Marxism works” when adapted to Chinese characteristics and integrated into Chinese culture.
The comments came as Mr. Xi is expected to assume an unprecedented five-year third term as head of the party and the government, in what analysts say will end a consensus style of CCP rule of the past 30 years.
China’s advanced military power expands rapidly
Military assessments of China’s armed forces show that the People’s Liberation Army’s modern and advanced military capabilities have dramatically increased since 1999.
Just before the turn of the century, the PLA deployed 100 advanced fighters, 76 bombers, 14 modern warships and 10 modern submarines. Its ballistic missile arsenal in 1999 was limited to 50 long-range missiles, 50 intermediate-range missiles, 25 medium-range missiles and 450 short-range missiles.
By contrast, the current military forces are much larger.
The PLA now boasts 100 long-range missiles, 200 intermediate-range missiles, 150 medium-range missiles and 600 short-range missiles. Modern warplanes now number 1,250, and the PLA has 150 bombers, along with 15 maritime patrol aircraft. Two aircraft carriers are now deployed, along with 30 modern cruisers and destroyers and 30 modern frigates.
Additionally, the PLA’s power-projection area has expanded from a small slice of maritime territory relatively close to China’s coast to an area of influence and operating capability stretching hundreds of miles into the western Pacific.
By 2025, the PLA is projected to have 1,950 modern jets, including 150 fifth-generation fighters. and 225 bombers. PLA ballistic missile forces also are projected to increase to 150 intercontinental-range missiles; 350 intermediate-range missiles; 400 medium-range missiles and 1,200 short-range missiles.
The missile force in 2025 also is expected to include 75 hypersonic missiles, of three different ranges.
Chinese military strategy’s highest priority is keeping the Chinese Communist Party in power at all costs and secure what Beijing regards as “core” sovereign territory. Assessments of the PLA conclude that the military’s most important mission will be to take Taiwan by force.
Another key strategic objective is developing military power that will allow the PLA to defeat the United States and its allies while advancing a new, more authoritarian international order.
China also expects to strengthen the emerging alliance with Russia and pressure international institutions to adopt standards and norms suitable to Beijing’s preferences.
• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.
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