The Taiwan War is already happening

Last August, the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made China very angry.

Last August, the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made China very angry.

©Sam Yeh / AFP


While Russia’s aggression against Ukraine raises the question of a potential Chinese attack on Taiwan, Westerners have largely missed Beijing’s military operations to subdue its democratic neighbor.

Atlantico: Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has raised the question of a potential Chinese attack on Taiwan, but Westerners seem to be missing the military action initiated by Beijing. To what extent is China already waging a form of war (influence, disinformation and propaganda) against Taiwan?

Emmanuel Lincot: The perception of China as a threat in Brussels and in Washington is not the same. For Eastern Europeans, the war between Moscow and Kyiv is important. Their vital interests depend on it. For Americans, the conflict in Ukraine is an epiphenomenon. The priority goal of their entire strategy is the China and Taiwan problem. This difference in perception is important because it underscores something we’ve known for a long time: Americans prefer Asia over Europe. Therefore, Westerners do not form a bloc and do not have the same strategic vision. Even if Ukraine and Taiwan have similarities: they are the two countries most exposed to the threat of an authoritarian hegemon. A high-intensity war for the Ukrainians, a war of destruction for the Taiwanese (cyber-attacks, sabotage by violating its air and sea spaces, etc.); The Taiwan Relations Act, which has been in force since 1979 and is linked to strategic defense agreements with the US, will give a planetary dimension to China’s conflict over the island. Therefore, the Americans believe that the war between China and Taiwan will have much more serious consequences than the war in Ukraine. On the Taiwan side, we are closely monitoring the scene of the conflict in Ukraine and preparing militarily for the worst. Part of the public is not sensitive to the traditional discourse of the Kuomintang, which, given the recent municipal elections, remains in favor of a rapprochement between the two coasts. Beijing, in turn, cannot be insensitive to this. Indifference prevails on the European side. But should we remember that three-quarters of microprocessors are made in Taiwan? A war against Taiwan would have disastrous consequences for our own economies.

What are the latest manifestations?

Most spectacular are the People’s Liberation Army’s exercises near the island during August, and Beijing is launching millions of cyberattacks against the island to paralyze it. So far, Taiwan has been able to fend off these attacks, but the risk is a large-scale military attack that could present the Americans as a reality. Thus, China’s strategic goal is to create for itself a strategic depth throughout the region that will be clearly detrimental to the Westerners and their partners. With the failures of Foxcon (Apple’s subcontractor on the continent), which was forced to move to other parts of the world, the economic war between the two coasts has already begun. That’s the case for semiconductor giant TSMC, which left the island to settle in Arizona for fear of a simmering war with China. It is essentially a war of attrition, requiring a very large-scale repositioning of Taiwan’s industrial system.

Is it possible to underestimate the importance of these destabilizations because they happen out of sight?

Again, the perception of danger is not the same in Europe and the United States. And above all, the attitude of Europeans towards China is less radical than that of Americans. Whether it is Chancellor Scholz’s or President Macron’s statements, they all go in the direction of moderate cooperation with China, not separation as advocated by the Americans. The European approach to China is, as we know, less confrontational than the American one. Moreover, Machiavellian, as a threat, Russia is an immediate strategic priority for the vital interests of Europeans. Not China.

Given what Taiwan is, can Beijing hope to destabilize Taiwan enough to subdue it without engaging in open conflict?

All possibilities remain open: Chinese irrationality in favor of direct war or the test of time, and the slow assification of Taiwan in the long run. Even for the Chinese government, Taiwan’s future is hard to say, if not entirely negotiable. On the contrary, the Taiwanese may emerge victorious from this slow confrontation. In fact, it has been going on since 1949 and the status quo has been respected until now. The risk is a slide or the CCP may launch a military adventure to re-establish national unity within China itself. To continue: 2023 is marked by the celebration of the rabbit according to traditional cosmology! A sign characterized by prudence, vigilance, cunning…

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