How will the Russia-Ukraine war affect China’s ambitions in Taiwan?

By James Moules


RUSSIAN military failures in Ukraine will likely see Beijing push back the timeline for a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, a leading expert has told Redaction Report.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) claims that Taiwan is not a sovereign nation in its own right, but a breakaway province destined to be reunited with the mainland.

Taiwan, officially called the Republic of China, has never been a part of the PRC. Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly vowed that the territory will become part of China, and has refused to rule out the use of force to achieve this.

But Professor Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute, told Redaction Report that Russia’s slower-than-expected advance in its invasion of Ukraine could make Beijing push back the timeline on a potential military assault of Taiwan.

He said: “The People’s Liberation Army cannot fail to see the failures of the Russian military were due in part to the poor planning, preparation and logistics required for a quick military success.  

“An invasion of Taiwan is inherently much more complex and difficult than a land-based invasion of Ukraine, so China will need more time to prepare.”

Russia’s advances into Ukraine have been met with fierce resistance since the invasion on February 24, 2022 – with many observers suggesting the Kremlin underestimated the scale of opposition its forces would meet.

Numerous logistical problems by Russian forces have also been reported, including failure to provide adequate fuel and supplies to advancing columns.

A potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan would face the added difficulty of launching a fully amphibious assault as Taiwan is an island nation.

US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said on March 8: “We assess Moscow underestimated the strength of Ukraine’s resistance and the degree of internal military challenges we are observing which include an ill-constructed plan, morale issues and considerable logistical issues.”

Beijing is attempting to present a neutral stance in the Ukraine conflict, but Xi Jinping has recently pursued closer ties with Russia, declaring a ‘no-limits’ partnership alongside Putin on the same day the Beijing Winter Olympics opened.

In mutual support of each other’s foreign policy goals, China backed Kremlin’s opposition to NATO while Russia positioned itself against Taiwanese independence.

Upon Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “We should pursue common, cooperative and sustainable security for all countries. The legitimate security concerns of all sides should be respected and resolved.

“We hope all sides will keep the door to peace open and continue to work for deescalation through dialogue, consultation and negotiation and prevent further escalation.”

China did not vote in support of Russia in a March 2022 UN resolution condemning the invasion, opting to abstain on the motion.

Only Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria voted against, with 141 member states in favour of denouncing the attack.

Professor Tsang said: “The professional diplomats of China know that it’s not in China’s best interest to take Russia’s side, but the top leader, Xi, who controls foreign policy making is personally committed to support Putin.  

“Hence, the incoherence in China’s responses, on the one hand saying China is neutral and willing to mediate, and on the other hand articulates ‘rock-solid’ support for Russia, refusing even to describe the war as an invasion by Russia.  

“Despite articulation of a willingness to mediate, China has made no real effort to end the war or the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine.”


Featured Image: Supreme Dragon @WikimediaCommons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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