‘Starting a Fire’: U.S. and China Enter Dangerous Territory over Taiwan

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25 Chinese fighter jets, bombers and other warplanes flew into dangerous formations from the southern end of Taiwan, a display of military prowess on China’s National Day, October 1. The incursions, dozens upon dozens, continued over nights and days. This was followed by a further increase to the highest number ever on Monday, when 56 warplanes tested Taiwan’s troubled air defenses.

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Taiwanese jets scrambled to keep it up, while the United States warned China that its “provocative military activity” undermined “regional peace and stability”. China did not give up. When a Taiwanese fighter air traffic controller radioed a Chinese aircraft, the pilot dismissed the challenge with an obscenity involving the officer’s mother.

As the confrontation intensifies, the balance of power around Taiwan is changing radically, pushing the decades-long standoff over its future into a dangerous new phase.

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After standing up to the unification demands of China’s communist rulers for more than 70 years, Taiwan is now at the center of a deepening dispute between China and the United States. The fate of the island has the potential to reshape the regional order and even ignite a military conflict – intentionally or not.

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“There’s very little insulation left on the wires in the relationship, and it’s not hard to imagine a few crossed wires and a fire,” said Danny Russell, a former assistant secretary of state.

The Chinese military has made the conquest of Taiwan conceivable, perhaps even fascinating, for the first time. The United States seeks to thwart any aggression, but it has seen its military dominance in Asia steadily eroding. Taiwan’s own military preparedness has withered, even as its people become increasingly resistant to integration.

All three try to show resolve in the hope of averting war, only to counteract that mixed mistrust and increase the risk of miscalculation.

In a particularly tense moment, in October 2020, US intelligence reports detailed how Chinese leaders had become concerned that President Trump was preparing an attack. Those concerns, which could have been misread, prompted the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, to call his counterpart in Beijing to be convinced otherwise.

“The Taiwan issue is no longer a sort of narrow, boutique issue, and it has become a central theater – if not the central drama – in US-China strategic competition,” it said. Ivan Madeiroso, who served on President Obama’s National Security Council.

China’s ambitious leader, Xi Jinping, now heads the country’s most powerful army in history. Some argue that Mr Xi, who has set the stage to rule for a third term in 2022, may feel compelled to conquer Taiwan to crown his era in power.

mr jio said on saturday Taiwan’s independence in Beijing “was a serious threat to national rejuvenation.” China wanted peaceful reunification, he said, but added: “No one should underestimate the determination, strong will and powerful ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Some believe war is imminent or premeditated, partly because the economic and diplomatic setbacks will be staggering for China. Yet even though recent flights into Taiwan’s self-declared air-detection zone are merely a form of political pressure, not war, China’s financial, political and military dominance has made protecting the island a seriously complicated endeavor. .


Until recently, the United States believed it could stifle Chinese territorial ambitions, but long-term military superiority may not be enough. When the Pentagon organized a war game in October 2020, an American “blue team” fought against new Chinese weapons in a mock battle over Taiwan.

China now acts with growing confidence, partly because many officials, including Mr. Xi, believe US power has faltered. The failures of the United States with the COVID-19 pandemic and its political turmoil have reinforced such views.

Some advisers and former officials in China argue that the United States is no longer willing to send troops if war were to break out on Taiwan. Under the right circumstances, other…

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