Alessio Patalano

Is China about to invade Taiwan?

This week, the central committee of the Chinese Communist party will issue a ‘resolution on history’. It will enshrine the official historical narrative of the Xi Jinping era. Only two CCP leaders have issued a resolution of this kind before: Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Mao’s resolution set out his role as China’s sole leader; Deng’s, the conditions for the country’s economic focus. And Xi’s? Details are yet to be revealed, but it is expected to reinforce the idea of China’s historical destiny, what Xi calls the ‘great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’. For Xi, the project of national rejuvenation is inherently linked to the reunification with Taiwan, the only part of the old republic that did not become communist in 1949. Xi has called reunification the ‘unswerving historical task’ of the party, and he takes it very seriously. The resolution’s aim is not to celebrate the CCP’s past. It is to stress the inevitability of the future.

While westerners may find it difficult to imagine an actual invasion of Taiwan, a pressing question remains: short of open war, what levels of coercive actions are the United States and its allies willing to accept? Last month, the Chinese air force, or PLAAF, was busier than ever. Under normal circumstances, it would be customary for the Chinese military to hold national day parades to commemorate the Chinese Communist party’s victory over the Kuomintang, the Chinese Nationalist party, on 1 October 1949. This year was different. For five days, the PLAAF flew 150 aircraft around Taiwan. The increase in air operations in the last month suggests that Beijing has already succeeded in setting a higher threshold for international tolerance of military coercion. Exercises around Taiwanese airspace now take place on an almost daily basis. Last week, 20 Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan’s air defence zone within 24 hours.

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