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Will Taiwan Be Forced into an Annexation Deal?

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China’s increasing influence and strategic maneuvers have raised concerns about the potential coercion of Taiwan into signing a peace or annexation deal by 2028. According to reports from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), China has a detailed strategy to annex Taiwan through coordinated actions in various domains including air, sea, cyber, and economic warfare.

A Strategic Four-Year Campaign

The AEI and ISW reports suggest that China’s plan involves four distinct “pulses” over a four-year period. These pulses are aimed at gradually increasing pressure on Taiwan, making it difficult for the island nation to resist. By incrementally intensifying these actions, Beijing hopes to mask its larger unification campaign, eventually forcing Taiwan into a “peace agreement” or “unification framework” by 2028.

Non-War Military Activities

Dan Blumenthal, a senior fellow at AEI, emphasizes the importance of understanding China’s non-war military activities. These activities include economic sanctions, cyber-attacks, and information warfare, all designed to create internal strife and external isolation for Taiwan. Blumenthal highlights that the U.S. and its allies need to focus not only on military deterrence but also on countering these non-war tactics effectively.

The Role of International Perception

China aims to portray increased cooperation between Taiwan and the U.S. as escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait. This narrative helps Beijing justify its aggressive actions and disrupts Taiwan’s relations with other countries. Furthermore, China may engage in economic and cyber warfare, enforce inspections of ships, and spread propaganda to undermine Taiwan’s position internationally.

The Need for Political Asymmetry

Blumenthal suggests that instead of responding to every military maneuver by China, the international community should focus on political actions that counter Beijing’s strategies. For instance, enhancing Taiwan’s civil aviation cooperation and promoting its inclusion in regional defense frameworks can be more effective in countering China’s coercive tactics.

The Davidson Window

Admiral Philip Davidson, former commander of U.S. military joint forces in the Indo-Pacific, has warned that China might accelerate its timeline to unify with Taiwan through military invasion. Known as the “Davidson Window,” this period up to 2027 is seen as a critical time frame for potential Chinese aggression. However, the AEI and ISW reports argue that the focus should be on China’s long-term strategy of gray-zone operations rather than an outright invasion.

Gray-Zone Operations

China’s gray-zone operations involve non-military coercion tactics that gradually increase its control over Taiwan without triggering a full-scale war. These operations include frequent incursions into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), maritime encroachments, and extensive information warfare campaigns. These activities aim to weaken Taiwan’s resolve and erode its autonomy over time.

Strengthening Taiwan’s Defense

Taiwan’s recent military investments, including fighter aircraft and submarines, are primarily aimed at deterring a direct invasion. However, the AEI and ISW suggest that Taiwan should also focus on building resilience against gray-zone threats. This includes hardening communications infrastructure, enhancing surveillance capabilities, and fostering economic ties that can withstand Chinese pressure.

U.S. and Allies’ Response

The United States and its allies need to shift their focus from solely preparing for a military invasion to countering the broader spectrum of Chinese coercion tactics. This involves increasing support for Taiwan’s surveillance and defense capabilities, expanding the role of the U.S. Coast Guard in the region, and coordinating with commercial entities to resist Beijing’s economic restrictions.

Strategic maneuvers

China’s growing influence and strategic maneuvers present a significant challenge to Taiwan’s autonomy. By 2028, Beijing aims to coerce Taiwan into an annexation deal through a combination of military, economic, and information warfare tactics. The international community must adopt a multifaceted approach to counter these efforts, emphasizing political, economic, and strategic measures to support Taiwan’s resilience against Chinese coercion.

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