“All bets are on” if the US gets caught up in China-Taiwan tensions, one of the country’s top security experts has warned.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid a historic visit to Taiwan this week to mark the highest-level US diplomatic visit to the island in 25 years — a move that has sparked outrage in Beijing and even threats of military action.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly said that the Chinese Liberation Army will annex democratic territory 180 km off its coast as part of China’s “national revitalization plan.”
The US- and Japanese-backed island of about 25 million broke away from the mainland in 1949 as the losers of the civil war fled Mao Zedong’s brutal communist regime.
Australia broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1972 and recognized the People’s Republic as part of the “One China” policy. But Western democracies have continued to support the island’s struggle against China’s dictatorial overthrow.
The project’s co-moderator, Carrie Bickmore, asked the director of the Lowy Institute’s International Security Program, Sam Roggeveen: whether China’s recent saber-rattling over the Pelosi visit are just “empty threats” or whether they are “serious.”
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (pictured) reignited tensions between China and Taiwan with a historic visit to Taiwan
Self-governing Taiwan’s 23 million people live under the constant threat of invasion from authoritarian China, which claims the island as its territory and has vowed to one day take it, by force if necessary
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE WAR FOR AUSTRALIA?
If Australia is drawn into a military conflict with China over Taiwan, it could have serious consequences for our way of life.
US military bases in northern Australia become prime targets for Chinese airstrikes.
Australia faces significant casualties not seen since World War II.
Cyber Hacks and Satellite Attacks:
Modern warfare will involve crippling “soft-kill” attacks on critical infrastructure that could collapse Australia’s banking system, shut down food distribution systems and cripple power grids.
Sydney harbor mined with explosives:
Chinese forces could try to mine ports like Sydney Harbor to disrupt Australian supply chains.
Source: dr Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at the ASPI Defense, Strategy and National Security program
Mr Roggeveen stressed Beijing has always taken Taiwan seriously when outlining the potential impact Ms Pelosis’ visit could have on Australia.
“If the Americans get involved then all bets are off,” Mr Roggeveen told the programme.
“We’re certainly talking about the biggest war in Asia since Vietnam and possibly the biggest war we’ve seen in the world since World War II that could involve the use of nuclear weapons.”
The warning comes as Australia announced its biggest defense review in decades amid fears war looms as tensions over Taiwan escalate.
The review, led by former defense chief Sir Angus Houston and former Labor defense secretary Stephen Smith, will advise the government on how to prepare for potential conflict over the next decade from 2023.
“If the United States is determined to support Taiwan, then it seems obvious that Americans will come to us for help,” Roggeveen said.
“I think we really need to think twice about whether the relationship with the United States is as important and as beneficial as it has been for many decades that we are willing to take that risk.
“This is an incredibly sobering moment and Australian policymakers would be remiss if they did not think through the full implications of this.”
During a press conference, Ms Pelosi accused China of “standing in the way” of Taiwan’s involvement in international affairs and warned that America’s commitment to upholding democracy “remains ironclad”.
Project Carrie Bickmore questioned whether China’s response was just another “empty threat.”
The director of the Lowy Institute’s International Security Program, Sam Roggeveen, warned Australia not to scrutinize its relationship with the US
She also met with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and told her the controversial visit showed the US would not “break its commitment” to the island.
Mr Roggeveen branded the US First Speaker’s visit to Taiwan as an empty gesture and “not a great idea”.
“The best shine you can put on it, at least, is Nancy Pelosi herself, and the United States has shown it will not back down in the face of Chinese demands to do so,” Mr Roggeveen said.
“It has shown determination to that extent, but on the other hand it feels like an empty gesture to me. It’s a showcase for Nancy Pelosi and the media.”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Foreign Secretary Penny Wong on Wednesday distanced themselves from Ms Pelosis’ landmark visit.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged democratic nations to adhere to the one China principle
“The extent of US engagement with our Taiwanese counterparts is up to them,” Mr Albanese told reporters.
Ms Wong told ABC Radio: “I think the most important thing to say is that all parties should consider how best to contribute to de-escalating the current tensions. And you know, we all want peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
“In my opinion, we should continue to insist that all parties should de-escalate tensions, and we should continue to press with others in the region to maintain peace and stability in the region and particularly in the Taiwan Strait.”
Mr Roggeveen believes Beijing is interested in bringing the democratic nation back under the control of its authoritarian regime.
“Besides, China… doesn’t have everything yet military capabilities needed to launch an invasion of Taiwan,” he said.
One of Australia’s top security experts has warned China that it has always been serious about Taiwan (pictured Chinese military officers in Beijing).
“Imagine something similar to the opening scene of Private Ryan, but with 21st century guns. China doesn’t have enough ships to do this kind of work yet.”
He warned that there would be two “not very good” versions China takes the stage where they can invade Taiwan – one with the US and the other without.
“One version is where the Americans don’t intervene and if that happens, China has a great advantage but still has a lot of heavy battles ahead,” he said.
“Taiwan has probably underinvested in its own military in recent years, but still has sufficient military capabilities to bloody a Chinese invasion.
“The Chinese would be sobered by what they saw in Russia and Ukraine. I think that would be a sobering reminder of how difficult it is to invade another country, let alone cross a large body of water to do so.’
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis’ historic visit to Taiwan sparked anger from China’s communist regime (Image, Chinese military forces)
Why China Targeted Taiwan
Taiwanese soldiers hoist the flag of Taiwan in Taipei on May 10. China considers Taiwan part of its territory, but many Taiwanese want the island to be independent
China and Taiwan have a longstanding dispute over the island’s sovereignty.
China considers Taiwan part of its territory, more specifically a province, but many Taiwanese want the island to be independent.
From 1683 to 1895, Taiwan was ruled by the Chinese Qing Dynasty. After Japan claimed victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Qing government forced Taiwan to cede to Japan.
The island was under the rule of the Republic of China after World War II, with the consent of its allies, the United States and Britain.
Chinese Nationalist Party leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in 1949 and established his government after losing the civil war to the Communist Party and its leader Mao Zedong.
Chiang’s son continued to rule Taiwan after his father and started the democratization of Taiwan.
In 1980, China introduced a formula called “one country, two systems,” under which Taiwan would be granted significant autonomy if it accepted Chinese reunification. Taiwan rejected the offer.
Taiwan is now widely recognized in the West as an independent state with its own constitution and democratically elected leaders. However, their political status remains unclear.