China is studying the West's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine for clues on how it might be punished for invading Taiwan, experts say
Chinais studying the Ukrainecrisis to see how it may be punished for invading Taiwan, experts say.
- Western powers sanctioned a slew of Russian entities after Putin invaded Ukraine last month.
China is studying the Western response to
China has long said that Taiwan, an island nation of 23 million people located 100 miles off China's east coast, must become part of the mainland, whereas Taiwan fiercely maintains its independence.
Senior Taiwanese officials fear China is building toward an invasion and the slogan "Today, Ukraine, tomorrow, Taiwan!" spread widely across Taiwanese social media after Russia invaded.
The West has imposed harsh sanctions against Russian businesses, individuals, and products in response to the Ukraine invasion, a move which has crippled Russia's economy.
Meanwhile, in Beijing, Chinese officials are studying the West's response to see how it would be punished for invading Taiwan, experts told Insider.
"They are watching with great interest to see how effective sanctions applied to Russia mighty be effectively applied to China," Douglas H. Paal, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said.
"If there is an invasion of Taiwan, China would expect the US to summon as broad a range of sanctions as possible."
General Robert Spalding, former senior director at the National Security Council, agreed, telling Insider: "What's been done to Putin has really provided them insight into what they can expect when they move on Taiwan."
Spalding and Manoj Kewalramani, an associate fellow at The Takshashila Institution, told Insider that China is building a toolkit to deal with sanctions and protect itself.
"They've got an anti-sanctions law. They're thinking about other tools they can cultivate," he said, referring to an untested 2021 law which allows the Chinese government to to seize assets from entities that sanction China.
Spalding cited China's Belt and Road Initiative as an example of how China is trying to ensure economic stability on its own terms.
"They have been designing an economic ecosystem which is isolated both financially but also physically," he said.
Taiwan has been ready for China to invade for more than 50 years
Following Russia's invasion, the US intelligence community raised fresh alarms over Taiwanese security. Days before, President Joe Biden sent a delegation of former US officials to Taiwan to reiterate US support for the status-quo.
CIA director Bill Burns told the House Intelligence Committee on March 8 that China has been shocked by the severity of the West's response to Ukraine, but that he couldn't rule anything out.
"I would not underestimate President Xi and the Chinese leadership's determination with regard to Taiwan," he said.
However, Michael Reilly, a former British Representative to Taiwan, told Insider that Taiwan has always known that a Chinese invasion is probable.
"The analysts and realists in Taiwan have been working for 70 years on the assumption that one day China is going to invade and they have to maintain defenses against that. None of that is changed," he said.
"Does [Russia's invasion of Ukraine] make
However, for China to invade Taiwan would be "an admission that its whole strategy had failed," Reilly added.
"The Chinese approach has always been 'lets try to persuade the Taiwanese to join with us.' It doesn't mean they won't resort to intimidation, but a full out invasion means 'we've been wrong for 60 to 70 years.'"
Chinese officials have scolded the US for comparing its intentions for Taiwan to Russia and Ukraine.
"These are totally different things. Ukraine is a sovereign state, while Taiwan is an inseparable part of China's territory," Qin Gang, China's ambassador to the US, wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post published Tuesday,
"The Taiwan question is a Chinese internal affair. It does not make sense for people to emphasize the principle of sovereignty on Ukraine while hurting China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Any Chinese attack on Taiwan would be 'devastating'
As well as keeping an eye on sanctions, China will also be taking military learnings from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Paal told Insider.
"China has seen that massing forces in the style the Russians have used does not work," Paal said.
"They have been trying over the last decade to practice other forms of envelopment and attack, and I think this invasion is going to reinforce the trajectory that China has been on in preparing itself militarily."
"You're going to see a much more violent and comprehensive approach from China," Spalding said. "It's going to be from the air."
"It's going to be far more devastating."
Though Russia and China have grown increasing close in recent years — with the Kremlin saying on February 4 that the friendship between Russia and China "has no limits" — China has sat on the fence over Ukraine. It has not condemned Russia for the crisis.
For Paal, Beijing is conforming to an old Chinese saying: "Put your hands in your sleeves and stand back and watch."
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