Gordon Chang is a columnist, author, lawyer, and expert on China.
At the end of February, he was recently interviewed by host Jenny Chang from U.S.-based Chinese-language media Xin Tang Ren in Orlando, Florida.
In the interview, the host brought up the issue of Taiwan, as there are concerns about a potential Chinese invasion of this Taiwan Island following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In response, Chang said the threat is real, and China is more belligerent on the Taiwan Strait during the Ukraine war than in the past. He cited an incident on February 5, when China directly sent a Y-12 fighter jet over an island in Taiwan. He noted that this is the first time in more than 40 years that China has violated Taiwan’s airspace. So this is a clear signal that China is increasing its pressure on Taiwan.
However, he thinks that China has many reasons not to invade Taiwan, at least for now.
For one, he said that Chinese people might not support an invasion of the island. He noted an Internet firewall between China and the world, but it’s not 100% effective, so news from outside could seep into mainland China.
Besides, the China expert said that Chinese people now have the same economic problems as the Russian people. So attacking Taiwan will not win the hearts and minds of the people in mainland China.
But he said that the world is changing fast, and the assumptions made two weeks ago can no longer apply. So we need to prepare for any outcome, including China’s full-scale attack on Taiwan. He also noted the complex infighting at the top of the Chinese Communist Party. When infighting at the top is serious, their leaders may make various choices so that anything can happen.
The China expert said that Ukraine and Taiwan are different in their relationship with the U.S.
He said that Taiwan-based semiconductor manufacturing firms make up 90 percent of the world’s custom chips. Chips are vital to many things, such as cell phones, cars, the microphones we use today, and more. But there are more important factors. Besides, since 1800, when the U.S. drew the defensive circle to the Western Pacific, it is not the coast of Hawaii, not Guam, but East Asia. So, of course, Taiwan is at the center of this critical defensive circle. U.S. Navy Adm. Ernest King once said at the end of World War II that it was a ‘cork in the bottle’ for Japan.
Author David Sauer, a retired senior CIA officer, elaborated on this point in an opinion piece published by The Hill, “Whoever controls Taiwan will control Japan and the Republic of Korea’s shipping lifelines. Chinese control of Taiwan will give it enormous influence over both Japan and Korea, fundamentally altering the strategic calculus in East Asia and give China its long sought-after opportunity to Finlandize both countries.”
But Chang said that there is a more important point: China is not only attacking our democracy and other democratic institutions, but it is also attacking the whole concept of democracy. And we cannot allow China to swallow a democratic system as necessary as Taiwan. When putting all these factors together, Chang believes that defending Taiwan is tantamount to protecting the U.S.