China ‘more likely’ to invade Taiwan to distract from Xi Jinping’s domestic problems, foreign minister warns

Taiwan’s foreign minister warns likelihood of aggression from China is now ‘more likely’ than in previous years

Shweta Sharma
Wednesday 18 January 2023 11:30 GMT
Taiwan says China ‘more likely’ to invade to divert from Xi Jinping’s domestic problems

China is “more likely” to invade Taiwan in 2027 when Xi Jinping would seek a fourth term as president to divert attention from domestic issues, Taiwan’s foreign minister warned.

Joseph Wu said China’s shrinking economy and spiralling domestic dissatisfaction among people could prove catalysts for Taiwan becoming a “scapegoat”.

“To me, 2027 is a year to watch out,” he told Sky News in a sit-down interview on Wednesday.

“In 2027, Xi Jinping is likely to go into his fourth term, and, if in his previous three terms, he cannot claim any achievement during his office, he might need to think about something else for him to claim as his achievement or his legacy.”

China has stepped up military harassment of self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims it’s own and the Communist party’s People’s Liberation Army has created what many call a new normal by sending planes or ships toward the island on a near-daily basis.

China stagged its largest incursions in the seas and skies around Taiwan on 26 December last year, by flying a record number of Chinese air force aircraft.

Taiwan said 71 Chinese fighter jets and drones had entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, prompting condemnation from the US and other allies.

Mr Wu said tensions between the two “is much worse” compared to the two years before 2022.

“If you look at the Chinese situation right now, the economy is going down. People are not happy, the real estate business seems to be melting down,” he told the broadcaster.

“If Xi Jinping cannot change the situation domestically in China, you might want to resort to a use of force or creating a crisis externally to divert domestic attention or to show to the Chinese that he has accomplished something.”

He said the likelihood of aggression from China happening is now “more likely” than in previous years.

“Look at the proximity of the Chinese aircraft to our aircraft,” he said.

He said if the Chinese planes cross 24 nautical miles zone then some of their weapons systems might have to target those aircrafts, and it could spark a major accident.

“Very often, you see the sum of a tiny little accident might spark into a major war. We worry that might happen.”

Last week, in its latest threat to Taiwan, China said it will “smash plots for independence” of Taiwan and warned the island’s Western allies that they are “playing with fire” following a visit by foreign delegations.

At a press briefing, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan affairs office, said: “The malicious support for Taiwan independence among anti-China elements in a few foreign countries are a deliberate provocation.”

He claimed the rising number of warplanes sent toward Taiwan was in response to the island’s increasing proximity with Western powers, including the US.

Mr Wu’s fears were also echoed by Japan on Monday as prime minister Fumio Kishida told G7 nations that east Asia could become the next Ukraine given a rise in China’s aggression against Taiwan and North Korea’s military activity.

Referring to China, he said: “The situation around Japan is becoming increasingly severe with attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force in the East China Sea and South China Sea, and the activation of North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities.”

Mr Wu said that Taiwan is very much capable of defending itself. He added that it would be willing to negotiate with China but a consensus would not be reached with “political preconditions”.

“Accepting those Chinese preconditions means that we are submitting to China, and that is something that the people here in Taiwan would never accept, but our door is open,” he concluded.

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