Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Bill Burns said on Wednesday, 20 July, that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is influencing China's calculations regarding a potential attack on Taiwan.
"I suspect the lesson that the Chinese leadership and military are drawing is that you’ve got to amass overwhelming force if you’re going to contemplate that in the future," Burns said at the Aspen Security Forum, talking about Russian President Vladimir Putin's and the Russian military's "strategic failure" in Ukraine.
Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, and while most analysts believed that Kyiv would fall to Moscow within a week, the military led by President Zelenskyy has maintained control, albeit losing ground in the east.
"Our sense is that it probably affects less the question of whether the Chinese leadership might choose some years down the road to use force to control Taiwan, but how and when they would do it," Burns added.
In 1949, Chiang Kai-shek and his party, the Kuomintang (KMT), lost the Chinese Civil War to the communists, led by Mao Zedong. They fled to Taiwan and maintained administrative control over it, and the island has remained out of the Chinese Communist Party's hands ever since.
Today, few in Taiwan support its reunification with Mainland China. The two key reasons for this are ethno-nationalism, and more importantly, civic nationalism, ie, the island's democratic system and way of life.
You can read all about that in this explainer here.
"I wouldn't underestimate President Xi’s determination to assert China’s control over Taiwan," Burns asserted at the forum.
(With inputs from Reuters and The Guardian.)