What is the real risk of war between China and the US due to the escalation of tension over Taiwan?

Weeks after the US president warned China about Taiwan, Beijing published its most scathing rebuttal yet, saying it would “resolutely crush any attempt” at Taiwan independence.

On Sunday, Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe accused the United States of supporting the independence from the island and said he was “violating his promise on Taiwan” and “interfering” in China’s affairs.

“Let me make this clear: If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from China, we will not hesitate to fight. We will fight at all costs and we will fight to the end. This is the only option for China,” he said at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an Asian security summit held in Singapore.

These comments came after US President Joe Biden recently said that China was “flirting with danger” when flying their fighter jets near Taiwan. In addition, he promised to militarily protect the island if it was attacked.

Taiwan, which considers itself a sovereign nation, has long been claimed by China. And it counts on the United States as its greatest ally. Washington has a law that requires you to help the island defend itself.

The escalation in rhetoric It comes as China sends ever more warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone, and after making its biggest incursion of the year last month, while the United States has sent warships through Taiwan’s waters.

Are the United States and China moving toward a military conflict?

Calibrate the risks

One of the main fears is that a war if China invades Taiwan. Beijing has said in the past that it could claim the island by force if necessary.

But most analysts say this not likely, for now.

There has been a debate about whether China has the military capability to succeed in an invasion, and Taiwan has greatly increased its air and sea defenses.

But many agree that Beijing recognizes that such a move would be too expensive and disastrousnot only for China, but also for the world.

“There is a lot of rhetoric, but the Chinese must weigh the risks very carefully if they want to launch an invasion of Taiwan, especially so close to the Ukraine crisis. The Chinese economy is much more interconnected with the global economy than Russia’s,” says William Choong, a senior fellow at the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies.

China’s consistent position has been to seek the “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan, something General Wei reiterated on Sunday, and that he would only act if confronted with provocation.

One trigger would be Taiwan formally declaring its independence. But this is something that its president, Tsai Ing-wen, has strenuously avoided, even as she insists that she is already a ANDsovereign state.

The majority of Taiwanese support this position, which is known as “keep the statuswho“, although increasingly a small number say they want to move towards independence.

In the same way, USA I knowlaugh reluctant to be drawn into a costly military conflict in Asia, and has repeatedly signaled that he does not want war.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who also attended the Shangri-La Dialogue, said in his speech that his country does not support Taiwan independence nor does he want “a new Cold War.”

“Both sides stand firm on Taiwan. they need look toughThey don’t want to give the impression that they’re backing down or taking a step back,” said Collin Koh, a researcher at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

“But at the same time, they are concerned about entering a absolute conflict. They are looking at each other’s rhetoric with eyes wide open, and both sides are trying to moderate risk.”

The fact that both General Wei and Austin met on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue was a positive sign, as it meant that both sides wanted to show that they “are still willing to sit down and talk and come to an agreement.” consensusto agree not to be,” Koh said.

This would likely lead to more operational discussions between the two armed forces, which would reduce the possibility of field miscalculations that could lead to conflict, and a general “strengthening of dialogue” that was missing during the Donald Trump administration, he added.

Biden’s recent comments on Taiwan were seen by some as an apparent change of tone in US policy.

War in the gray zone

Both China and the United States are expected to continue their rhetoric in the foreseeable future.

China may even step up its “war in the gray zone“, designed to exhaust Taiwan’s military forces and patience. That would mean sending in more fighter jets and running disinformation campaigns, said Ian Chong, a China expert at the National University of Singapore.

Taiwan previously accused China of undertaking disinformation campaigns before the island’s elections, and at the end of this year there will be important local elections.

At least for the United States and China, “there is no political will to change their positions” for now, particularly with significant events on the horizon: the US midterm elections in November and the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China in the second half of the year in which President Xi Jinping is expected to consolidate in the power.

“The positive side is that neither side is willing to climbChong stated.

“But non-escalation does not mean that we will reach a better position. So we’re all stuck in this position for a while.”

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