A highlight from Chinas Threat to Taiwan, With Oriana Skylar Mastro

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Welcome to the president's inbox a cf our podcast about the foreign policy challenges facing the united states. I'm jim wednesday director studies at the council on foreign relations. This week's topic is china's threat to taiwan with me to discuss whether china might use force to compel taiwan reunification with the mainland is oriented. Skylar mastro oriana is a center fellow at stanford. University's freeman spoil the institute for international studies in a nonresident senior fellow at the american enterprise institute. She also in inaugural wilson center. China fellow insert in the united states air force reserve as teaching planner at us. Indo pacific command from two thousand sixteen to two thousand seventeen. Oriana was a stanton nuclear security fellow at the council. She is the author of the taiwan temptation why beijing might resort to force which appeared in the july august. Twenty twenty one issue of foreign affairs. Oriana thanks you being here. Thank you for having me. I'd like to begin if we may oriana with something you wrote in your recent foreign affairs piece. You wrote quote all the way. Chinese invasion of taiwan may not be imminent. It is time to take seriously the possibility that china could soon use force to end. Its almost century long civil war. Why are you concerned. That china might resort to force something and is avoided for the past seventy years. Well i don't know if i would even use the word avoided. China has been waiting and preparing. Reunification is the word that they use with. Taiwan has been number one priority of the communist party since nineteen forty nine. They would've liked to do it much much sooner. There were a number of taiwan straights crises which to was used force and we all thought that the civil war would probably restart mentioned fifties. It just never did since then. China has not had. The military capability is to take taiwan by force to me. It's not surprising. For example that we saw more sort of chinese behavior in the south china sea once they had ships that could reach the south china sea or in the case of taiwan. They couldn't even fly in the airspace. Close to taiwan until the mid nineteen ninety s and. They had no capability to take taiwan by force. And we're talking to full-scale fabius landing until today as i argue in my article is capability is something that has just come online. Recently and many china military specialists debate whether or not. They can even do this now. So i think it's mainly driven by capabilities issue and now that they can do this and they're also very strong in terms of international influence. So it's possible. They won't pay huge cost for trying. I think this is very tempting. Hence the title of the article. Five understand you correctly oriana. You think that growing chinese capabilities have changed. Chinese intentions that is chinese military planners potentially chinese leaders are thinking more seriously about possible using force. Because they think it's more doable. Today the never has been in the past and what say change chinese intentions. Because china's intentions were always to reunify taiwan so the whole military modernization program that xi jinping in particular has undergone with a great sense of urgency since twenty thirteen has been designed to conduct the exact type between operations that are necessary to take taiwan now. Of course the military capabilities only part of it. The other side of this is that china has had a policy to reunify with taiwan in their words called peaceful reunification and this policy is designed to enhance the ties between mainland taiwan especially economic ties with the design to convince the people of taiwan to want to be a part of mainland china. So another part of this is that i would argue that. This policy has not worked. I don't think the people of taiwan are particularly enthusiast about joining the china dream. I think latest polling shows on a five six percent. Say that this is something that they would want. and i'm not the only one notices this in beijing. They also don't us that peaceful unification doesn't seem to be working and they don't only look at public opinion polling but they also look at taiwan domestic politics current president of taiwan when wen won reelection. She's not particularly friendly to beijing. So it's it's also the failure of that policy and i looked at the chinese writings and to me. It's very interesting you know. You can't really criticize openly the communist party but you can openly right that this policy is not working and so in general what. There's that kind of open of a debate about something that means that they're considering options. Do you think the issue of reunification oriana is more important to president xi than his predecessors. That's hard to say. I don't think it's more important. But i think it is higher on his agenda. If that makes sense it's higher on his agenda. I think because of the do ability of his predecessors probably would listed taiwan as the number one issue but that was much more of a rhetorical thing because it was nothing that could be done of course if taiwan declared independence previously you know china would have had to fight would have done everything humanly possible to prevent that used to be the only real scenario that we considered to spark a war. So what. I was trying to do it. That article is to say. Taiwan declared independence is not the most likely pathway war anymore. Instead it's beijing seizing this opportunity. Your article has triggered a fair amount of response foreign affairs in his current issue. September-october has a part set aside where critics respond your argument and sort of a common theme through the criticisms is that you are overstating the threat of a chinese invasion. So maybe you can sort of walk us through your response to those criticisms that the threat is far less than what you are painting. Sure i mean. I i will say. I was so surprised with the response. I mean it's probably because i live in this little bubble all. I do study the chinese military right. So i read the chinese writings I was at a track at one point.

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