US Navy Intel Chief Warns China's 'Messianic' Totalitarian Leader Planning a Taiwan War with USA
TAIPEI, Taiwan – China represents the world's number one challenge of the 21st century. That warning comes from the head of America's Office of Naval Intelligence as the Communist nation builds its military might across the Pacific.
The tiny island of Taiwan finds itself in Beijing's crosshairs with continued signs of a possible Chinese invasion. In August, the Chinese military sent a loud wakeup call to the United States and allies in the region with a massive, unprecedented drill simulating a blockade of Taiwan.
"It crossed multi thresholds, and that hasn't happened in decades," Dr. Alexander Huang of Tamkang University told CBN News from his office in Taiwan's capital city.
China sent 176 warplanes, 41 navy ships, and dozens of attack and reconnaissance drones to choke off Taiwan's waters and airspace for 72 hours.
Eleven ballistic missiles also landed in the waters around the island.
"China gave one spoon of different dishes to Taiwan and we got the taste of it," Dr. Huang said. "If they put out the full plate, the whole table, we probably will have big problems."
Military activities near the island haven't stopped.
A record 1,727 Chinese fighter planes crossed into Taiwan's air defense zone in 2022, compared to 960 incursions in 2021 and 380 in 2020.
And 2023 has been no different.
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"The Chinese outward expansionism of influence and presence is scaring and destabilizing an entire region," warned Rear Adm. Michael Studeman, commander of the Office of Naval Intelligence.
Experts say while Taiwan has a well-equipped military with modern weapons systems, including fighter jets, tanks, and surface-to-air missiles, it lacks the full range of capabilities to defend itself against China.
"Yes, there's a 110-miles of water between China and the main island of Taiwan and yes, Taiwan is mountainous and is a perfect place for defenders but Taiwan has not invested in its defense, and part of that is because Taiwan's generals and admirals have bought the wrong equipment over the course of decades," Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and a senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, told CBN News.
In January, a Washington-based think-tank simulated a war game of China invading Taiwan in 2026.
In 24 different scenarios, the Center for Strategic and International Studies said Taiwan could likely fend off a Chinese invasion only if the United States came to the island's defense.
If not, Taiwan would fall in three months.
President Biden has repeatedly vowed to defend Taiwan in case it's attacked.
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"U.S.-Taiwan relations have really come out of the shadows in a lot of ways," Brian Harding with United States Institute of Peace, told CBN News. "I think European countries, Japan, and others are going to be focused on this in support of Taiwan's right to defend itself in ways that maybe they wouldn't have been a few years ago."
War games show, however, any victory over the Chinese would come at a great cost.
"In four weeks of fighting, the United States typically lost hundreds of aircraft, two aircraft carriers and up to two dozen other ships," Mark Cancian with the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a video statement.
More than 3,000 American soldiers would lose their lives in the simulation and China would also suffer significant losses.
CSIS says the simulation shows 90% of China's amphibious fleet decimated, more than 100 warships destroyed and tens of thousands of its soldiers killed, wounded or captured.
Still, from Washington to London to here in Taiwan's capital Taipei, one thing is clear:
"It's not a matter of if they will invade, it's a matter of when they will invade," warned Admiral Lee Hsi-ming, former defense chief of Taiwan's armed forces.
In an exclusive interview from his office in Taiwan's capital Taipei, Adm. Lee tells CBN News why China's president is so determined to take Taiwan.
"You firmly believe that Xi Jinping truly believes that it is his destiny, it is his calling, to reunite Taiwan?" CBN News asked Admiral Lee.
"I believe so because he has already said it," Lee told CBN News. "Deng Xiaoping said we have the patience, we can wait even for a hundred years, but Xi Jinping didn't say so; He said we just cannot delay the unification of Taiwan, we need to accomplish this in our generation."
Beijing claims the island as part of its territory, a sentiment that runs deep in Chinese society.
"That's why it's not just a Communism thing. It really is, in Chinese eyes, a patriotism, a nationalism thing," Michael O'Hanlon with the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution, told CBN News.
President Xi has ordered his military, known as the People's Liberation Army, to be ready to take Taiwan by 2027, which marks the force's 100th anniversary.
But, could that be a smokescreen?
U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan told his staff in a memo to prepare for the U.S. going to war with China over Taiwan in two years.
"I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025," Minihan, who oversees transport and refueling for the Air Force, wrote last month.
Meanwhile, Rear Adm. Studeman warns that President Xi's rapid military modernization, coupled with an ambition to be the world's strongest political figure, makes China today the number one challenge of the 21st century.
"History tells us that a Messianic leader with a centralized control, in charge of a totalitarian society, with grievances, with a lot of hard power at their disposal, with an ambition to change the international system to their preferences – when you put that combo together that represents one of the most dangerous trends in geopolitics," Adm. Studeman said.
The U.S. is now deploying additional troops to Taiwan, increasing funding for existing Pacific military operations and recently inked a deal with the U.K. and Australia to build next-generation submarines in a bid to counter China's threat.
Still, it's doing little to deter Beijing.
"The Chinese already think that the U.S. will intervene if they do a military operation against Taiwan because they are building a military designed to handle U.S. intervention or Australian or Japanese help. They are building a force so big that they can handle that kind of intervention," warned Adm. Studeman.
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