Xi Jinping’s calculus as he ponders attacking Taiwan, possibly starting World War 3

China’s aggressiveness in the face of Biden’s weakness could plunge the world into war. Its dictator Xi Jinping is thinking about issues that few Americans understand or even know about.

China has been violating Taiwan’s airspace with massive numbers of aircraft, including nuclear-capable bombers accompanied by fighters in recent days. But October 5th was the last such incursion, a pause that has no public explanation. The Chinese government feels no need to explain itself to its own people or to the world.

These provocations could well be a prelude to an attack against what the Beijing regime considers a rebel province. There is even danger that this testing of Taiwan’s air defense systems could accidentally trigger a war if a defensive missile or some other countermeasure is launched by accident.

Biden’s abandonment of Afghanistan, complete with the abject surrender of a huge stockpile of armaments is an example of provocative weakness – a demonstrated unreliability that encourages bad actors to believe that now is their opportunity to attack because Biden’s military is so demoralized and preoccupied with race and because he is so mentally incapacitated. Biden has just spoken of a mysterious “Taiwan agreement.”

President Joe Biden, on Tuesday, October 5th, said that he had spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping and both of them had agreed to “stick to” the “Taiwan agreement.”

The only known recent conversation between Biden and Xi took place on September 9th.  The “read out” provided by the White House says nothing either about Taiwan or the Taiwan agreement.  So we are left rather in the dark about what transpired. Even so, given Mr. Biden’s statement about the “Taiwan agreement,” his statement is extremely worrisome.

The nature of that conversation and Mr. Biden’s description was not lost on the Taiwanese or the Japanese, so much so that the State Department moved immediately to clarify its meaning to Taiwan’s President.  That would not have been necessary if the State Department was not alarmed by what President Biden said.

Japan also announced that it would come to Taiwan’s aid if Taiwan was attacked.

What took place between Biden and Xi requires some explanation.

To begin with, there is no “Taiwan agreement” per se.  What is in place are three US-China communiques issued on different dates (February 28, 1972, January 1, 1979 and August 17, 1982). (snip)

The second communique was on the establishment of U.S.-China diplomatic relations and included the U.S. declaration that it would end formal diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (aka Taiwan).

The third communique reiterated the previous two and included a declaration that the U.S. intended “to gradually decrease arms sales to Taiwan.”

We have no way of knowing if the pause in airspace violations reflects China’s reconsideration of the provocations based on the conversation with Biden, or if it is a prelude to something else, possibly (for example) a naval maneuver in the South China Sea, where China is building artificial islands with military installations, and claiming territorial sovereignty over the world’s busiest sea lanes, through which Japan and South Korea receive almost all their energy supplies. China’s territorial claims and military buildup in these sea lanes could enable it to strangle both of these countries should it choose to attack shipping.

But in understanding what is really going in China as the fate of Taiwan (and potentially the world) may hang in the balance, it is essential to understand the real nature of the regime, one that is not acknowledged in the formal structures and arrangements of power. Throughout its thousands of years of history, China has been characterized by covert factional politics.  Xi’s opponents operate in secrecy, now more than ever in the wake of his ending term limits and installing himself as virtual dictator-for-life.

More than any other goal, Xi’s focus is on maintaining his own, and his regime’s, power. Goals related to the welfare of the Chinese people have no priority at all. Nor does the establishment of mechanisms and practices that would allow for the peaceful transition of power.    

To begin to understand what is weighing on Xi’s mind as he plots the future course of China, I highly recommend this article, “The hidden enemies in Xi’s midst,” on the Asia Times, reprinted from Settimana News. It begins with the purge of a senior member of the regime:

On the eve of China’s October 1 National Day celebrations, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) expelled former vice minister for public security Sun Lijun – not for corruption but serious political crimes almost tantamount to something like an attempted coup.

Specifically, he was accused of “serious violations of discipline” and building cliques and cabals to take over a key government department.

Sun, apprehended about a year ago, is guilty of “overweening political ambitions” and “arbitrarily disagreeing with central policy guidelines,” the mighty party disciplinary committee CCDI wrote in a statement on its official website.

The ex-vice minister had “created and spread political rumors, taken actions against others, wove a web of deceit to obtain political capital and … used unscrupulous means … to form gangs, cliques, and interest groups within the party and build his personal power,” the statement said, thus implying he had gravely violated party centralism and allegiance to the top leadership.

“He formed a cabal to take control over a key department(s), seriously jeopardizing political security and party unity,” the CCDI statement added. Sun is also said to have been “harboring hugely inflated political ambitions” and having “evil political qualities.”

YouTube screengrab via Asia Times

The article goes on to discuss other purges in recent years. I don’t suggest that it is essential to know all the names and senior positions affected, but rather to become aware of the depth and intensity of the factional and personal rivalries that characterize the regime.

Now that China’s property market is shaky, and the economic prospects are uncertain, Xi faces many dangers from within. The legitimacy of the regime depends on delivering and sustaining the prosperity that has radically lifted standards of living that were, within the memory of many, abysmally poor.

Xi has been cracking down on billionaires -- and China now has more of them than any other country – apparently to prevent the accumulation of private sources of power. This policy creates many enemies, even as it seeks to disempower them.

Dealing with China now, or even being able to predict its behavior, requires extensive networks of confidential insider informants. The information needed to guide our policy is not publicly available. But at exactly this moment, we are finding out that the informants we need have been discovered by the Chinese and “neutralized” (quite possibly killed), as the New York Times reports in an article titled, “Captured, Killed or Compromised: C.I.A. Admits to Losing Dozens of Informants.”

 Top American counterintelligence officials warned every C.I.A. station and base around the world last week about troubling numbers of informants recruited from other countries to spy for the United States being captured or killed, people familiar with the matter said.

The message, in an unusual top-secret cable, said that the C.I.A.’s counterintelligence mission center had looked at dozens of cases in the last several years involving foreign informants who had been killed, arrested or, most, likely compromised. Although brief, the cable laid out the specific number of agents executed by rival intelligence agencies — a closely held detail that counterintelligence officials typically do not share in such cables.

The cable highlighted the struggle the spy agency is having as it works to recruit spies around the world in difficult operating environments. In recent years, adversarial intelligence services in countries such as RussiaChinaIran, and Pakistan have been hunting down the C.I.A.’s sources and in some cases turning them into double agents.

We are flying blind right at a moment when we need inside sources. That is another factor on Xi’s mind as he contemplates how to take advantage of our provocative weakness.

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