Since U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan earlier last week, China has resorted to various tactics, from conducting live-fire drills to imposing economic sanctions against the island. On August 10, the regime reaffirmed its threats to use military force to take over Taiwan. However, some analysts still believe that Beijing’s full-scale invasion of the self-ruled island is too risky.

James Palmer, deputy editor at Foreign Policy, published an article on August 10 that pointed out several factors hindering China’s decision to annex Taiwan.

According to Palmer, the first reason is that China cannot guarantee success in its invasion of Taiwan, even without direct intervention from the U.S. The Chinese military hasn’t battled in any actual war for 43 years since its unsuccessful attack on Vietnam in 1979.

Despite investing heavily in its military over the past years, China still hasn’t had a chance to test its doctrine or technology.

Beijing has always claimed that the invasion would be quick and easy. However, as Taiwan has already prepared for this scheme for decades, it would still be an unprecedented-scale combat on both land and water. 

Palmer analyzed that the invasion generates geopolitical risks, including the possibility of an all-out war with the U.S. Beijing hesitates to risk engaging the world’s most powerful military for fears of a humiliating defeat.

In addition, the attack on Taiwan would also ruin China’s self-proclaimed image as a peaceful power or, even worse, its relationship with Japan, which has a strong connection to Taiwan. 

Palmer thinks that even if China successfully invaded Taiwan, it would still be impossible to cover its atrocities, just like the suppression of Tibet or Xinjiang.

He said, “Even if China cut off Taiwan’s internet, the island is high-tech enough to get out images of war or occupation that would damage China’s reputation.”

The second reason is that the takeover could lead to an economic recession in China. The war would likely destroy southern China’s economy, which relies significantly on suppliers and capital from Taiwan.

He commented, “Technology firms such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) have scorched-earth plans in place for their factories in the event of an invasion, and talent would flee wherever possible.”

Sanjoy Paul, a supply chain expert at Sydney University of Technology, said that China’s economy relies heavily on chips from the world’s most advanced chip manufacturer: Taiwan’s TSMC. 

He explained that Beijing would lose if sanctions impacted TSMC foundry’s operations. Any additional action from China would also influence the world and create “an imbalance” in the supply chain across industries, including the production of Apple iPhones in China. 

He said, “I don’t believe China will take such drastic actions because China itself cannot survive without TSMC. But if they did, China would suffer a lot.”

In addition, TSMC Chair Mark Liu told CNN that “nobody can control TSMC by force.”

Liu added, “If you take a military force or invasion, you will render the TSMC factory not operable. Because this is such a sophisticated manufacturing facility, it depends on real-time connection with the outside world, Europe, Japan, and the U.S., from materials to chemicals to spare parts to engineering software and diagnosis.” 

The last but also the greatest threat for China is the political risk of the invasion. As China’s propaganda has successfully made Chinese people believe in an inevitable reunification with Taiwan and effortless military victory, any failure would result in imminent mass protests and public rage, which could “overwhelm China’s extensive systems of control.” 

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