How China’s Echo Chamber Threatens Taiwan
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How China’s Echo Chamber Threatens Taiwan


APLN member Tong Zhao examines how the internal feedback loop among China’s leadership, policy elites, and the general public creates an underappreciated and unaddressed risk of war over Taiwan and what the international community can do to help. Read the original article here.

The risk of a military conflict in the Taiwan Strait is becoming dire. On Feb. 2, CIA Director William Burns stated that Chinese President Xi Jinping had ordered China’s military to be “ready by 2027 to conduct a successful invasion” of Taiwan. Although Burns added that this did not mean that Xi has decided to invade Taiwan, he described Xi’s move as “a reminder of the seriousness of his focus and his ambition.”

But the main factor that will determine whether Washington and Beijing come to blows over Taiwan is not necessarily Xi’s strategy for unification but the idiosyncrasies of China’s political system. The dynamics among China’s political leadership, its policy elite, and the broader public have generated an internal feedback loop that is not entirely within Xi’s comprehension or control. This could result in China’s being fully mobilized for war even without Xi deciding to attack Taiwan.

Xi’s assertive rhetoric, combined with his demand for absolute obedience, has produced an echo chamber in Beijing. His repeated emphasis on the need for unification with Taiwan and his nationwide campaign to encourage the public to “revere the military and admire force” have generated strong political incentives for civilian and military officials to mobilize themselves as if war were inevitable. When Xi spoke at the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th Party Congress last October, his pledge that China “will never promise to renounce the use of force” to achieve unification received louder and longer applause from the over 2,000 party delegates than any other passage in his nearly two-hour speech.

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