The philosopher warned that Xi Jinping is committed to resolving the issue
The Taiwan issue will likely come to a head in the next two to three years, according to the political philosopher John Gray. Speaking to UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers, Gray reasoned that Chinese premier Xi Jinping is “too committed to resolving this issue relatively soon,” and pointed out that cross-Strait relations were the first thing Xi mentioned at the most recent National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party earlier this month.
Warning that Xi is “not going to wait ten years”, Gray suggested that “the strategic question he has to ask is: is it easier to do it now or later?” Further, a less hawkish US President might spur Beijing into action: “it might be easy to do if they’ve got a crypto-isolationist America First regime in Washington, because [the Americans] are not going to do anything anyway.” With a large portion of American military resources concentrated in the Ukrainian war effort, this may be seen as an opportune moment for a Chinese strike.
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Another reason why China may act sooner rather than later is because the country is falling behind in chip technologies, according to the philosopher. “They’re not going to allow themselves to get further and further back,” Gray said, “and be strangled in something that might seem to them analogous to the way the United States created an oil embargo in Japan” as a preemptive measure during the Second World War. He went on to say that the semiconductor controls imposed by President Biden on China may have escalated the probability of violent conflict in Taiwan.
Part of the problem also lies in Western perceptions of China, Gray claimed. “There’s been a sort of dichotomy in Western opinion,” he said, “the Russians aren’t rational, but the Chinese leadership is rational.” If Xi wants to reestablish the ‘Middle Kingdom’, it stands to reason that he would choose to reincorporate Taiwan into China once again. Gray stressed that the CCP leadership would be wary of instigating a nuclear war, and that an attack on Taiwan might not take the form of a full-scale invasion, but that a tactic such as a blockade of the contested territory would be more likely.
“Xi is rational,” Gray continued, “but his goals are not liberal goals. People have assumed that rationality means adhering to liberal goals.” On top of this, the CCP structure is shrouded in mystery: “we don’t know who is advising [Xi],” he said. It is this uncertainty over the party apparatus and the figures with whom Xi surrounds himself which has prevented China-watchers from giving clearer indications thus far of what will happen to Taiwan. The result, often, is to suggest that an invasion lies only in the distant future. Gray disagrees: “People say it’ll happen in the next twenty years. Forget it: it’s going to be much quicker than that.”