Shen Ming-Shih is a security policy and military strategy expert and director of the Institute for National Defense and Security Studies, a think tank of the Taiwan Ministry of Defense. He teaches at several universities and has published more than 25 books.
WORLD: China accuses the United States of wanting to found an Asian NATO right on their doorstep. Do you fear that Taiwan will end up like Ukraine?
Shen Ming-Shih: We don't want war, but we are preparing for the worst. It is sad to say that a suffering country inspires us, but unfortunately it is so. You are fighting a superpower. And even Xi recognizes the weakness of an isolated Russia.
WORLD: Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said it very clearly: "Taiwan is the red line that must not be crossed." He complained that the Americans are selling weapons in Taiwan, but on the other hand do not want China to sell weapons to Russia delivers.
Ming-Shih: Beijing reacted with uncertainty to the visit a month ago by Deputy Secretary of Defense Michael Chase, one of the highest-ranking officials at the Pentagon: it was a kind of recognition of our sovereignty. Add to that the $620 million arms sale recently approved by Congress. But an invasion is not expected yet. And not in the course of the next year either, but only in 2027, on the occasion of the centenary of the People's Liberation Army. The following year, Xi Jinping's third term ends.
WORLD: Why didn't China attack last year when tensions were at their peak?
Ming-Shih: Beijing will first await the result of our presidential election in April 2024. The Kuomintang, the pro-Chinese nationalists in the opposition, were able to win the most recent elections. If they win the presidential election, Xi would no longer have to invade Taiwan. We would be turned into a new Hong Kong by some kind of soft power. That's why he's careful not to provoke: he doesn't want to upset those who felt threatened by Nancy Pelosi's visit in August.
WORLD: Is that why President Tsai Ing-wen did not invite Kevin McCarthy, the new speaker of the United States House of Representatives, to Taipei, but instead will meet him in California in April?
Shen Ming-Shih: It is in our interest now to avoid tension. But the Pentagon does not want to irritate Beijing any further. Visiting again at such a high level would unnecessarily burden everyone.
This text first appeared in La Repubblica. Translated from the Italian by Bettina Schneider