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Will China Invade Taiwan in 2022?

It’s like predicting who will win the 2022 Super Bowl. If Beijing moves too fast on Taiwan, it could force the Americans into a fight that would bleed the PLA and put overseas assets at risk.



Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas) predicts a Chinese invasion of Taiwan after the Winter Olympics. Maybe. Maybe not.  It’s probably easier to predict who will win the Super Bowl than to predict when, if, and how China will make its move on Taiwan. 

But, timing aside, McCaul is right - the threat is real. 

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has the hardware, weaponry, manpower, and capability to launch an assault across the Taiwan Strait.  They’ve been planning for decades and just might think they can succeed.  

The PLA might not do it the way American forces would, but China does a lot of things differently than the Americans.  And they often do them very well.

However, this writer thinks they won't do it ー at least not an all-out assault to seize Taiwan.  

They may do something more modest that still humiliates the United States and rattles everybody's confidence in American might and protection. And, at the same time, demonstrates that China is the dominant military power in the region – not in the least because of its perceived willingness to use force. 

If all Beijing achieves in the short term is publicly neutering the US in the Pacific, it goes a long way towards moving it towards its next step of bringing Taiwan to heel and regional domination.


This is what Vladimir Putin is doing to President Biden and the Europeans. Embarrassing the Americans, exposing weaknesses and sowing doubt. And he is exploiting fissures in the NATO alliance that over time can be widened by using military threats, economic pressure, and subversion – possibly leading to the fragmentation or diminution of NATO itself. 

Beijing is no doubt taking notes.

Thinking Like Beijing

So, what are some of Beijing’s more ‘modest’ options for Taiwan?  

Maybe a move against one of Taiwan's offshore islands?  Or interfering with shipping and aircraft to/from Kinmen or Matsu or Pratas islands? 

Or perhaps force Taiwan and/or other countries' shipping in the South China Sea to submit to Chinese monitoring, inspection, and approval before entering the South China Sea?

Xi Jinping no doubt has his people giving him even more options.

And they could be including in their calculations that if they make their move too fast and try to grab too much, it may force the Americans into a fight – that will bleed the PLA ー and also put China’s overseas assets at risk. 

A spate of recent Chinese military flights off Taiwan are fueling increasing tensions in the region. In this photo, the USS Carl Vinson, USS Lake Champlain and USS Chafee conduct passing honors ceremony with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. (Haydn N. Smith/U.S. Navy via AP)

There Are Tripwires 

The US forces may have a hard time if a fight is around Taiwan, but they have the advantage beyond that – and can interdict (especially operating with partners) Chinese sea-lines of communication and the vital oil, food, and trade that flows along them. The PLA still hasn’t got global “power projection” capabilities, yet.  

Another tripwire Beijing may try to avoid triggering is the US’ economic “nuclear option”.   The PRC is still vulnerable to being delinked from the US dollar system or a complete shut off of technology imports – as probably would happen in the event of a full-scale invasion of Taiwan.

All this to say, Beijing might be inclined to wait a while and let its political warfare efforts simmer ー and thaw potential resistance.  Political warfare means using China’s prodigious economic, diplomatic, political, psychological, and implicit military pressure to establish influence in a nation. 

There’s Still Political Warfare

It is working well for Beijing so far. China has used political warfare to make inroads throughout the entire Pacific – the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Kiribati to name a few. And Southeast Asia is hedging its bets – with some nations already casting their lot with China.  


Cambodia, for instance, is allowing the PRC to build a new naval base. Apart from being gains in their own right, this is allowing China to increasingly isolate Taiwan economically, diplomatically, politically, psychologically, and militarily. 

China recently dispatched a kinder, gentler ambassador to Australia.  And if the Australian Labor Party wins this year's election, even stalwart Australia might go softer on China. 

The PRC is even locking up Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean. Across the region pro-China leaders are winning elections and other nations are shifting into China’s camp.  And Africa is looking pretty good from Beijing’s perspective too.

The cumulative effect isn't just a political warfare win against Taiwan, but against China’s biggest target, the United States.  Beijing is lighting so many small fires that can distract and overwhelm the US response, and ultimately could erode US resistance. 

The PRC is also helping things along by pumping the deadly drug, fentanyl, into the United States and killing well over 60,000 Americans a year – many of them of military age – and the Americans do nothing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Holding Fire

Thus, the plan might be to don’t do anything “too much” that would force the Americans to fight. But do just enough to humiliate and discredit them. 

Hold your fire a bit and Wall Street and US businesses – that consider Taiwan at best a bargaining chip, and at worst a disposable irritant in the more important US-China relationship – will praise Beijing for showing restraint while insisting Washington do whatever it takes to avoid war with a “nuclear armed PRC.”

The same American contingent will also argue that China’s help ー on climate change/North Korea/fill-in-the-blank ー demands that the US overlook Chinese moves against Taiwan ー as long as they are “modest” and thus no “threat to American national interests.”

What Could Change Beijing

While this writer thinks the PRC will not invade Taiwan in 2022, there is one exception. 

If in 2022 the US has serious domestic problems, such as widespread rioting, and appears chaotic, distracted and unable to put up a fight, Xi Jinping just might be tempted to take his chances against Taiwan.

U.S. President Joe Biden. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

And that is even more likely if the US military is short of funds and its leaders are more focused on routing out imaginary extremists, social engineering, and fighting climate change than winning wars.

Indeed, read the news each day and it seems the Biden Administration and America’s ruling elite are trying to give Xi Jinping a reason to go for broke. 


So that’s my take for 2022.  

Beyond 2022

From 2023 onwards, however, I think China will assault Taiwan ー either because the United States is still chaotic and appears unable to defend Taiwan, or even its position in Asia. And if somehow the Americans get their wits about them and are strengthening their capabilities and alliances, Beijing just might see its window of opportunity closing.  

Either way, the US and free nations can’t say what’s coming will be a “strategic surprise”.  The test of how they responded will come soon enough.

As for the Super Bowl (February 13, 2022), it’s the Cincinnati Bengals by a touchdown.

Author: Grant Newsham

Grant Newsham is a retired US Marine and a former diplomat and business executive who spent many years in Asia. He is a senior fellow with the Center for Security Policy. Find his articles on JAPAN Forward here.

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  1. pdvesely

    February 7, 2022 at 3:46 am

    Will China invade Taiwan in 2022 ? A better headline would have been :

    What I learned about the possibility of China retaking Taiwan 1994 - Beijing
    It was my 50th birthday . I had been doing business in China since 1979 . I was purchasing hand mde rugs.
    My agent who was also a good friend invited me to dinner for my 50th .It was at a restaurant at the Summer Palace.
    During our long trips together , we often discussed politics . I had the distinct advantage of speaking in my native English . They were very friendly debates and we both had fun.

    On my birthday , Chen Gang , my agent asked her father to join us . I had never met this gentleman and was happy to have him there.

    He lived in an apartment reserved for high government who had retired. He had been on the long march and later became an ambassador to India and later another country. ( I can't remember which country ) During the 50th celebration of China , he was on the reviewing stand which was an honor reserved for very important people.

    Chen Gang wanted me to discuss politics with her father . She felt he would be a better match for me. I told her .... Please don't instigate this. I have never met your father and I don't want to appear to be disrespectful . Nevertheless , she proceeded to launch a discussion of Taiwan and Tibet . Her father was very soft spoken , a gentleman and VERY smart.

    On the question of Taiwan , when or if China would forcibly retake the island , He had this to say.

    Consider the 4000 year history of China. The internal conflicts and wars , the invasions by foreign powers . China considers Taiwan as an integral part of China and will eventually do whatever is necessary to restore Taiwan to it's proper identity as a Chinese province. It is only a question of how and when.

    Seen through the prism of China's long history, it won't be such a big event.

    He made these statements softly but as a matter of fact . I was convinced he was correct.

    As this article details the many factors which come into play concerning a potential invasion by China of Taiwan, one should review the history of the terms of our " Treaty " with Taiwan.

    The United States had a treaty with Taiwan called " The Sino -American Mutual Defense Treaty " I won't go into too much detail but this treaty provided for the Defense of the Island of Taiwan primarily from the PRC. The term of the treaty was from 1955 to 1980 .
    Under pressure from the PRC, US President Jimmy Carter nullified this treaty . It was replaced by the Taiwan Relations Act which essentially removed any obligation the US had to provide Taiwan with direct military assistance.

    When articles such as this one overflowing with speculation , they should consider and mention the issue of these two treaties and their potential impact on Taiwan / US today.

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