Would China really invade Taiwan?

The cover story of The Economist declares that Taiwan is "The most dangerous place on Earth," because China might finally be ready to plan an invasion of the island. But are the consequences of such a move worth the many risks to China and its President Xi Jinping? Ian Bremmer breaks out the Red Pen to to explain why a US-China war over Taiwan is unlikely.

We are taking our red pen to a recent article from The Economist. The Economist, you ask, how could I? I love The Economist, I know, I know. But you'd lose respect if I give this piece a pass. In fact, it was the magazine's cover story this week, so I had no choice. The image and headline say it all. Here it is, Taiwan is now "the most dangerous place on earth" as US/China relations continue to sour in the opening months of President Biden's administration.


And it is true, of course, that the relationship between the two most powerful countries in the world, the US and China, is very rocky indeed. Back in March, a meeting between the US Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and their counterparts from China got off to an icy start, in Anchorage, Alaska no less. The Biden administration has declared that China's treatment of Muslim minorities constitutes "genocide" and also continues to push back on the unilateral erosion from Beijing of Hong Kong's autonomy. So, this is not a good relationship.

Of all the issues, the most volatile and explosive could well be Taiwan. The Economist argues that China may finally look to capture the small island democracy.

And yes, there is a lot to be concerned about, but The Economist doesn't have it quite right.

So, let's get out the Red Pen.

First, a central point in the magazine's argument is that a Chinese attack on Taiwan would have global economic repercussions, including disrupting the world's most important semiconductor manufacturer, TSMC, that's Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. That company makes more than half of all of the chips outsourced by all foreign companies globally. A quote from the piece: "Were production at TSMC to stop, so would the global electronics industry, at incalculable cost."

And yes, war would be devastating for many reasons, including the interruption of TSMC's operations. But that's precisely why it's not going to happen. China relies on a functional TSMC as much as the United States does for advanced semiconductors. In fact, China right now is way behind the US in this particular aspect, though not all, of the technology battle. Taiwan is a critical player in the great decoupling battle and an attack would seriously set back China's own tech ambitions.

The article also states that "China would overnight become the dominant power in Asia" if China attacked Taiwan and the United States didn't intervene.

That's doubtful. Actually, the "Quad," the US, Australia, India, and Japan, would be turbocharged overnight. China could completely undermine its own bid for regional dominance if it were to suddenly assault Taiwan. Also, the argument fails to acknowledge that Taiwan itself could mount significant military resistance, exposing weaknesses in Beijing's military power. Not to mention any such attack by China would further damage its ties to the European Union.

Finally, The Economist speculates that China's President Xi Jinping may want to "crown his legacy" as they say, with the takeover of Taiwan.

That is a huge gamble. What happens if Xi attempts an invasion and fails? His legacy would be defined by a reckless move that would destroy China's long-term strategic prospects.

Which brings us back to that very splashy and provocative cover and headline. Is Taiwan really "the most dangerous place on earth?" No. Or at least, not right now.

We've laid out a few of the reasons, but here a couple more: The Winter Olympics in Beijing, already super controversial as human rights groups call for boycotts based on abuses of Uighurs, Tibetans, and actions in Hong Kong. Beijing wants to avoid boycotts as much as possible, they see themselves as quite vulnerable in the upcoming Winter Olympics and attacking Taiwan would make matters far worse.

Also, President Xi is looking to secure a third term next fall. Remember, he ended term limits. A military attack on Taiwan could weaken China's standing if it fails. Xi's not likely to go there.

Still, there are other ways for China to assert greater control. For example, the very fear of a looming threat would likely erode Taiwan's quest for independence over time without any shots fired. How do the United States, the Quad, and Europe respond to that? The answer to that question is going to tell us a lot about where the GZERO world is heading.

That's your Red Pen for this week. Stay safe and we'll see you again here real soon.

Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent policy developments:

With the Supreme Court's recent decision, is the Affordable Care Act here to stay?

Yes, this was the Court's third ruling on the Affordable Care Act upholding its constitutionality. This challenge was brought by Republican attorneys general who argued that the repeal of the individual mandate tax undermined the court's previous justification for allowing the law to stand. They were unsuccessful, yet again. And the political salience of the Affordable Care Act has really diminished in the last several years, with Republicans moving on to fight other issues and the Court signaling very strongly they don't want to get involved in overturning this piece of legislation. The Affordable Care Act will be here at least until Congress wants to legislate on it again.

More Show less

Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, shut out from COVAX because of payment problems.

More Show less

3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars.

More Show less

In 2019, Ethiopia's fresh Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a peace treaty with neighbor and longtime foe Eritrea. At the time, Abiy was hailed by the Western media as a reformist who was steering Ethiopia, long dominated by ethnic strife and dictatorial rule, into a new democratic era.

But barely two years later, Abiy stands accused of overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern Tigray region, putting the country on the brink of civil war.

It's against this backdrop that Ethiopians will head to the polls on June 21 for a parliamentary election now regarded as a referendum on Abiy's leadership. But will the vote be free and fair, and will the outcome actually reflect the will of the people? Most analysts say the answer is a resounding "no" on both fronts.

More Show less

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Cyber issues took center stage at the G7 summit. Is there a consensus among world leaders on how to handle cyberweapons?

Well, depending on who is included, there is a growing consensus that the escalations of conflict in cyberspace must stop. And G7 leaders that are now all representing democracies did call on Russia to hold perpetrators of cybercrime that operate from within its borders to account. So, I guess hope dies last because laws in Russia prevents the extradition of suspects to the US, even if Vladimir Putin answered positively when Joe Biden asked for cooperation on that front. And when it comes to limiting the spread of tools that are used for hacking, surveillance and infiltration, the EU has just moved ahead and adopted new dual use regulations which reflect the concerns for human rights violations when journalists are targeted the way that Jamal Khashoggi was. So ending the proliferation of systems that are used to attack would be an urgent but also obvious step for democratic nations to agree on.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World Podcast

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World Podcast

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal