Source: J. Robert Smith
At Beijing, Xi Jinping is doubtlessly assessing the moment. Surely, he must ask himself, “Is the window most open now to conquer Taiwan?” Seizing Taiwan is a critical step in achieving the PRC’s midrange strategic aim of imposing its hegemony in East Asia. China’s longer-term aspiration is to overtake the United States as global leader.
For Xi, that window may be optimal for just 45 months and counting. That’s what remains in Joe Biden’s term. Lately, the PRC has been aggressively menacing Taiwan. Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific forces, is persuaded that Xi is accelerating efforts to surpass the United States.
“Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions before that. And I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years,” he told a US Senate armed services committee hearing. [italics added]
Admiral Davidson’s political circumspection may stop him from further speculation. January 20, 2025 may be Xi’s cutoff date.
From Xi’s perspective, is a war more winnable now with the U.S. and its regional allies or in some future time? The opportunity to exploit American vulnerabilities may not occur soon enough again for the PRC, for many reasons.
A key reason is that the United States is saddled with an exceptionally weak president, an old man, frail in mind and body… a man who Xi and his cronies surely disdain.
Xi has Biden’s profile. Biden is pompous and a blowhard — a paper tiger, Xi may reason — whose love of money may have led him to sell access to himself as vice president, via the backdoor of his wastrel son Hunter’s dealings. Hunter’s business with PRC entities was lucrative — and suspect. Tony Bobulinski’s searing revelation about the “Big Guy” taking a cut of Hunter’s action only heightens suspicions.
Xi may know that Biden — infirmities aside for a moment — is man whose character flaws make him a wholly inadequate wartime leader. And how deeply compromised is Biden with the Chinese? How would Xi seek to exploit that vulnerability should he decide to conquer Taiwan?
As for Biden’s age and infirmities, he’s all light-lift now. He maintains a thin schedule of presidential duties. How would the nation’s 46th president hold up in wartime? Modern warfare isn’t suited for a slow-minded, low-energy leader, as Donald Trump might say.
How well would Biden cope with the grueling demands of such intense conflict occurring in a compacted timeframe? In wars, multiple problems present themselves at once. Decisions must be made speedily and around the clock — life and death decisions, decisions that bear on victory or defeat. Biden often appears bewildered. He’s said to retire early to bed. How does he possibly have the mental acuity and stamina to meet the rigors of war?
Or, given Biden’s deficiencies, will the nation be led in war by a collective command, notably Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden chief of staff Ron Klain, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Secretary of State Tony Blinken? None of whom inspire much confidence as individuals. Collective mediocrity — at best — is no better.
The Constitution declares the president as commander in chief for a reason. Presidents have war cabinets — counsels of war — for consultation, to be sure. But the onus of command falls on a president, not on a collection of cabinet secretaries and administration functionaries. Ask Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, the hapless LBJ, and Nixon about the burdens and necessities of wartime leadership vested in the chief executive.
If the PRC attacks Taiwan, are the fateful decisions of war in the hands of a collective? How are decisions made that require quick resolution if the presidency has been assumed by a committee?
Or does Kamala Harris assume the presidency in an acting or de facto capacity? How is Harris in any way qualified to lead the nation in wartime? And by qualifications, it’s not her résumé that’s the primary concern. After all, Lincoln’s résumé seemed poorly matched to a war presidency.
Does Harris possess the qualities of leadership to be commander in chief in a major power conflict? Does she have the temperament? The judgement? The mettle? The confidence? How about a strategic grasp? Higher-level political acumen? The ability to inspire confidence among the military? How about her ability to win the trust of commanders? What about her facility to rally and lead allies? Not to mention the American people, who would be called on to accept risks and make sacrifices.
What do we know about Kamala Harris? She’s parochial and ideologically driven. Her principal, if not sole, mission is to impose a radical “progressive” agenda on the nation. She appears to be peevish and vindictive. She’s proven unpopular, even among Democrats, when closely inspected.
How does Xi regard Harris? Does he hold the same respect and wariness for her that he had for Donald Trump? Trump was rightly considered a formidable adversary for Xi.
Aside from Biden’s or Harris’ fitness to lead in war, other critical factors would come into play in Xi’s thinking.
Xi may wager that the U.S. is too internally preoccupied. Intensifying political and culture divisions and conflicts — instigated by Democrats and the left — absorb much of the nation’s attention and energies. The Biden administration is focused on “transforming” America and consolidating the corrupted Democratic Party’s grip on power.
Another critical consideration: If the PRC crosses the Taiwan Strait, how operationally ready is the United States to fight and win a war there?
From the Epoch Times, April 7, 2021:
The Obama administration (or was it the Obama-Biden administration?) shorted defense budgets and emphasized battling terrorism. Little was invested in fighting the next major war.
This from Fox News, November 16, 2020:
Adding to the woes, as per the report, is the notion that the U.S. military has been constrained by the spending limits imposed by the Obama-era Budget Control Act of 2011, such that “repairing itself from the toll on people, materials, munitions, and equipment of 20 years of counter-terrorism operations has consumed nearly every dollar it has been allocated, leaving little real money for development of new capabilities, and certainly limited its ability to expand in capacity.”
In 48 months, President Trump did much to improve the military’s readiness to fight a big war, but much more needs to be done. The Biden-Harris administration is proposing a paltry 1.7% increase in its first defense budget, which may not even keep pace with inflation, per Military.com.
American operational readiness and the questionable strategy for limited conflict with the PRC over Taiwan needs to be addressed in another discussion.
When Xi assesses his chances to take Taiwan and dominate the South and East China Seas and East Asia, he must regard the American president as weak, as uncommitted to Trump’s defense buildup, and believe that a nation in turmoil is ill-prepared for major war.
And provided elections are honest, will voters return Xi’s nemesis Donald Trump to the White House in 2024? If not Trump, then perhaps Ron DeSantis, who exhibits the same resolve and toughness that Trump possesses.
The 67-year-old Xi may conclude that his best window of opportunity to “reunify” Taiwan with mainland China is sooner than later. He may be right.