Chinese President Xi Jinping is watching closely how Russia’s war in Ukraine unfolds and the global response as Beijing weighs the risks of taking over Taiwan, top intelligence officials told lawmakers on Tuesday.
Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testified before the Senate Armed Services committee hearing on worldwide threats.
Watching ‘very, very carefully:’ “The Chinese are going to watch this very, very carefully,” Berrier told the committee.
“It’s going to take some time for them to sort out all elements of — diplomatic, information, military, economic — that have occurred with this crisis,” he added.
What will China learn? Berrier and Haines said it is too soon to tell what lessons China is taking away from the U.S.-led global response against Russia, between the coordinated sanctions imposed by allies in Europe and the Group of Seven nations, isolation at the United Nations, and the success of Ukraine’s military.
Still, China is unlikely to accelerate its plans to take over Taiwan, officials said.
“They’re thinking about future operations probably against Taiwan and how difficult that might be. They’re probably also thinking about the scrutiny they would come under should they entertain thoughts or operations like that,” Berrier said.
He added that one of those lessons he hoped the Chinese take away from Russia’s war in Ukraine is “just how difficult a cross-strait invasion might be and how dangerous and high risk that might be.”
What else was said: Berrier and Haines said that Beijing would rather subsume Taiwan through diplomatic and economic pressure, but the threat of a military takeover between now and 2030 remains acute.
“It’s our view that they are working hard to effectively put themselves in a position in which their military is capable of taking Taiwan over our intervention,” Haines said.
“They would prefer not to use military force to take Taiwan. They’d prefer to use other means,” she added.
What to do in Taiwan: “There are some things we can do with Taiwan. I think they’re learning some very interesting lessons from the Ukrainian conflict,” Berrier said, pointing to how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s leadership has inspired the forces, the success of small tactical military units against Russian units incapable of acting independently and “effective training with the right weapons systems.”
Yet Berrier said that the Taiwan military is not “where it should be,” pointing to a large conscript force with a short enlistment period.
“I think we have to engage with our [Indo-Pacific Command] partners within the Department of Defense, the Taiwan military and leadership to help them understand what this conflict has been about, what lessons they can learn and where they should be focusing their dollars on defense and their training,” Berrier said.
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