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Taiwan shouldn’t fear the bluster from Beijing

A parade on Tiananmen Square, Beijing. STR/AFP/Getty Images

Hawks will say otherwise, but China isn’t even trying to invade Taiwan, says Fred Kaplan in Slate. It has just two amphibious assault ships. And even if it does build enough boats to cross the Taiwan Strait, its army isn’t up to the job. State media sums up its shortcomings as the “five incapables”: commanders can’t judge situations, deploy forces, understand complicated orders, make operational decisions in combat or manage unexpected developments. Moving inland, occupying Taipei, a modern metropolis of 2.5 million people, and fighting off an armed resistance is beyond them.

True, Xi Jinping wants to achieve “national rejuvenation” by 2027. Yet every Chinese leader, going back to Zhou Enlai – the country’s first premier, from 1949 to 1976 – has expressed a desire to liberate Taiwan. The Pentagon says this goal “remains aspirational”, a polite way of saying: they just can’t do this. China hasn’t fought any wars since 1979, when a border battle with Vietnam ended in a draw, so its current commanders and troops lack combat experience. What Biden must avoid is throwing in his lot with Taiwanese independence. That would push Xi into a corner by making him look weak domestically. “It is, in fact, one of the very few things that would spur China to initiate a war.”