ICYMI Sedona Forum News: China’s President won’t repeat Putin’s Ukraine mistakes in Taiwan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As The Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin writes in his column today, Army Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, made news at the McCain Institute’s Sedona Forum on Saturday when he spoke about the Chinese Communist Government’s advantages over Russia should it plan to attack Taiwan.

“But China has a key advantage that Russia didn’t. By not going first, Xi can easily avoid repeating Putin’s military blunders, and China also now knows the West’s playbook for responding,” Rogin writes. “This has likely led Xi to adjust China’s plans for attacking Taiwan in at least four ways, according to Army Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, who spoke at the McCain Institute Sedona Forum on Saturday.”

Gen. Clarke spoke on a panel titled, “Security Challenges in a Contemporary Environment,” along with Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security with an introduction by Jack McCain.

Read excerpts of the column below. Watch Gen. Clarke’s comments at the Sedona Forum 2022 HERE.

Opinion: China won’t repeat Putin’s Ukraine mistakes in Taiwan
By: Josh Rogin
Washington Post Global Opinions
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/04/china-xi-putin-ukraine-mistakes-taiwan-indopacific/  

Chinese President Xi Jinping is watching his friend Russian President Vladimir Putin fumble Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and learning from Putin’s errors, senior U.S. military officials believe. And if China should ever decide to attack Taiwan, Xi will surely apply the lessons he has learned — which means we in the West must also quickly adjust our plans for Taiwan’s defense.

The Chinese government insists that the Ukraine and Taiwan situations are different and that China has no plans to attack the island it claims as its own. But the Taiwanese government correctly recognizes the overwhelming similarity between its situation and that of Ukraine: Both are small democracies menaced by aggressive, nuclear-armed dictatorships threatening to wipe them off the map.

But China has a key advantage that Russia didn’t. By not going first, Xi can easily avoid repeating Putin’s military blunders, and China also now knows the West’s playbook for responding. This has likely led Xi to adjust China’s plans for attacking Taiwan in at least four ways, according to Army Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, who spoke at the McCain Institute Sedona Forum on Saturday.

First, given that Putin failed to achieve his goal of conquering Ukraine in days, Xi is likely revising his plans to ensure that any invasion would begin by bringing down overwhelming force on Taipei and possibly other key Taiwanese cities.

According to Clarke, Xi is probably thinking to himself, “I’ve gotta do this fast. I have to accomplish this quickly, because the Russians did not. … And in order to accomplish it fast, I have to seize the capital city.

Next, a Chinese attack on Taiwan would likely be a surprise. Xi would likely not repeat Putin’s months-long buildup of forces on his side of the line, because that gave the international community too much time to get organized, Clarke said. Third, Xi is also likely making moves to preemptively counter any economic sanctions or isolation the West might bring to bear as punishment after an attack, he said. Lastly, according to Clarke, Xi sees Putin losing the information war and therefore would likely spend more resources to control the information space before and after any attack.

The United States should change its strategy for the defense of Taiwan to take into account what China is likely learning in Ukraine, Clarke told the forum. Clarke wants the United States to help make Taiwan an “indigestible porcupine” by arming Taiwan’s military with weapons that have proved useful in Ukraine for repelling Putin’s invasion.

“We really have to look at, in the near term, how are we building up Taiwanese resistance and resilience?” said Clarke. “What are the real capabilities that we are making sure are in Taiwan in the coming months, not the coming years?”

Read the full column HERE.

About the McCain Institute at Arizona State University
Inspired by Senator John S. McCain and his family’s legacy of public service, the McCain Institute is fighting to secure democracy and alliances, defend human rights, protect the vulnerable and advance character-driven leadership, both at home and around the world.

About Arizona State University
Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American research university, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. As the prototype for a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.

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