Skip to content

China’s playbook on Taiwan will be based on global response to Ukraine: Joseph Wu

China's playbook on Taiwan will be based on global response to Ukraine: Joseph WuA pilot of a F-16 fighter jet attends a military drill at Zhi-Hang Air Base in Taitung, Taiwan, in a file photo.

Taiwan’s foreign minister warned on Monday that the democratic island could be attacked by China, should the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) view the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “weak.”

“I believe that China’s leaders are … watching the situation and trying to draw their own conclusions,” Taiwan foreign minister Joseph Wu warned on day 12 of the Russian invasion.

“The danger is that if they believe that the West’s response to the Russian invasion is weak, and lacks impact, they could take that as a positive sign [for an invasion of Taiwan],” he said.

Taiwan, which was formerly ruled by the authoritarian Kuomintang government founded at the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 and which made a transition to democracy in the 1990s, has never been ruled by the CCP, nor formed part of the People’s Republic of China.

As Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on international volunteers to join the armed resistance against Russia, a Taiwanese man from the central city of Taichung posted his ID on Twitter, saying he was prepared to go to Ukraine and fight.

“I am proud of being Taiwanese, and want to defend democracy and freedom alongside our allies around the world,” the man, who said he was a former corporal in the Taiwanese military, wrote.

He feared death, but added: “I still have to do what I think is right.”

Wu said his ministry is closely following China’s next move, as well as the situation in Ukraine, which he said many in Taiwan found “inspiring.”

“Seeing the indomitable Ukrainian government and people fighting tirelessly, I want to say from the bottom of my heart that the people of Taiwan, who also face authoritarian oppression, have been inspired,” Wu said. “Like me, they are saying ‘we are Ukraine’.”

Wu’s comments came after Chinese premier Li Keqiang said his government had “accelerated the construction of a modern military logistics system and a modern military asset management system, modernized of weapons and equipment … and continued to deepen reforms of national defense capabilities and the military” during 2021.

“[We will] continue … to strengthen scientific and technological innovations to strengthen our national defense capabilities,” Li said in his March 5 work report to the NPC.

China's playbook on Taiwan will be based on global response to Ukraine: Joseph Wu
A soldier refuels an AH-64E Apache attack helicopter before take off during ‘Combat Readiness Week’ drills in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Oct. 29, 2020. Credit: Reuters

Budget likely higher

China’s Ministry of Finance submitted a draft budget to the NPC of 1.45 trillion yuan, an increase of 7.1 percent year-on-year, the biggest increase in military spending since 2019.

But Taiwan military expert Lin Ying-yu said the true figure is likely much higher than that.

“The cost of the armed police and stability maintenance don’t get presented in the defense budget … while a lot of investment and military R&D will be carried out via military-civilian integration, as has happened with fighter jets and the Beidou satellite system,” Lin told RFA.

Su Tze-yun, of Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said military spending has more than quadrupled since CCP general secretary Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, doubling over the past decade.

“A large part of that has gone to pay rises for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA),” Su told RFA. “Salaries in the PLA have gone up by around 75 percent since Xi Jinping took office.”

“It’s about military stability, especially when the 20th Party Congress is due this year, and Xi Jinping will be seeking a third term in office,” he said.

Su estimated that China could have as many as 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030.

“[They] will also have more projection capabilities, including the Dongfeng 41 missile launcher, new nuclear submarines and the H-20 stealth bombers,” he said. “This will shift the nuclear balance with the West, and shift the structure of geopolitics.”

Parallels rejected

In Beijing, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi rejected parallels between Taiwan and Ukraine.

“The first thing we must be clear about is that the Taiwan issue is fundamentally different from the Ukraine issue, and there is no comparison between the two,” Wang told an NPC news conference.

“Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory, and the Taiwan issue is entirely China’s internal affair,” Wang said, adding that the Ukraine issue was “a dispute between Russia and Ukraine.”

When the KMT regime under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in 1947 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s communist troops, the Republic of China ceased to control most of China, but continues to be the official name of the Taiwan government.

Taiwan began a transition to democracy following the death of Chiang Kai-shek’s son, President Chiang Ching-kuo, in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of a president, Lee Teng-hui, in 1996.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Copyright © 1998-2020, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.:China’s playbook on Taiwan will be based on global response to Ukraine: Joseph Wu