A U.S. Navy Admiral is warning that China could invade Taiwan much sooner than previously thought, claiming the Chinese almost always deliver on their promises sooner than expected.
Admiral Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, issued the alert while speaking at the Atlantic Council’s Forward Defense’s Commander’s Series on Wednesday. The comments come in the wake of the historic Chinese Communist Party’s 20th Party Congress, where Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a dark warning for the small island and secured another term in full control of China.
“When we talk about the 2027 window, in my mind that has to be a 2022 window or potentially a 2023 window,” Gilday said. “I can’t rule that out. I don’t mean at all to be alarmist by saying that, it’s just that we can’t wish that away.”
At the Party Congress a week ago, President Xi talked tough on Taiwan, calling for “reunification” and even claiming the communist nation is willing to use force to achieve it, saying they “reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.”
“The wheels of history are rolling on towards China’s reunification and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” Xi said in his opening address at the party congress. “Complete reunification of our country must be realized.”
Admiral Gilday said he is prioritizing “making sure the ships we are fielding today are as ready as they can be” and added that Congress is currently considering a $27.5 billion shipbuilding budget.
“It’s how the Chinese behave and what they do,” Gilday said when asked about the Communist party congress, adding, “What we’ve seen over the past 20 years is that they have delivered on every promise they have made earlier than they said they were going to deliver on it.”
Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, has been independently governed of China since 1949. China holds a “One China” policy, asserting that Taiwan is a part of China. A 2021 survey by National Chengchi University in Taiwan found that a majority of Taiwanese people, 62%, believed that they were “exclusively Taiwanese,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations. On the other hand, 32% considered themselves both Taiwanese and Chinese.
Taiwan has been continuously provoked by China, especially since the election of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, whose Democratic Progressive Party favors independence from China. Following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) trip to Taiwan in August, China employed numerous provocative measures, including sending Chinese planes and ships in and near the Taiwan strait, with 21 of them entering Taiwan’s air defense zone.
According to the Department of State, the position the United States holds on Taiwan opposes “any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side,” adding that the U.S. does not support independence for Taiwan, expecting “differences to be resolved by peaceful means.”
In a conversation with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis early last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “there has been a change in approach from Beijing toward Taiwan in recent years.” He continued, saying China is “pursu[ing] unification on a much faster timeline.”
President Joe Biden said last month during a “60 Minutes” interview that if “there was an unprecedented attack,” U.S. forces would defend Taiwan, a comment later walked back by the White House.