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Four tactical lessons Xi has learned from Putin for Taiwan: Rogin

Xi will go for speed, surprise, sanction-proofing, media control

People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps units conduct an amphibious landing during a training exercise. (U.S. Department of Defense image)

People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps units conduct an amphibious landing during a training exercise. (U.S. Department of Defense image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An American columnist has discussed several key lessons China is learning from Russia’s war in Ukraine and proposed how the West should adjust its plan to defend Taiwan.

Writing in The Washington Post, Josh Rogin cited the assessment of U.S. Army General Richard Clarke, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, who believes Ukraine has caused Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) to change his approach to Taiwan in four key ways.

Firstly, Xi has likely concluded an attack on Taiwan must be swift and use overwhelming force to take out the capital, Taipei, as soon as possible. He will try to avoid Putin’s tactical mistakes in the opening days of the conflict which have led to a protracted campaign without a clear victor.

Secondly, Xi will likely leverage the element of surprise. Seeing how Putin’s extended buildup of forces on the border allowed the U.S. and its allies time to get organized ahead of the invasion, Xi will opt for a quicker strike.

Thirdly, Xi is likely trying to preempt which areas of China’s economy are vulnerable to sanctions. Seeing the economic isolation Western sanctions have imposed on Russia, China will try to prepare as much as possible before making a move.

Finally, Xi will dedicate more resources to fighting the information war. Having seen how Putin has increasingly failed to steer the narrative, China will attempt to exert more control over the coverage of a conflict over Taiwan.

This requires Washington and Taipei to adjust their preparations for Taiwan’s defense.

Rogin said Senator Lindsey Graham the U.S. must help Taiwan build a stronger civil defense force so Taiwanese can defend their homes. He also said the U.S. must convince China it will come to Taiwan’s defense, in addition to sustaining an “endless supply of help” to it.

This means the U.S. and its allies should be readying logistics in the Western Pacific as soon as possible, rather than waiting until it’s too late. The U.S. must also amend its policy of “strategic ambiguity” to make it clear that it will definitely defend Taiwan.

Rogin asserted the West’s biggest mistake in Ukraine was in believing Russian propaganda about Ukraine, which led to a delay in mobilizing support for Kyiv until after Putin had already attacked. Similarly, Chinese propaganda is trying to frame U.S. military assistance and diplomatic support as the “real threat to peace across the Taiwan Strait.”

Learning from the mistakes of Ukraine means Washington and its allies must ramp up provisions for Taiwan’s defense now, he concluded.