CIA chief warns China planning Taiwan takeover in next few years

President Joe Biden in May of this year vowed military intervention should Beijing attempt to conquer Taiwan

Updated: July 21, 2022 - 6:01pm

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CIA Director William Burns is warned that China was taking lessons from the Russian invasion of Ukraine to plan its own takeover of Taiwan, which he fears is drawing soon.

"I think the risks of [an invasion] become higher, it seems to us, the further into this decade you get," Burns on Wednesday told the Aspen Security Forum, according to the Washington Times.

"The Chinese leadership is trying to study the lessons of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and what it tells them," he also said, and further argued China's concern how and when, not if.

The Taipei-based Republic of China governs the island of Taiwan while the People's Republic of China rules from Beijing over the mainland. Both parties adhere to the One-China principle, which espouses the existence of a single, unified Chinese polity, though both governments claim to be the legitimate iteration of that entity.

The Republic of China formerly governed most of the mainland territory it claims, but evacuated to the island in 1949 after its defeat by Mao Zedong's communist faction in the Chinese Civil War.

Taiwan remains a strategic U.S. ally in the Far East and President Joe Biden in May of this year vowed military intervention should Beijing attempt to conquer it. The PRC, meanwhile, has remained bellicose in its discussion of the issue.

“If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost,” Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said in June.

Burns highlighted specific failures of the Russian offensive, which had aimed to topple Kyiv within a week. Russia sent just under 200,000 troops into the country but encountered significant resistance. The CIA director suggested this signaled to Beijing that a swift victory would require total commitment.

He also argued China has also likely learned to better control public messaging on the issue and to preemptively prepare its economy for international sanctions.