Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Russia’s Ukraine disaster exposes China’s military weakness

By Tai Ming Cheung

24 Oct 2022 · 7 min read

Editor's Note

In Beijing, the conflict in Ukraine serves as an invaluable opportunity for Chinese war planners to learn about their own battlefield vulnerabilities, according to Foreign Policy.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stirred fears that China could similarly move on Taiwan. By this logic, shared among foreign and security policy thinkers across the American mainstream, Putin’s floundering conquest of the eastern European nation on NATO’s doorstep shattered international norms and expanded the policy menu for the world’s other leading irredentist strongman, Xi Jinping.

But this line of argument has a fundamental flaw. In Beijing, the conflict in Europe serves not as a green-light for China’s military campaign against Taiwan, but as an invaluable opportunity for Chinese war planners to learn about their own battlefield vulnerabilities at someone else’s expense. Beijing is not in a state of reckless escalation or suicidal. To the contrary, Chinese military planners view their own military capabilities with marked caution, and eight months into the war in Ukraine Russia’s serial failures have amounted to a drawn-out approximation of what a rash or poorly prepared Chinese campaign in Taiwan might look like. From a strictly military perspective, the Ukraine crisis has very likely pushed the timeline for Chinese attack against Taiwan backwards, not forwards.

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