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China attack calculus depends on unification, economic issues: U.S.

03/10/2023 12:32 PM
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Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence. Reuters photo
Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence. Reuters photo

Washington, March 9 (CNA) Beijing will only opt for war if "peaceful unification" is no longer an option, the head of the United States intelligence community said Thursday at a hearing of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

"It is not our assessment that China wants to go to war," Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence, said at the hearing when asked about the consequences for the global and Chinese economy if war were to break out in the Taiwan Strait.

According to Haines, Beijing would prefer to achieve unification through peaceful means as opposed to doing so by using force, but the challenge is that it is "utterly committed to unification" and "Xi has made it quite clear that something has to happen."

That is why if "they believe peaceful unification is not an option, then [there is] the potential for actually trying to achieve it militarily," Haines said.

Haines acknowledged that any conflict in the region is likely to have enormous economic implications, most notably related to the semiconductor supply chain.

"Studies show that it would actually have an absolutely enormous implications for the global financial economy if there were disruptions to Taiwan semiconductor production," she added.

Her views were echoed by William Burns, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who said there was currently no evidence that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) had made a decision to invade Taiwan.

Burns nevertheless said he would never underestimate Xi's ambitions.

"I do think that nobody has watched more intently Vladimir Putin's experience in Ukraine than Xi Jinping has," Burns said.

"And I think he's been sobered to some extent, at least it's our analysis, by the extent to which the West was able to maintain solidarity and absorb some short-term economic costs in the interest of imposing even greater long-term economic costs on Russia," he said.

"That's something that President Xi has to weigh as he comes out of zero-COVID, tries to restore Chinese economic growth, tries to engage with the rest of the global economy," Burns said.

He agreed with Haines that the economic factor of a potential war had to "weigh significantly in the calculus of the Chinese leadership."

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Ko Lin)


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