The instinct to compare Ukraine and Taiwan is understandable, and there are critical lessons to be drawn from the war in Ukraine, but the parallels between Ukraine and Taiwan should not be overdrawn.
Leaders in Washington and allied capitals must not allow their military and diplomatic plans for the Indo-Pacific region to be colored by misinformation about China’s goals. There are a bevy of factors that could lead China to make a move against Taiwan at any time. Assuming that PLA capabilities are the sole variable in Beijing’s calculus would be a costly and dangerous mistake.
The Biden administration recently announced that no official U.S. delegation will attend the Olympic games in Beijing this winter. But a boycott of any form from the United States and partners will have little to no impact on shaping China’s behavior and may in fact distract from real levers capable of curbing how the games serve Chinese leadership.
The release of the next National Defense Strategy, expected in early 2022, will address the continued importance of China as a “pacing threat” even as it recognizes the “increasingly complicated and complex security landscape.” As the renewed potential for great power conflict drives strategy and plans, some have dubbed this a “new Cold War.” Letting this planning construct drive DoD’s investment program without paying attention to other kinds of potential contingencies is a bad idea.