September 9: Lessons Learned from the Aftermath of the PLA’s August 2022 Military Exercises

September 9: Lessons Learned from the Aftermath of the PLA’s August 2022 Military Exercises

Friday, September 9, 2022 from 11:30AM – 1:00PM (ET)

Event Description:

The Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) is pleased to invite you to a seminar titled “Lessons Learned from the Aftermath of the PLA’s August 2022 Military Exercises,” co-hosted with the Prospect Foundation in Taiwan.

Following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in early August, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) orchestrated a wide-ranging and unprecedented series of military exercises around Taiwan not seen since the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1995-1996. Much ink has already been spilled over Beijing’s actions, which included military exercises surrounding the island, economic boycotts, and sanctions. Some assessments suggest that these actions have been long-planned and that Beijing simply used Speaker Pelosi’s visit as a pretext, while others argue that the Speaker’s visit was what provoked Beijing’s response. While most of the world’s attention has been focused on Beijing’s destabilizing behaviors, most assessments have not looked at how the United States and Taiwan should respond or attempt to draw lessons learned from the current incident for the future of the Taiwan Strait.

This panel discussion will attempt to draw out some preliminary lessons learned from the current incident by taking a longer-view of the escalation and de-escalation patterns in the Taiwan Strait with a review of the events leading up to, during, and following the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. Are there discernible patterns in how Beijing escalates and de-escalates military and political tensions in the Taiwan Strait and what are the policy implications for Washington and Taipei? Additionally, the panel will examine the political and military signals from Beijing’s actions in past years, as well as from its more recent actions. How should the United States and Taiwan respond to the current “crisis”? And critically, what are the important lessons learned about Chinese political intent with regard to their military capabilities and their intent to use it against Taiwan?

Doors will open at 11:00 AM, and the event will begin at 11:30 AM. If you plan on attending in-person, please RSVP here by September 7, as seating is limited. Please only register if you would like to attend in-person. Lunch will be provided. Please direct questions or concerns to Program Assistant Zoe Weaver-Lee at zweaver@globaltaiwan.org.

The event will also be broadcast live here and on YouTube beginning at 11:30 AM.

**Media: Please contact Marshall Reid at mreid@globaltaiwan.org if you would like to bring additional crew members or equipment, so that we can be sure to accommodate you.

COVID Procedures: Proof of vaccination will be required at check in. Attendees unable to provide documentation will be required to wear a mask. Masks are optional for vaccinated individuals who are able to provide proof of vaccination.

The Speakers:

Arthur Ding is a professor emeritus, National Cheng-chih University (NCCU), Taipei, Taiwan. He now teaches part time at both the NCCU and Taiwan’s National Defense University. His research focuses on China security related fields, including China’s defense, party-military relations in China, as well as China’s defense industry. Ding holds a PhD in government and international studies from the University of Notre Dame.

Ivan Kanapathy is a senior associate (non-resident) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he also holds the Freeman Chair in China Studies. From March 2018 to July 2021, Kanapathy served on the White House’s National Security Council staff as director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia and deputy senior director for Asian affairs. Prior to this position, he worked at the American Institute in Taiwan, representing U.S. interests and advising on military and security issues in Taipei. Kanapathy holds an MA (with distinction) in East Asia security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School, a BS in physics and economics from Carnegie Mellon University, and an AA and diploma (with highest honors) in Chinese – Mandarin from the Defense Language Institute.

I-Chung Lai is the president of the Prospect Foundation, a Taiwan-based think tank. Prior to joining the Prospect Foundation, he held several prominent positions within the Democratic Progressive Party, serving as executive director of the DPP Mission to the United States and as the director general of the Department of International Affairs. He has also worked as a special assistant with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Tokyo.

Andrew Scobell is a distinguished fellow with the China program at the US Institute of Peace. He focuses on US-China relations, China’s armed forces and defense policy and China’s foreign relations with countries and regions around the world—with a particular emphasis on the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Scobell earned a doctorate from Columbia University, a master’s from the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and a bachelor’s from Whitman College. He has authored or co-authored two books, 30 reports and more than 40 journal articles. 

The Moderator:

Russell Hsiao is the executive director of GTI, senior fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, and adjunct fellow at Pacific Forum. He is a former Penn Kemble fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia. He previously served as a senior research fellow at The Project 2049 Institute and National Security fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Prior to those positions he was the editor of China Brief at The Jamestown Foundation from October 2007 to July 2011 and a special associate in the International Cooperation Department at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. While in law school, he clerked within the Office of the Chairman at the Federal Communications Commission and the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center at the Office of the US Trade Representative. Hsiao received his JD and certificate from the Law and Technology Institute at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law where he served as the editor-in-chief of the Catholic University’s Journal of Law and Technology. He received a BA in international studies from the American University’s School of International Service and the University Honors Program.

Event Summary:

On September 9, 2022 the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) co-hosted a seminar with the Prospect Foundation in Taiwan, titled “Lessons Learned from the Aftermath of the PLA’s August 2022 Military Exercises.” The seminar featured Arthur Ding of the National Cheng-chih University, Ivan Kanapathy of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, I-Chung Lai of the Prospect Foundation, and Andrew Scobell of the US Institute of Peace. The event was moderated by GTI Executive Director Russell Hsiao and commenced with a discussion surrounding the recent escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Strait following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Hsiao noted that following Speaker Pelosi’s visit, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) launched unprecedented military drills, encroaching on Taiwan’s territorial waters as well as Japan and the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). 

Following this introduction, Scobell addressed the notable features of the PLA’s military exercises, stating that they were likely a demonstration of military capabilities. He explained that these capabilities are likely grounded in their available doctrine, which is likely based on lessons learned from the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. He added that China is more likely to adopt a “Sun Tzu” approach, blending the “orthodox and unorthodox” to create infinite variations of possible outcomes. Scobell concluded that although this does not necessarily reveal China’s intentions for a potential invasion or blockade, the recent military exercises were shows of force nonetheless. 

Next, Kanapathy touched on the implications of the PLA’s centerline crossings, suggesting that from a defense perspective, the recent incursions were potentially beneficial for China as they demonstrated Taiwan’s inability to enforce the centerline. Additionally, Kanapathy warned against the normalization of centerline crossings, stating that it may lead to desensitization within Taiwan. 

Lai further examined the effects of the PLA’s centerline crossings by focusing on Taipei’s measured response. He noted that in the past, the Taiwan perimeter has consistently been on high alert. However, Lai suggested that rather than focusing on the possibility of an all-out invasion, Taiwan should focus on resource allocation and balance responses to both a blockade and military attack. Lai concluded that since Chinese drones were spotted not just near Taiwan’s outlying islands but also to the north of the main island, the issue has become one of increased urgency.

Returning to the broader implications of the PLA’s centerline crossings, Ding expanded on China’s potential intentions. He asserted that since reunification serves as China’s “hard mission,” the military drills were likely intended to project power and send a signal to discourage international intervention in the Taiwan Strait. 

Scobell further analyzed the recent incursions under a theoretical lens, concluding that if Xi Jinping is reasonably confident in the inevitability of reunification with Taiwan, he will act in a more conservative, risk-averse manner. However, Scobell asserted that despite this, China may have reached a conclusion that force is a necessity. 

In comparing the recent exercises to the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, Ding noted that the two exercises in 1995-96 did not encroach on Taiwan’s territorial waters. However, as a result of modernization and increased US involvement, the stakes have risen, as the PLA frequently crosses the centerline to send warning signals.

To conclude the discussion, the speakers evaluated the near-term implications of the PLA exercises, agreeing that the risk remains “acute.” Additionally, the speakers recognized that with Xi approaching his third term in 2027, the situation may intensify in the long run.

This event summary was written by GTI Fall 2022 Intern Anais Fang

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