When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

China-Taiwan: Between Election Maneuvering And Dress Rehearsals For War

The Chinese military's encirclement of Taiwan is above all a political move, not a tactical one. War is unlikely for now: Beijing still has other cards to play in the crisis. But if these fail, anything is possible.

Photo of Army soldiers holding a Taiwanese flag during a military drill simulating defence operations

Army soldiers holding a Taiwanese flag during a military drill simulating defence operations against a possible Chinese PLA intrusion in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Pierre Haski


BEIJING — No one, not even China (despite how it may seem), nor the United States or Taiwan, want war in the region. But for the past three days, the world has watched a game of intimidation around this island of 24 million inhabitants, which has become, as The Economist described it a few years ago, "the most dangerous place in the world."

The means deployed by the Chinese People's Liberation Army are considerable, including the Shandong aircraft carrier, the pride of the Beijing navy, as well as the new J-15 fighter jet. The maneuvers, which included repeated violations of the Taiwanese air identification zone, are like a dress rehearsal for a possible Chinese invasion of the island.

Amidst the tension and Chinese navy maneuvers, an American destroyer has sailed in for a freedom of navigation mission in international waters.

A warning from China in response to Taiwanese President's U.S. visit

No one wants war, but a small incident could provoke an unwanted escalation. Above all, it is one of the options on the table in a crisis that has no good solution and will likely worsen in the coming months and years.

Taiwan is, as Xi Jinping says, "the heart of the heart" of Chinese policy.

Beijing had to react to the visit by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to the U.S., and especially to her meeting with the Republican Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy. But, maybe because McCarthy did not go to Taiwan, the Chinese government's reaction was less dramatic than last year, when they responded to Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei by firing missiles over the island.

Still, the message was clear: Taiwan is, as Xi Jinping says, "the heart of the heart" of Chinese policy. The Chinese leader has gone even further, confiding to some that any desire for independence on the island constitutes "a personal humiliation."

Image of The guard of honor of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) carries a copy of the country's Constitution during the ceremony for newly elected Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

The guard of honor of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) carrying a copy of the country's Constitution during the ceremony for newly elected Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing, China.

Ju Peng/Xinhua via Zuma

Taiwan elections

Is Beijing ready to embark on a military adventure to conquer Taiwan? Not immediately, both because the Chinese military is not ready, but also because China has other options.

The date to remember is Jan. 2024. In less than a year, presidential and legislative elections will be held on the truly democratic island, which has already experienced several political changes.

The situation may become dangerous, with the path to peace blocked.

The current president, from the Democratic Progressive Party, which was historically pro-independence but now favors the status quo, cannot run for re-election after serving two terms. The field is therefore wide open, pitting Vice President Lai Tching-te, who will run for the DPP, and a candidate to be chosen for the main opposition party, the Kuomintang, which is the political heir of General Chang Kai-shek, Mao's rival, and is more favorable to rapprochement with Beijing.

China has every interest in favoring a victory for the Kuomintang. The stakes: on one hand, appeasement with the Kuomintang; on the other hand, war with the DPP. Most Taiwanese are opposed to any rapprochement with China. But intense psychological warfare is to be expected from Beijing.

If, as expected, the DPP wins the elections, the situation may become dangerous, with the path to peace blocked — and the maneuvers of the last few days will have truly been dress rehearsals.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Here's Why Iran Might End Up Turning Its Back On Hamas

Iran's revolutionary regime insists it wants Israel destroyed and has threatened a regional war, but its actions are ambivalent, suggesting it may fear a regional war that would hasten its demise. As a result, it may decide to stop supporting Hamas in Gaza.

photo of women holding iranian and palestinian flags and photo of supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei

At a pro-Palestinian rally in Tehran on Nov. 4.

Rouzbeh Fouladi/ZUMA
Hamed Mohammadi

Updated Nov. 14, 2023 at 11:05 p.m.


Urban warfare is an ugly mess even for high-tech armies, yet after weeks of bombing Hamas targets, Israel believed it had no choice but to invade Gaza and expose its troops to just this type of fighting. It is the only way of flushing out Hamas, it says, which has decided to fight Israel amid the wreckage of Gazan homes, schools and clinics.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

Meanwhile, attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East by similar militias working in coordination with the Iranian regime have become a headache for the Biden administration, which is seen by some as taking a soft line with the Tehran. The administration insists there is no hard evidence yet of Iranian involvement in Hamas's attack on Israel on October 7, though it has hardened its tone, warning Tehran not to pour "fuel on fire."

As for the European Union, it remains cautious about listing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as terrorists, even if in September the NATO parliamentary assembly advised members of the alliance to list them as such and aid the democratic aspirations of ordinary Iranians.

Whatever the details, the war in Gaza is intimately connected to the Iranian regime and its modus operandi.

Its officials have warned that the Gaza offensive, if continued, would open new fronts against Israel. The regime's foreign minister, Hussein Amirabdullahian, vowed Gaza would become an Israeli "graveyard" if its troops invaded, while the head of the Revolutionary guards, Hussein Salami, compared the strip to a "dragon" that would "devour" the invaders.

But so far we have seen nothing of Iran's more dramatic threats, made soon after the October attack, including the West Bank joining with Gaza or the Lebanese Hezbollah firing off 150,000 rockets. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, while insisting Iran had nothing to do with the Hamas assault, urged regional states to starve Israel of fuel. That too has yet to happen.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest