Kinmen Island: A Potential Flashpoint for Sino-US Military Conflict


Kinmen Island is famous in history for the 8.23 Artillery Battle between China and Taiwan, which began on Aug. 23, 1958, and ended on Jan. 1, 1979. It lasted for over twenty years and was drawn to a close on the same day that China and the United States established diplomatic relations.

Therefore, Kinmen has become a symbolic emblem of reconciliation in the history of Sino-American relations. However, will history make Kinmen Island the starting point of the future rupture between China and the United States?

At first glance, this may not sound likely. But upon closer examination, the clues behind it are not difficult to discern.

CCP’s Economic Dilemma and Potential Choices

China is currently facing a comprehensive economic downturn, with declines on all fronts, including stocks, bonds, real estate, and currency. However, before analyzing the choices the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) might make, one crucial point to recognize is that Xi Jinping will not abandon the policy direction he has pursued for the past 12 years.

From the beginning of his tenure, Xi initiated a prolonged battle against private capital, aiming to regain dominant control of China’s economy for the CCP.

Private capital has flourished in China over the past 40 years of economic reform, making it deeply entrenched. Based on the statistics published by the Chinese regime, in 2019, private businesses in China contributed to 50 percent of the nation’s tax revenue, 60 percent of GDP, 70 percent of technology renovation, 80 percent of urban job opportunities, and consisted of 90 percent of the total number of commercial and industrial businesses in China.

To minimize the impact of this economic battle on the CCP’s political system, Xi has adopted a strategy of gradually pushing forward while sometimes retreating. This strategy may seem erratic, but considering the changes in China’s economy over the past decade, Xi’s policy direction has never wavered. In Xi’s own words, it’s what he calls “confidence in the path.”

With the decline of China’s economy, although the state media increasingly avoids mentioning their previous high-toned propaganda slogan of the “rise of the East and fall of the West,” Xi has never ceased to promote the concept of a “common destiny for mankind.”

The problem with Xi’s concept is how few people worldwide, especially in the West, are willing to share a common destiny with the CCP. Therefore, for Xi to achieve his “common destiny for mankind,” the precondition must be the “rise of the East and fall of the West.” And for Beijing to achieve this, the CCP must first gain comprehensive control over the Chinese economy.

Xi’s reason is simple: private capital, either domestic or foreign, has created China’s economic miracle and will only further integrate China into the Western market economy and promote the Westernization of China’s political system, which is exactly what Xi does not want for China.

Xi, ever since he inherited the top position of the CCP, has been eagerly promoting the idea of the so-called “once-in-a-century opportunity” for the rise of the regime, as he believes that the growth of the economy in China has provided the CCP with a unique opportunity to lead the world, and let him achieve even what Chairman Mao was not able to.

Therefore, while Xi may adjust the pace of his advance in dealing with private capital, he will not turn back. Especially for the large private corporations, domestic or foreign, Xi will only put a shorter leash on them.

A simple example was what the Chinese leader did last November during the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit in San Francisco, where he invited American business and financial elites to invest in China while asking Biden to support the CCP’s effort to “reunify” Taiwan.

One of the main reasons why foreign capital is leaving China is the growing geopolitical risk caused by tensions in the Taiwan Strait. For what Xi did during the Summit in San Francisco, one has to ask: was Xi really trying to invite foreign capital or to drive them away?

The CCP will neither spend money to help struggling private real estate developers nor take effective measures to attract foreign capital withdrawing back to China. In other words, the long-term difficulties faced by the Chinese economy are fundamentally unsolvable from the perspective of the market economy because the CCP’s political choice is to take more economic control.

Possibility of War

Since the possibility of solving the regime’s current problems from an economic perspective is minimal, once uncontrollable political, financial, and social crises occur because of the economic downturn, the CCP’s last resort to maintain its rule will be military control, and the best excuse for the CCP to put the nation under martial law is a limited war.

Many people believe that the CCP will not really invade Taiwan because the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ’s combat effectiveness is insufficient. However, this argument assumes a complete takeover of Taiwan.

However, for the CCP to solve the internal crisis it faces, it does not need to occupy the entire territory of Taiwan. What Beijing needs is just an excuse to impose military control domestically.

Entering a state of localized war with the United States and the Western world is the best excuse for the CCP to implement national mobilization and military control. The most likely way to create this state is to go to a limited war with Taiwan, Japan, or the Philippines.

Analyzing these possibilities, the most likely place for a war to break out is islands close to the Chinese coastline, such as Kinmen and Matsu, both of which currently belong to Taiwan.

If the CCP chooses to launch amphibious operations on islands like Kinmen and Matsu, its motives should include the following:

To consolidate Xi’s core position in the CCP:
Even if the PLA only seizes Kinmen Island, Xi will have achieved a task that all of the previous CCP leaders wanted to accomplish but were never able to. This would be an unprecedented guarantee of maintaining Xi’s sole and core position and would also provide enough achievements for the current CCP Political Bureau.

Beijing’s propaganda needs:
To maintain the CCP’s rule in a troubled economy, the regime’s propaganda apparatus needs vast brainwashing resources to convince Chinese society to believe the CCP’s agenda. The “reunification cause” will be used to hype up national sentiment, serving as the last means to increase social cohesion for the CCP.

An excuse for military control:
The Taiwan Strait crisis will inevitably trigger chain reactions from Japan, the United States, Australia, and NATO as a whole. Besides economic sanctions against the CCP, the mobilization of land, sea, and air forces is also inevitable. The CCP’s propaganda machinery can explain all of this as attempts to subvert the regime, providing the reason for the CCP to initiate military control over China’s coastal provinces or even the entire country.

Geographical advantage:
Kinmen is less than two kilometers (1.2 miles) from China’s coastal line, and Matsu is less than ten (6.2 miles). Taiwan’s military once stationed ten divisions in this area back during the period of the 8.23 Artillery Battle, with over 100,000 soldiers. But now the force is much smaller, so if the PLA launches a surprise attack, it may catch them off guard. With minimal losses, the CCP can achieve its subsequent political goals.

It’s also worth mentioning that if the CCP provokes conflicts in the East or South China Sea, it can divert attention from domestic internal pressure to a certain extent. However, choosing one or several small islands in these regions for conflicts is unlikely to escalate to the point where the public in China sees that military control is necessary, even just in China’s coastal provinces.

Xi’s Long-term Strategy

Since taking office, Xi has continuously built strategic relations with countries such as Russia, Iran, North Korea, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, etc., through diplomatic efforts, gradually forming an anti-America alliance on the Eurasian continent.

Moreover, under the CCP’s leadership, this alliance, based on platforms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), is constantly expanding and extending its tentacles to every corner of the world.

If the CCP intends to transition to democratic countries and make China’s economy part of the global market economy, isn’t all of this contradictory?

There is only one answer: Xi’s so-called “common destiny for mankind” is not an empty phrase but the ultimate goal of his political line. For the Western world, the direct result of this line is that the CCP wants to reshape the international order formed after World War II.

The biggest obstacle to the CCP achieving the so-called “common destiny for mankind” is the United States. Therefore, forming an anti-America alliance internationally becomes indispensable.

Since becoming hostile to the United States is only a matter of time, once the situation requires it, the CCP will not hesitate to provoke a Taiwan Strait crisis. A war over Taiwan is just a matter of time.

From the CCP’s global strategy perspective, “reunification” is just an excuse. The real goal is to control the South China Sea after occupying Taiwan, threatening the international transportation lines of Japan and South Korea to the north, intensifying influence over Southeast Asian countries around the South China Sea, and threatening Australia to the south.

Before encountering problems in its own economy, Beijing’s strategy was to let its allies, such as Russia, Iran, North Korea, etc., take action first and start wars or conflicts around the world. Beijing’s leaders have been waiting for the United States to become busy putting out fires around the world, and the hands of the U.S. military are tied. The regime would then seize the opportunity to invade Taiwan by force, followed by controlling the South China Sea. In this way, the CCP would have an extremely advantageous position in the future confrontation with the Western world.

However, the West quickly awakened after the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, and began to gradually disengage from the CCP, thereby making the CCP face a comprehensive challenge to China’s economy. The U.S. military has rapidly increased its military strength in the Western Pacific, and countries such as Japan and the Philippines have taken the lead in assisting the U.S. military in establishing various facilities needed to support Taiwan’s defense. As a result, the CCP’s plan to invade Taiwan by force has become increasingly remote.

Therefore, the CCP has to adjust its expansion strategy and settle for second best. Consolidating the anti-American alliance on the Eurasian continent has become the top priority.

However, over the past few decades, the Chinese people have become accustomed to good days with the help of technology, investment, and market resources from the West. Beijing needs to give the Chinese people a compelling reason to break away from their wealthy Western friends and accept impoverished friends like Russia, Iran, North Korea, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Belarus, and the five Central Asian countries. To accomplish this transformation, the CCP needs tremendous excuses.

An invasion of Kinmen may just come as a huge gamble serving the CCP’s purpose.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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