Taiwan is preparing for Chinese invasion, and whether the US fights alongside it will determine Australia's fate – ABC News

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When Taiwan's foreign minister warns of a fight to the end in a looming war with China, we should pay attention. 
This is not sabre rattling, it is not fear mongering — it is the cool headed assessment of a man whose job is to ready the Taiwanese people for the worst.
Joseph Wu says Taiwan is preparing for an invasion. There are few diplomatic options right now, as Xi Jinping says that he will go to war if necessary to bring Taiwan under his control.
Taiwan is a fault line that could crack open the global geopolitical order. Xi Jinping has set his course: claiming Taiwan will assure his legacy. It is the big piece in his China Dream.
Call it Xi's gamble: That history is on his side and his big rival the US will do nothing to stop him. There is a big test looming: Will America fight alongside Taiwan? The answer to that question will determine Australia's fate; a broader conflict would likely mean we would be at war, too.
If only this were speculation. It has gone beyond that. Australia has boosted its defence spending and entered a new pact with old allies the US and UK to develop nuclear powered submarines to arm ourselves for the worst. 
Taiwan isn't waiting for mainland China to attack; as far as it is concerned, the battle has already begun.
Just last weekend Beijing ordered up to 80 fighter jets to the southern region of Taiwan to simulate an attack. It is as close to real as it gets. 
Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu has spoken to ABC TV's China Tonight program to send a serious message: Taiwan is under threat from China and the threat is real.
"As well as the military threat, they have set up their cronies inside Taiwan and they run a lot of misinformation campaigns," he says. "China has been threatening Taiwan and the threat seems more serious than before." 
Joseph Wu urges Australia to increase intelligence sharing and security cooperation with Taiwan and says the island is ready to defend itself if China launches a strike.
But would Xi go from threat and intimidation? Joseph Wu has no doubt. "We are very concerned that China is going to launch a war against Taiwan at some point," he says.
At what point? War is not imminent, despite Xi's provocation. But Joseph Wu warns that the Chinese President is under pressure at home and could manufacture a crisis to divert attention.
"We are very concerned if domestic discontent or economic slowdown is getting very serious, Taiwan could become a target," he warns.
Joseph Wu knows the clock is ticking. Xi Jinping is a man on a mission; he wants to complete what he calls the China Dream — to return the nation to the apex of global power. It is on track to be the biggest economy in the world by the end of this decade and is building a military to match.
It is boosting its naval force, investing in more nuclear strike capacity and preparing for a regional showdown Xi says it will fight and win.
Taiwan is the prize. For Xi, it means finishing what China's revolutionary leader, Mao Zedong, started. When Mao defeated the American backed Nationalists, his enemy fled with people and treasure to set up a rival government in Taiwan.
For Xi, there can only be one China. As he says, Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are all "children of the yellow emperor".
That isn't how Joseph Wu sees it. He knows a formal vote on independence would be a red line to Beijing, but says that doesn't need to be crossed — Taiwan is already its own nation.
"Taiwan is not part of any other country," he says. "Taiwan is a country with the formal title 'the Republic of China'." 
Comments like that infuriate China. And Joseph Wu knows there is scant formal international diplomatic support for Taiwan.
China is a great power and demands to be treated as such. It is clearly not a democracy but that doesn't mean its rise is not legitimate. So, what do we do about it?
Overwhelmingly, the world's nations — Australia included — recognise one China. It is a diplomatic status quo that has held for more than 70 years, but is being tested now.
Xi seeks to unify the nation. He has already crushed dissent, imposed Beijing control over Hong Kong; to "harmonise" the nation, he is locking up Uighur Muslims in what human rights groups have called "brainwashing camps". He has been accused of genocide.
Territory and sovereignty are crucial to Xi. He has claimed and militarised the disputed islands of the South China Sea. His army has clashed with Indian forces on their contested border. 
He is a man in a hurry. There are significant headwinds: His population is ageing and shrinking, economic growth is slowing, the crash of companies like property giant Evergrande may be a harbinger of greater collapse. 
But Taiwan is the jewel in the crown. To take it back would send a message that China has arrived as a superpower.
The Taiwan Relations Act does not bind the US to defend Taiwan. It is required to provide Taiwan with the capacity to defend itself. Over the past decade, America has announced more than $20 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.
It's part of what's been called the "porcupine strategy": arm Taiwan sufficiently to deter a Chinese attack. But Xi senses a moment. The West, he says, is in decline, while China is on the rise.
The withdrawal from Afghanistan has raised questions about the future of American power. Speaking on China Tonight recently, former translator to Deng Xiaoping, Victor Gao, claimed no US soldier will fight and die for Taiwan. He may well be right. 
The geostrategic wrestle between Washington and Beijing is one for the ages and Australia is now to play an even bigger role, writes Andrew Probyn.
Joseph Wu says Taiwan is preparing to defend itself — alone, if necessary.
"The defence of Taiwan is in our own hands," he says. "If China's going to launch a war against Taiwan, we will fight to the end."
The Foreign Minister says Taiwan is looking for closer security ties with fellow democracies like America and Australia. Taiwan, he says, wants to share intelligence with Australia.
The recent AUSMIN meeting of Australia's defence and foreign affairs ministers with their US counterparts committed to "strengthen ties with Taiwan".
The geopolitical plates are shifting. The US has declared China a strategic competitor. It is seen as the biggest threat to US security. Australia has dropped the pretence of not having to choose; it has doubled down on the American alliance.
The AUKUS agreement with the UK and US and the deal for Australia to build nuclear powered submarines is designed to send a clear message to China that the US is not going to surrender dominance in the Indo-Pacific.
To that, add the Quad — India, Japan, Australia, and the US — a regional democratic bloc to contain China's rise. 
But Xi Jinping has been preparing for this. He has an advanced military strategy to blunt American power by limiting US military access. Taiwan is outgunned. 
Joseph Wu wants to raise the stakes for Xi Jinping by talking up Taiwan's powerful friends. Doing interviews warning of war, he hopes, is his best chance of avoiding one. But is Xi even listening?
Stan Grant presents China Tonight on Monday at 9.35pm on ABC TV, and Tuesday at 8pm on  ABC News Channel.
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