Partnered with the UK Professional Head of Intelligence Assessment
Will the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) seize control of any Taiwanese-occupied features in the South China Sea before July 1, 2021?
Context. Tensions between Taiwan and China have been particularly high in 2020 (CFR, BBC). China had previously aimed for peaceful reunification with Taiwan. In May 2020, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang dropped the term “peaceful” from a speech, apparently reflecting shifting policies on the island (Reuters). Throughout 2020, China has stepped up activities in the East and South China Sea (Al Jazeera, IISS) with some media reporting of an imminent invasion of Taiwan (Express, Forbes).
In the Annual Report to Congress, the the Office of the Secretary of Defence state that an invasion of Taiwan would be a “significant political and military risk” but “China could launch an invasion of small Taiwan-occupied islands in the South China Sea such as Pratas or Itu Aba” (Department of Defense). In August 2020, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted military exercises off the Pratas islands to “simulate seizing the Pratas Islands” (Taipei Times).
Foreign Policy assessed an invasion of Taiwan by China was unlikely, while The Diplomat suggests China’s military activity represents the end state of a failed strategy, not an imminent attack. Taiwan’s current features include the Pratas Islands and Itu Aba Island (CSIS). The control of a feature in the South China Sea would indicate a serious escalation within the region which will be of interest to the international community. The July 1 2021 represents the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Resolution details. The outcome of this question will be determined by reputable media reporting or official statements. Seizing would involve an invasion, conquest, and control of a feature by Chinese military forces, lasting more than 24 hours. The question will resolve once control has been held for 24 hours, irrespective of how long that control is maintained after that period.
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