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Opinion
Hal Brands

China and Taiwan Have a Big Stake in What Happens in Ukraine

The weakness demonstrated by the Western allies in Eastern Europe shows that the U.S. needs to start planning for a crisis between Beijing and Taipei.

A couple of conquerors?

A couple of conquerors?

Photographer: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine and Taiwan are half a world apart, but the possibility of Russian aggression against the former has raised fears of Chinese aggression against the latter. And although there are many differences between the two cases, the lessons of the Ukraine crisis can help Washington get ready for trouble in the Taiwan Strait.

If President Xi Jinping of China were to attack Taiwan, it would be mostly for reasons — the shifting balance of power in the Western Pacific, the trajectory of China’s and Taiwan’s politics — that have nothing to do with whatever happens in Ukraine. Xi understands that Taiwan is more important to the U.S. than is Ukraine. One reason President Joe Biden’s administration hopes to avoid deeper entanglement in Europe — and has explicitly rejected the possibility of defending Ukraine militarily — is so his administration can focus on China.