It is early January 2021 and China is on the verge of chaos.
The ruling Communist Party and President Xi Jinping face unprecedented protests at home after a resurgence of Covid-19, and an economic crash due to strangling sanctions imposed by the United States.
To prop up the Party’s legitimacy, Xi gambles and launches an attack on Taiwan to retake what the CCP considers a “renegade province.”
Pure Hollywood? Not at all. Indeed, this is the scenario described by retired US Admiral James A Winnefeld, a former vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Michael J Morell in an article entitled The War that Never Was?
Mapping out the opening scene, Winnefeld and Morrell outline the premise of their argument on the influential US Naval Institute website:
“As the roller coaster year of 2020 dragged into its second half, a resurgence of Covid-19 – this time scattered throughout the country and again initially covered up by the regime – began to cast real doubt among the Chinese population of the competence of the Party and its leader Xi.
“The crash of the Chinese economy, due partly to Covid and to secondary sanctions imposed by the United States on China’s banks after the crackdown in Hong Kong, only exacerbated Xi’s concerns.
“Watching protests break out and fully aware of the historical fragility of the so-called ‘Mandate from Heaven,’ Xi began to look for an external cause to distract the population from its mounting anger and anxiety.”
The distraction is Taiwan. At this point, Winnefeld and Morrell expand the global picture even further amid chaotic scenes after the US Presidential Election in November and a tightening of the American embargo on US semiconductors sales to China.
Rising rhetoric from Taipei against reunification with a “motherland” governed by an authoritarian regime is seen as another excuse by Xi to fulfill the “Chinese Dream.”
Finally, as the world is left entranced by the political and social turmoil in the US from the fallout of the disputed presidential election, the decision to invade Taiwan is given the green light under the guise of naval exercises.
Operation Red Province is underway. Winnefeld and Morell pick up the narrative:
“The operation unfolded quickly, beginning on the evening of January 18,  two days before the scheduled – and still in-doubt – US presidential inauguration. A message was transmitted to Taiwan’s leaders that they had the option of immediate peaceful capitulation or armed coercion.
“Simultaneously, a series of coordinated Chinese military moves unfolded that were intended to put a stranglehold on Taiwan and deter any other nation from interfering.
“A host of cyberattacks crippled Taiwan’s public media and took down key elements of the power grid. The attack on Taiwan was underway.”
While troops are landed on the coastline of the island, an army of Chinese propaganda puppets cajole, coerce and cripple foreign governments opposed to the invasion in a massive social media blitz.
A wartime extension of “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy drowns out international protests. By January 19, “stock markets across the globe crash,” as “confusion” reigns “in Washington and other capitals.”
Condemnation echoes across the planet but the US response is short on details.
On the same day, the US Supreme Court finally resolves the electoral crisis. Still, the window to respond to China’s aggression is rapidly closing. In the next few hours, it will shut tight.
Winnefeld and Morell continue to the final scene:
“On the morning of January 20 in Taiwan – still late in the evening of the 19th in the States – Taiwan’s government realized that … [it] was on the brink of a bloodbath, [so President] Tsai Ing-wen reluctantly capitulate[s] to Xi’s demands, expressing hope that the people of Taiwan [will] be able to retain at least some measure of freedom.
“That evening in Beijing, three hours before the Chief Justice delivered the oath of office on the steps of the Capitol [to the new US President], Xi triumphantly addressed the Chinese people, declaring that the most important step in the ‘Chinese Dream,’ had now come true. He welcomed the people of Taiwan ‘home.’”
To read the entire article, entitled The War that Never Was?, on the US Naval Institute website, click here.