When Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago this week, many lawmakers and experts in the U.S., Europe and Asia warned that the move could embolden China to carry out its long-standing threat to forcibly unify the mainland with self-ruled Taiwan.
The concern was that China and its increasingly capable People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would draw inspiration from Moscow’s aggression and invade Taiwan, further tilting the regional balance of power in its favor, particularly after the two sides had claimed to have a “no-limits” friendship.
The invasion prompted a number of political shifts unseen in years, as Japan — as well as a number of other countries — began bolstering their defenses and expanding security networks. Tokyo, for its part, adopted a mantra as the war broke out: “Ukraine may be the East Asia of tomorrow.”
Indeed, the Ukraine conflict has served as a stark reminder that cross-border invasions are not a thing of the past and that deterrence may ultimately fail to prevent wars of aggression.
It’s unclear how China truly views the Ukraine conflict, offering up only opaque statements on the invasion. But if the Russian military’s struggles and its diplomatic and economic isolation are any indication, Beijing may think twice about the advisability of the military option with Taiwan.
At the same time, it’s worth noting that all analogies have their limits, and while there are parallels between Moscow’s war on Ukraine and Beijing’s approach to Taiwan, the scenarios and countries involved are also markedly different.
Many of the similarities revolve around Russia and China being authoritarian states that challenge the U.S.-led international order, with both targeting democracies that they claim are crucial parts of their territory.