Senior U.S. officials have recently called for the U.S. Navy to intensify its preparations in case the People's Liberation Army invades as early as this year. Chinese analysts warned that the risk of conflict in the Taiwan Strait was rising and could be sparked by a number of factors, such as improved U.S. relations with the island or a declaration of independence by Taiwanese authorities.
More than 20 years have passed since a Chinese leader publicly emphasized the necessity for a deadline for reunification with Taiwan, but in recent months, speculation over whether Beijing is accelerating plans to seize control of the autonomous island - possibly by force - has increased.
Senior U.S. officials have recently called for the US Navy to intensify its preparations in case the People's Liberation Army invades as early as this year. They claimed that while the mainland side and its military had plans to address various Taiwan-related scenarios, peacefully settling the conflict remained the top priority and that resorting to force would be extremely expensive.
At the end of a civil war in 1949, when the Nationalists were routed by Communist Party forces and fled to Taipei, mainland China and Taiwan split apart. Beijing considers the island to be a part of China and has never disallowed using force to annex it. Most nations do not recognize Taiwan as an independent state, including the US. However, Washington is opposed to any attempt to annex the island through force.
Chinese officials have emphasized the mainland's patience with Taiwan for years, including Deng Xiaoping. However, President Jiang Zemin informed U.S. president Bill Clinton in 1998 that there must be a timeframe for the Taiwan issue as it cannot be deferred forever. A Chinese leader had never before made such a requirement known in public. Beijing has never confirmed that it has a timeline, but rumors about one have persisted ever since.
As national rejuvenation took hold, President Xi Jinping stated that the Taiwan question would be settled. Many took this to mean that Beijing would have to annex Taiwan by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
After Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives visited Taiwan in August despite Beijing's warnings, tensions in the Taiwan Strait increased. Her visit prompted the PLA to conduct first-ever military exercises all around the island.
According to Zhang from Xiamen University, military action against Taiwan before 2024 or by 2027 was not out of the question, but it would depend more on U.S. and Taiwanese actions than on any arbitrary decision by Beijing.