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Xi ordered China’s military to be ready to seize Taiwan by 2027, CIA says

Chinese President Xi Jinping waves to deputies at the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Lan Hongguang/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS)
September 16, 2022

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has ordered the Chinese military to be ready to seize Taiwan by 2027, according to CIA Deputy Director David Cohen this week.

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CNN reporter Katie Bo Lillis tweeted, “Chinese President Xi Jinping has told his military that he wants to have the capability to take control of Taiwan by force by 2027, per CIA Deputy Director David Cohen—but, he said, the [intelligence community] does not currently believe that Beijing has made a decision about whether to proceed.”

“He has not made the decision to do that, but he has asked his military to put him in a position where if that’s what he wanted to do, he would be able to,” Cohen said, according to Lillis. “It’s still the assessment of the IC as a whole that Xi’s interest in Taiwan is to get control through nonmilitary means.”

Cohen’s assessment is in line with assessments shared last year by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) commander Adml. John Aquilino and his predecessor, Adml. Philip Davidson. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley discussed those assessments with Congress last year.

“Their assessment is based off a speech by President Xi that challenged the People’s Liberation Army to accelerate their modernization programs to develop capabilities to seize Taiwan and move it from 2035 to 2027,” Milley said last year.

Milley said he only believed Xi wanted to have the capability to take Taiwan, but that no decision has been made to act on that capability.

“It’s a capability, not an intent to attack or seize. My assessment is an operational assessment,” Milley said. “Do they have the intent to attack or seize in the near-term defined as the next year or two. My assessment of what I’ve seen right now is no, but that could always change. Intent is something that could change quickly.”

Milley said at the time the costs for China to take Taiwan at this time, “far exceeds the benefit and President Xi and his military would do the calculation.”

“They know that an invasion, in order to seize an island that big with that many people and the defense capabilities the Taiwanese have, would be extraordinarily complicated and costly,” Milley said.

A November Congressional report assessed China either has or is closed to having the capability to seize Taiwan, but that doing so now would be “high risk.”

If China seized Taiwan it would be a major power play in the Indo-Pacific region, where both the U.S. and China are vying for influence.

A recent wargame, playing out a Chinese invasion of Taiwan by 2026, found that the U.S. could lose more than 900 fighter jets and several warships to preserve Taiwan’s independence.