Beijing's latest threats against Taiwan

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Although US officials say they are not aware of any specific piece of intelligence indicating that Beijing may move soon against Taiwan, which it considers a rebel province, Washington has become increasingly anxious that this might eventuate.

One big fear, the New York Times reported, is that Beijing will cut off access to all or part of the Taiwan Strait, through which US naval ships regularly pass. Any escalation in tension between China and Taiwan would have far-reaching consequences for the global economy and businesses.

The internal worries have sharpened in recent days, as the administration works to dissuade House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from going through with a proposed visit to Taiwan next month, write The Times’s Edward Wong, David E. Sanger and Amy Qin.

Some analysts say there are less risky ways for the U.S. to demonstrate support for Taiwan than having Pelosi visit. Instead, Washington could send a top military officer or sign a bilateral trade agreement, which could help the island reduce its economic reliance on Beijing.

Chinese officials have denounced Pelosi’s plans and threatened retaliation. The risks to Taiwan from Chinese aggression have gained urgency since Russia’s attacks on Ukraine.

And Chinese officials are acutely aware that the Biden administration has been applying lessons learned from the Russian invasion by pushing Taiwan to order missiles and smaller arms for asymmetric warfare.

The goal is to make sure the democratic island has enough effective armaments and defense systems to deter Chinese leaders from trying to attack it.

A Chinese invasion of Taiwan also has the potential to cause a national security crisis for the U.S. If China cuts off exports of semiconductors from Taiwan, the U.S. military, which relies on them, would face a critical problem.

A single firm, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, supplies more than 90 percent of the global supply of the most advanced category of mass-produced semiconductors.

In the US, the Senate is expected to vote on a bill that would provide more than $52 billion for companies that build semiconductor factories in the country.

The heightened tensions come as the consequences of China’s economic slowdown are being felt globally.

Taiwan’s semiconductor industry is flourishing, but rising raw material prices, gummed-up supply chains made worse by lockdowns in China, and the effects of the war in Ukraine pose significant risks to the island’s economy.

“All of these are global challenges, but Taiwan is at the tip — at the most important juncture of these risks,” Syaru Shirley Lin, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said at an event in May.

Any further downturn in China’s economy would have an outsized effect on Taiwan, whose exports to China hit a record last year.

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