There is growing discussion in the United States about the rising risk of conflict in the Taiwan Strait. On March 9th, 2021, U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander Admiral Philip Davidson expressed concern about the potential for conflict in the next six years. Then on May 1st, 2021, The Economist featured a cover story calling Taiwan “the most dangerous place on Earth.”
Recently, there has been increased military activity in the Taiwan Straits. Spokespersons for the People's Republic of China and state media outlets have characterized recent PLA exercise activity as a response to provocative moves by the United States and “Taiwan secessionists.”
Against the backdrop of a Taiwan Strait transit conducted on April 7 by the US Navy destroyer USS John McCain, plus operations in the South China Sea involving the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and the USS Makin Island amphibious-ready group, Beijing appears to be publicizing its military operations as a component of a broader pressure campaign directed against Taiwan.
These developments raise the prospect of a military confrontation between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China in the next few years. Possible triggers could include real or perceived Taiwanese assertions of national sovereignty, or the real or perceived warming of US-Taiwan relations.
Will there be armed conflict between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China (PRC) before January 1, 2024?
This question will resolve as Yes if, at any time between June 1, 2021 and December 31, 2023, either of the following occur:
- There are at least three credible government sources reporting an exchange of weapon fire between the national military forces, militia, and/or law enforcement personnel of Taiwan and the People's Republic of China.
- There are at least three credible news reports that an exchange of weapon fire between the national military forces, militia, and/or law enforcement personnel of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China.
In the context of this question, an armed conflict will be defined as a dispute that concerns a government and/or territory where the use of armed force between two parties, of which at least one is the government of a state, results in (a) an exchange of weapon fire or detonations and/or (b) one or more battle-related deaths or injuries. Notice that, as defined, an armed conflict need not result in death or injury, unless it involves hand-to-hand combat.