China on Track to Be Ready to Invade Taiwan by 2027, US Says

by Braxton Taylor

China is building its military and nuclear arsenal on a scale not seen since World War II and all signs suggest it’s sticking to ambitions to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027, a top U.S. admiral testified.

Despite Beijing’s economic challenges, its official defense budget has increased by 16% over recent years to more than $223 billion, Admiral John Aquilino, the leader of the Indo-Pacific Command, told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee in prepared testimony on Wednesday.

In the three years since he took command, he said the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, has added more than 400 fighter aircraft, along with more than 20 major warships. It’s also doubled its inventory of ballistic and cruise missiles since 2020, he said.

“All indications point to the PLA meeting President Xi Jinping’s directive to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027,” Aquilino said. “The PLA’s actions indicate their ability to meet Xi’s preferred time-line to unify Taiwan with mainland China by force if directed.”

The Chinese military has also been rehearsing various tasks linked to operations against Taiwan such as simulating an encirclement with a maritime and air blockade, Aquilino said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian on Thursday said Taiwan is China’s internal affair and accused Washington of causing division in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Some people in the U.S. have been trying to hype up the China-threat narrative to escalate tensions across the strait and instigate confrontation. We firmly oppose that,” he told reporters during a regular press briefing in Beijing.

China’s defense budget is still much less than that of the U.S. President Joe Biden this month proposed a $850 billion Pentagon budget for fiscal 2025. That includes $500 million to replenish weapons that would be provided to Taiwan in a “first-time funding request” seeking to “address aggression in the region and ensure continued support to our allies.”

U.S. lawmakers, officials and military leaders have hotly debated Xi’s intentions for Taiwan, especially in light of his 2027 target for his nation’s military to become a “world-class force.” Nearly a year ago, Aquilino testified that “everybody’s guessing” about the Chinese army’s plans.

Meanwhile, the U.S. intelligence community assesses that China doesn’t want a military conflict over Taiwan, even as it’s determined to bring the self-governed island under its control.

China’s “unprecedented level of defense spending is paying off,” said Representative Mike Rogers, the Alabama Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee. “The PLA is fielding modern systems like hypersonic weapons and fifth-generation fighters. They can project power well into the Pacific with a 340 ship navy that includes a new aircraft carrier and nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines.”

China’s partnership with Russia is also troubling as China has provided Russian president Vladimir Putin with economic and security assistance for the invasion of Ukraine, Rogers said. China’s partnership with Russia is a response to U.S. alliances in the Pacific region and elsewhere.

“It should be concerning to the whole globe,” Aquilino said.

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(With assistance from Colum Murphy and Alan Wong.)

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