On a Friday night in Taipei, dozens of people gather in a bookstore to learn what to do if war comes to Taiwan. The shop window is plastered with slogans denouncing China and supporting freedom in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Nearby is a new protest wall: a Ukrainian flag speckled with Post-it notes in English, Mandarin and Taiwanese. “Stand with Ukraine”, says one. “Fuck Putin”, exclaims another. A third declares: “China, Russia: langbeiweijian”, ie, a wolf and a bei (a mythical beast) colluding to do evil. This refers to a traditional story of two deformed creatures—a wolf with long front legs and short hind ones, and a bei with the opposite impairment—collaborating to devour sheep.
Some combination of these three strategies may hold more promise. Jacob Stokes of the Centre for a New American Security, a think-tank in Washington, posits one possibility: China stages a large-scale naval exercise near Taiwan, then swiftly uses the ships to blockade the island. Like Mr Putin, Mr Xi threatens nuclear escalation against anyone who challenges the quarantine. As America debates how to respond, China uses the time to gather and launch its invasion force, and perhaps to decapitate the island’s government.
“It’s one of the scariest scenarios,” says Mr Stokes. “It raises the cost of intervention from the outset.”
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