Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the House of Commons Special Committee on the Canada–People's Republic of China Relationship, it is an honour and a responsibility to speak to you.
As well, with the 18th Francophonie Summit taking place this weekend in Tunisia, it is obviously a pleasure to be able to speak in French.
In August 2022, as you know, China deliberately provoked a fresh crisis in the Taiwan Strait, with the visit by Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, as the pretext. The instruments of coercion used by China are well known: miliary exercises, cyber attacks, twisting international law, large-scale disinformation, and economic sanctions.
However, this new crisis was remarkable in its intensity and is part of an older strategy, since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016. That Chinese strategy is designed to increase pressure on the island, whether military, economic or information-related, and to isolate it on the international scene.
The unprecedented military exercises were held from August 4 to 15, 2022, and had been prepared well in advance. The People's Liberation Army, or PLA, conducted exercises intended to simulate a blockade to suffocate the island and prevent any foreign support, including American. Beijing tried to demonstrate its capacities for precision strikes, area and access denial, air superiority, submarine war, or logistical support.
While Chinese military aircraft crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait only very rarely—four times since the beginning of the year—over 400 planes crossed it in August and September. Beijing also uses civilian drones to fly over the Taiwanese islands of Matsu and Jinmen, located off the shores of China.
These hybrid operations tested Taiwan's response and give me an opportunity to point to China's use of civilian capacities for military operations. In fact, the same is true for large-scale exercises that recently demonstrated the Chinese navy's ability to use large civilian ferries to launch a massive amphibious invasion of Taiwan.
As the parallels between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the risk of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan grow, we must remember that the issue is not merely the influence of one state over another, or the territorial expansion of one state at the expense of another. The most important issue is the ambition to be a permanent member of the Security Council and to have Taiwan disappear as a sovereign and independent political entity. The choice is therefore not between the status quo and secessionism, as Beijing calls it, but between annexation, on the pretext of reunification, and the status quo. Beijing's determination is made even clearer in the latest white paper on Taiwan published in August 2022, the third after the ones in 1992 and 2000.
The Chinese Communist Party has at least three motivations for taking control of the island. Politically, the Communist Party intends to put an end to the last vestiges of the civil war that saw the Nationalist Party shrivel back to Taiwan. Ideologically, the Communist Party intends to enforce its argument that there is no alternative to its leadership on the continent and seeks to eliminate the counter-model presented by Taiwan, that is, a society that is culturally Chinese and multi-ethnic, and has democratized from within after a period of brutal dictatorship, and that has seen very strong economic growth since then. And militarily, the People's Liberation Army intends to have the capacity to install its armed forces on the island in order to expand its strategic depth and project itself toward the Pacific Ocean without impediment, so that, for example, it could strengthen the maritime component of Chinese nuclear deterrence.
Before concluding, I want to point out that conflict scenarios in the Taiwan Strait are not limited to the widespread caricature of a massive invasion of Taiwan by China. They could involve a whole series of actions by Beijing, including taking control of the Dongsha Islands in the South China Sea and violation of air space, or even a partial or total maritime blockade, around the island.
We should note that any conflict in the strait, far from remaining local and limited to China and Taiwan, would have global implications. It would involve at least the United States and potentially Japan, as well as other treaty allies of the United States, all countries that are essential economic and security partners for Europe and Canada. While the NATO treaty does not cover the Indo-Pacific region, translatantic solidarity would obviously be put to the test.
With the Taiwanese voting to elect their next president in January 2024, there is a high risk of a new crisis initiated and exploited by Beijing.
Westerners have stopped ignoring Taiwan in their official communications, as witnessed by the G7 joint statement in June 2021, which mentions Taiwan, and the and the G7 joint statement in August 2022, which is entirely dedicated to Taiwan, which is a first.
To conclude, being aware of the issues and risks is the best thing to do, to avoid the worst scenarios materializing. As I regularly explain to your parliamentary colleagues in Europe, we have a clear albeit limited role to play in this regard: to contribute to maintaining stability in the strait.