Taiwan Spy Chief Doubts China Invasion Plans in Xi Jinping's Important Year

The head of Taiwan's principal intelligence service cast further doubt on the veracity of purported leaks by a Russian spy, describing speculation surrounding a Chinese invasion as "impossible."

Chen Ming-tong, the director-general of Taiwan's National Security Bureau, told lawmakers in Taipei on Thursday that the Chinese Communist Party was unlikely to have planned such a risky military operation during a year in which "stability" was the key word for China's leaders including Xi Jinping.

During a defense committee hearing, Chen was asked several times about letters said to have been written by an anonymous analyst within Russia's Federal Security Service. The FSB whistleblower, known only as the "Wind of Change," alleged Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine had inadvertently foiled Beijing's own plans for Taiwan, which Xi wanted to annex in order to justify his seeking an unprecedented third term at the CCP's 20th National Congress later this year.

However, Taiwan's spy chief believes such a move, in which victory wouldn't be guaranteed, could undermine the party's stability mantra for 2022. His agency also assessed the purported FSB leaks as possible psychological operations originating in the Kremlin.

"[I]t's impossible. That's Russian cognitive warfare," Chen said.

"Also, [China] has seen the result of Russia's war against Ukraine. It will need to be even more cautious when considering the use of force," he said. "My overall assessment is that it is unlikely; certainly nothing like the Russian intelligence leak, the authenticity of which is unknown."

Busy Dealing With COVID

The intelligence official suggested Beijing was too busy to even consider moving on Taiwan, citing its resurgence of COVID, which has triggered a slight economic slowdown and might hamper its post-pandemic recovery.

"The CCP's most important task this year is to hold a successful 20th National Congress," he said. "It has a lot on its plate."

Chen repeated his October 2021 assessment that, bar a "major contingency," a Chinese offensive to capture Taiwan wasn't likely for the remainder of President Tsai Ing-wen's term, which ends in May 2024. As for when Beijing might trigger a war, Chen hinted at political rather than military factors.

"That Beijing has not ruled out the use of force against Taiwan is not a secret. It is why we must prepare and bolster our defenses," he said. "But the precise time [of attack] requires further observation and assessment. It will not happen this autumn and, as I've said, not during President Tsai's time in office."

Neither the Chinese nor the Russian government returned separate requests for comment.

The letters by the "Wind of Change" have made for popular reading in the West, particularly on Twitter, where the supposed FBS insider has detailed chaos inside Russia's intelligence services, which weren't told of Putin's plans to invade Ukraine. The pseudonymous author has written to France-based Russian dissident and human rights lawyer Vladimir Osechkin more than 10 times since the start of the war. Osechkin runs gulagu-net.ru, a website documenting abuses in Russian jails.

Earlier this month, Bellingcat's executive director, Christo Grozev, tweeted that his own FSB contacts believed the whistleblower to be authentic, but they didn't agree with the author's analysis.

In the fourth letter, dated March 9, the alleged FSB analyst described the quagmire Beijing had been trapped in, thanks to Moscow.

"Because of the war, Russia has such a negative image for a number of countries that the United States can easily push sanctions against China, at least with the Europeans, if it risks circumventing the sanctions on Russia," it read. "China depends on exports so much that, coupled with its dependence on commodity prices...this would be almost a fatal blow."

It continued: "Not only that: Xi Jinping was at least tentatively considering the capture of Taiwan in the autumn—he needs his own small victory in order to be re-elected for a third term—there is a colossal power struggle among the [party] elite. Now, after the events in Ukraine, this window of opportunity has shut, which gives the United States the opportunity to both blackmail Xi and negotiate with his [political] rivals on favorable terms."

Taiwan Doubts Xi Jinping's China Invasion Plans
China's President Xi Jinping inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 15, 2017. Chen Ming-tong, the director-general of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, cast doubt on speculation that Xi was preparing to order an invasion of Taiwan in fall 2022 in order to justify his third term as Chinese leader, during a legislature hearing in Taipei on March 24, 2022. Lintao Zhang/Getty Images