U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has addressed concerns about a potential Chinese attack on Taiwan, noting that top Chinese officials prefer a non-combative reunification with the self-ruled island.
While speaking at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Director Haines said, “We continue to assess that Xi would prefer to achieve unification of Taiwan through peaceful means.” However, Haines also acknowledged that Xi has directed his military to be prepared for a forceful option without fear of U.S. intervention, which could influence his decision-making on the matter.
Haines also discussed the possible economic consequences of Chinese aggression toward Taiwan, particularly in relation to the U.S. economy. She noted that the impact would depend on the specific circumstances at the time and could not provide an accurate prediction. However, she emphasized the potential repercussions if Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company were disrupted, estimating that the global financial economy could experience an annual loss ranging from US$600 billion to over US$1 trillion for the first several years.
In terms of the broader U.S.-China relationship, Haines described it as increasingly challenging. She pointed to Xi’s March speech, in which he accused the U.S. of suppressing China, as the most direct public criticism of the U.S. to date. Haines argued that this demonstrates Xi’s longstanding distrust of the U.S. and his belief that the U.S. is attempting to contain China, reflecting Beijing’s growing pessimism about U.S.-China relations.
Defense Intelligence Agency Director Scott Berrier added that Xi, who has been responsible for promoting China’s rise for years, has become increasingly aggressive in his speeches since the beginning of his third term. Berrier highlighted various potential timelines for a Chinese attack on Taiwan, including 2025, 2027, 2035, and 2049, but noted that interpretations of these timelines may vary. He confirmed that Xi has ordered the military to be prepared, though the specific purpose and timing remain unclear, and the Defense Intelligence Agency is closely monitoring the situation and analyzing Xi’s statements.