Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King’s College in London, notes the challenges the Chinese Communist Party is already facing with an economy still struggling to recover from Covid-19 isolation that has seen growth rates plummet and new trade restrictions, like tariffs on its electric vehicle exports.

Taiwan is a prominent industrialized economy, a crucial node in global supply chains and a manufacturer of the vast majority of the world’s most advanced semiconductors. A quarantine on the island would have economic repercussions not just domestically, but globally.

While most nations diplomatically recognize Beijing over Taiwan, the island has forged increasingly strong unofficial relations with major western democracies, deepening those ties in recent years as Beijing’s threats have hardened.

Taiwan and China are also deeply economically intertwined. Last year, 35% of the island’s exports went to the Chinese mainland, most of which were integrated circuits, solar cells and electronic components, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Imports from the mainland accounted for 20% of the island’s total imports in the same year. Between 1991 and 2022, Taiwanese companies invested a total of $203 billion in the mainland, according to Taiwan government statistics, creating millions of jobs in China.

Additionally, quarantines can push populations to rally with the government, rather than rise up against it, says Sidharth Kaushal, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

“Historical evidence shows that even severe blockades have limited coercive value, and a limited quarantine might result in a rally around the flag effect,” he says.

A quarantine could also push Taiwan’s government to declare independence, something Beijing has repeatedly said would likely bring armed conflict, Kaushal warns.

“This would then leave the (Communist Party) with the options of either escalation or a major setback,” he says.

Patalano says for China, patience is the key to realizing its goal of “reunification.”

Escalation, and certainly invasion, is not “cost-efficient,” he says. War costs not only lives but national wealth.

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