China Lowering Warning Time for Taiwan Invasion, Says Air Force General-Turned-Congressman

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) believes the frequency with which China’s fighter jets and warships circle Taiwan is likely meant to desensitize Taiwan to Chinese military activity
China Lowering Warning Time for Taiwan Invasion, Says Air Force General-Turned-Congressman
Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill, in Washington, on Jan. 10, 2023. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Ryan Morgan
Steve Lance

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) believes the frequency with which China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fighter jets and warships circle the island of Taiwan is likely meant to desensitize Taiwan to Chinese military activity so they'll be too slow to respond if and when China ultimately tries to seize control of the island.

In an interview with NTD News’ “Capitol Report,” Brig. Gen. Bacon warned of a growing Chinese interest in controlling Taiwan, adding that the United States has a “moral obligation” to help preserve the island’s independence from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

While Taiwan is self-governing democratic country with its own laws, the CCP insists the island is a part of China and Chinese officials have alluded to plans to take control of the island by force.

The PLA flies military aircraft around the island on a near-daily basis. Earlier this month, the it flew 33 warplanes and sailed six warships near the island in a single day. The Nebraska representative—a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general now serving on the House Armed Services Committee—says this pattern of Chinese military activity is intended to intimidate Taiwan, but also to make the Taiwanese accustomed to such activity so that they won’t be certain when a real attack is coming.

“If you have forces all around Taiwan, then if you ever decide to invade, we have less warning because they have forces there all the time,” he explained. “So they try to lower the warning time of what an invasion will look like. If they don’t have forces there and then they put forces there, we'd be alarmed. But, if you always have forces there, it’s hard for us to know at what point are they serious about attacking Taiwan?”

Despite the risk he sees of China being able to attack Taiwan with minimal warning, Brig. Gen. Bacon said support for Taiwan is of both moral and strategic importance to the United States.

“I think we have a moral obligation. You have 23 million people that have embraced our way of life. They want freedom, they like free markets, they have about 85 percent of the [world’s] high-end computer chips there. So that is a strategic value,” he said. “But I think more than anything, we stand by free people. And it’s not right for China to want to dominate the Taiwanese who want their freedom.”

Brig. Gen. Bacon said he wants the United States to send Taiwan sufficient weapons to deter the Chinese regime and to generally forge closer ties with Taiwan, while confronting the regime about human rights abuse allegations against its ethnic and religious minorities, like the Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Falun Gong practitioners.

Brig. Gen. Bacon was one of at least three U.S. officials whose email systems were targeted in a recent suspected Chinese cyber intrusion attack. He took the fact that they targeted him as a badge of honor.
“When I talked to the FBI and the attorney general about it, the U.S. Attorney General, he says ‘Don, it means you’re doing something right. They fear what you’re saying’ for them to select my email out of 435 Members of Congress and 100 senators,” he said.

How Countries Will Handle Taiwan Invasion

Defending Taiwan from a Chinese attack could prove costly. A wargame conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in January—which analyzed a Chinese amphibious assault of the island—found that an alliance of the United States, Taiwan, and Japan was able to win out in most scenarios, but the allies lost dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and tens of thousands of servicemembers in the clash.
Following another set of wargames hosted for members of Congress this spring, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) concluded Taiwan had little hope without the United States arming it “to the teeth” before a war breaks out. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), another participant in the wargame, concluded that a war between China and the United States “would be devastating and catastrophic for humanity,” adding “there is no winner in this.”

Other countries in the Indo-Pacific region may be starting to band together out of shared concern about China.

“It is interesting to see Japan and South Korea do more together,” the retired Air Force officer said. “Historically, they have not had close ties, but China’s behavior is forcing its neighbors to band together. And then they want to know, ‘Why do the neighbors all dislike us?’ Well it’s because China is so threatening in their behavior.”

Avoiding Government Shutdown

Outside of China-related policy, Brig. Gen. Bacon is looking ahead to a looming battle over the U.S. budget.

It could prove difficult to pass a government budget between a Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate and a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Potentially complicating matters further, Republicans in the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus have called on their more moderate Republican colleagues to implement significant cuts on discretionary spending, especially after dissatisfaction with the debt-limit compromise at the end of May.

Last month, the House Freedom Caucus called to cap government discretionary spending at $1.471 trillion and expressed willingness to hold out for such terms, even if it brings about a government shutdown.

Brig. Gen. Bacon said he would prefer to pass what’s known as a continuing resolution or CR, to avoid a government shutdown while budget negotiations continue.

“I believe we should do a short-term CR, we’ve always known that. We built that into the debt ceiling plan, to have a short term CR through the end of the summer,” he said. “But if it’s after the summer, then we do a 1 percent across the board cut, to incentivize government to get the budget done.”

He said it would be a “tall order” to get the budgets done by September and lawmakers should prepare to continue negotiations into October or November.

“If we can get it done in October, November, I'd say it’s still a success if we get all these appropriations done,” Brig. Gen. Bacon said. “There are a few people who want to shut the government down. I think it’s foolhardy. It’s foolish, and the American people want us to govern and be good shepherds of our government and our country.”