While Donald Trump is tweeting his new year's greetings to his friends, and especially enemies, China is thinking three weeks ahead to the day the president-elect is officially inaugurated, and is worried what that could mean for a suddenly empowered Taiwan, whose outreach to Trump now means that the long-standing "One China" policy is now a topic of negotiation. As a result, Reuters reports that China's military, alarmed by Trump's support of Taiwan, is considering strong measures to prevent the island from moving toward independence.
With China's only aircraft carrier demonstratively passing in close proximity to Taiwan last week, and currently in the contested area inside the South China Sea, it is not surprising that according to Reuters' sources, one measure being contemplated is conducting war games near the self-ruled island. More troubling is that as Reuters' sources add, another measure "was a series of economic measures to cripple Taiwan."
And since Taiwan is among the main sources of global high-tech, semiconductor fabrication and production, an economically "crippled" Taiwan suddenly becomes a potential gray swan for a world reliant on instant access to technological components to grow.
Adding to concerns of a potential "hot" conflict between China and Taiwan, while Reuters sources admitted that it was not clear if any decisions had yet been taken, the Taiwan issue had become a hot topic within the upper echelons of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) in recent weeks.
"If Trump challenges 'one China' after becoming president, this would cross our red line," said another source, who has ties to China's leadership.
While the defense ministry declined to comment, Reuters said that an official at the ministry's news department said China's position was clearly laid out in the 2005 Anti-Secession Law, which authorizes the use of force against Taiwan in the event China judges it to have seceded.
Asked about any possible aggressive moves from China, Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-shi said: "We are fully prepared, and plan for the worst while preparing for the best."
Meanwhile, Taiwan president Tsai, who took power this year, says she wants to maintain peace with China, but China is unconvinced. Tsai said on Saturday that Taiwan will be "calm" when facing issues to do with China, but uncertainties next year will test the self-ruled island and its national security team.
Beijing has also been angered by a trip planned by Tsai in January to Latin America in which she will transit through Houston and San Francisco. China has urged the United States to block the stopovers, but the US refused to comply.
The silver lining is that Chinese officials have blamed Taiwan for creating the recent diplomatic trouble rather than accuse Trump, and many believe he will be more accommodating to China once in office. That remains to be seen. "We're ready. If Taiwan wants to make trouble so can we. Let's hit them hard," said an official in Beijing who meets regularly with China's most senior military officers, including those who work directly with President Xi Jinping.
"We can hold exercises close to Taiwan, and show them the damage we could cause. Taiwan will have to give in then," the official added, citing a recent conversation with one of the military officers. Unless, of course, Taiwan doesn't "give in", and instead pushes for further diplomatic ties with the US.
But the worst-case scenario would be an economic blockade of the small, but crucial in global technological supply-chains island.
A retired senior officer who maintains contacts with the PLA told Reuters that China probably wouldn't need to fire any missiles to bring Taiwan to its knees. China is Taiwan's largest trading partner, and Taiwan runs a huge trade surplus with China, worth $27 billion in 2015.
"We can just cut them off economically. No more direct flights, no more trade. Nothing. Taiwan would not last long," the officer said. "There would be no need for war."
He added that any Western economic blockade of China put in place in the event of war with Taiwan would also be damaging to China, already dealing with a slowing economy. What is disturbing is that China has already considered the implications of a scenario in which a conventional war on Taiwan is declared.
As for the American response, a US defense official told Reuters that Chinese actions had been more provocative in the past month, since Trump won the U.S. election and made comments about Taiwan, and culminated this month when a Chinese naval flotilla headed by its sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, took part in drills that took it around Taiwan. It remains unclear who, how and why tensions surrounding Taiwan will be defused in the near future.