China has made a decision to seize Taiwan on a "much faster timeline" than previously thought, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday after China's leader Xi Jinping reiterated his intent to take the island, by force if necessary.
"There has been a change in the approach from Beijing toward Taiwan in recent years," Blinken said in an event at Stanford University in California, according to Bloomberg.
The remarks from Biden's top diplomat on Monday come as China holds its twice-a-decade Communist party congress, and were in response to Xi Jinping's widely-watched, nearly two-hour-long speech on Sunday to say the "wheels of history are rolling on towards China's reunification" with Taiwan. While peaceful means were preferable, Xi added, "we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary."
According to Blinken, China has made a "fundamental decision that the status quo was no longer acceptable, and that Beijing was determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline." He didn't elaborate on the timing or provide other details.
Responding to Blinken's remarks on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin criticized the U.S. for selling billions in advanced weapons to Taiwan and accused the Biden administration of encouraging the island's move toward formal independence.
"Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese, a matter that must be resolved by the Chinese," Wang told reporters at a regular briefing. "We are ready to create vast space for peaceful reunification, but we will leave no room for separatist activities in any form."
As Bloomberg notes, although Biden administration officials have regularly accused China of eroding the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait, comments about Beijing's intentions with regard to an invasion are less common.
Observers are highly sensitive to any remarks that might provide insights into how senior officials in Beijing or Washington view the potential for war over Taiwan — an event that would have enormous geopolitical and economic consequences, particularly given President Joe Biden's repeated pledges that the U.S. would help defend the island.
The State Department didn't respond to questions on Monday whether Blinken's comments reflected any formal assessment that China has moved up its agenda for taking Taiwan - they probably didn't and the comment was merely an off the cuff comment by an administration that has lost all control and is alienating virtually every foreign power, from the Russia-China axis, to all of OPEC+. In March of last year, Admiral Philip Davidson, then commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that China wanted to take Taiwan "during this decade, in fact, in the next six years."