The U.S. and China will likely be at war over Taiwan in 2025, a high-ranking American military officer has warned.
U.S. Air Force General Mike Minihan outlined the series of circumstances that would embolden Chinese president Xi Jinping to invade Taiwan in a memo sent Friday to leaders of Air Mobility Command, which he heads.
"I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025. Xi secured his third term and set his war council in October 2022. Taiwan's presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a reason. United States' presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a distracted America. Xi's team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025," Minihan wrote in the memo, first reported by NBC News.
As head of Air Mobility Command, Minihan oversees the Air Force's fleet of transport and refueling aircraft. In the memo, he urged personnel to "consider their personal affairs" and be more aggressive about training.
"If you are comfortable in your approach to training," he wrote, "then you are not taking enough risk." He directed airmen to "fire a clip into a 7-meter target with the full understanding that unrepentant lethality matters most."
"Aim for the head," he added.
China's big military exercises
"These comments are not representative of the department's view on China," a U.S. defense official told Reuters in response to the memo.
China considers Taiwan its own, but the latter operates as an independent democracy and has never been controlled by Beijing. In the past few years, China has been flying larger sorties of warplanes near Taiwan, including large-scale exercises it held when U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in August.
It's also increased its military presence in the South China Sea, including on bases built atop reefs-turned-artificial islands in disputed waters. Some of those reefs are claimed by the Philippines, where President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. this month called U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan "very, very worrisome for us," adding he expected Manila's military ties with America to deepen.
If China invades Taiwan
In November, Citadel CEO Ken Griffin warned of the economic impact if China invades Taiwan and seizes its semiconductor industry, which America is "utterly and totally dependent on" for computer chips. "If we lose access to Taiwanese semiconductors, the hit to U.S. GDP is probably in the order of magnitude of 5% to 10%," he said. "It's an immediate Great Depression."
Bill Gates called China's rise a "huge win for the world" earlier this week, warning, "I do think the current mentality of the U.S. to China, and which is reciprocated, is kind of a lose-lose mentality." He added that the current hawkishness toward China in the U.S. could become "self-fulfilling in a very negative way."
In an op-ed published Thursday in the Wall Street Journal, former Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy Seth Cropsey also warned of a possible war with China over Taiwan. Like Minihan, he pointed to Taiwan's 2024 election. He noted that Taiwan's vice president, Lai Ching-te, a fierce supporter of Taiwan's independence, took over chairmanship of the ruling party last week.
"China will now almost certainly seek to meddle in Taiwan's 2024 election in an attempt to keep Mr. Lai from winning the presidency," Cropsey wrote. "If he does win, Beijing could move quickly to invade."
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com