China appears determined on using force in Taiwan, with Russia's experience in Ukraine affecting Beijing's calculations on how, not whether, to invade, the head of the CIA said Wednesday.
Appearing at the Aspen Security Forum, Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns played down speculation that Chinese President Xi Jinping could move on Taiwan after a key Communist Party meeting later this year.
"The risks of that become higher, it seems to us, the further into this decade that you get," Burns said.
Burns said that China was "unsettled" when looking at Russia's five-month-old war in Ukraine, which he characterized as a "strategic failure" for President Vladimir Putin as he had hoped to topple the Kyiv government within a week.
"Our sense is that it probably affects less the question of whether the Chinese leadership might choose some years down the road to use force to control Taiwan, but how and when they would do it," Burns said.
He said that China is believed to have observed from Ukraine that "you don't achieve quick, decisive victories with underwhelming force."
"I suspect the lesson that the Chinese leadership and military are drawing is that you've got to amass overwhelming force if you're going to contemplate that in the future," he said.
China also has likely learned that it has to "control the information space" and "do everything you can to shore up your economy against the potential for sanctions," he added.
Burns, in line with previous US assessments, said that the United States does not believe that Beijing is offering military support to Russia despite rhetorical backing.
He said China has stepped up purchases of Russian energy but appears careful about not incurring Western sanctions.
China considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
China's defeated nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the mainland's civil war, but the island has since developed into a vibrant democracy and leading technological power.