Artillerymen assigned to the PLA Xinjiang Military Command operate a PL-66 152 mm towed gun-howitzer to attack mock targets during a live-fire test in China's Xinjiang Uygur region. ( by Zhai Yangyang)

Legendary CIA agent James Jesus Angleton lived and thrived in what he called “the wilderness of mirrors,” his favorite phrase for Soviet deception operations. 

Nothing is ever as it seems, but then again, it could be. Such is the dilemma of the intelligence operative.

Case in point — a former UK MI6 operative, is warning that China is edging closer to war with the United States, reported.

According to former MI6 deputy director Nigel Inkster, Xi Jinping is losing patience, and China is “edging closer” to confrontation with the US over Taiwan.

Furthermore, he claims that Beijing has concluded that “peaceful efforts are no longer possible.”

China is on the verge of concluding that its ambitions to annex Taiwan will only succeed “through armed means.”

On a scale of one to ten, the likelihood of a military clash between China and the US is “as high as eight,” said Inkster, who spoke to LBC London this morning.

LBC is a British phone-in and talk radio station owned and operated by Global and based in its headquarters in London.

Whether Inkster is reading the signals correctly or not, remains to be seen.

Former President Nixon called it the “Madman theory.”

The Nixon White House tried to make the leaders of hostile Communist Bloc nations think he was irrational and volatile.

According to the theory, those leaders would then avoid provoking the US, fearing an unpredictable American response.

It’s possible Xi is stealing a page from “Tricky Dick.” Or is he?

To complicate matters, Beijing’s aggressive actions are pushing rival countries closer together, according to one policy expert.

“China is increasingly hemming itself in. Whatever objectives it might harbor for the Indo-Pacific, it’s getting in its own way,” said Ali Wyne, senior analyst for Global Macro at Eurasia Group.

According to former MI6 deputy director Nigel Inkster, Xi Jinping is losing patience, and China is “edging closer” to confrontation with the US over Taiwan. Credit: Handout.

Meanwhile, Taiwan declared an unprecedented US$9 billion increase in military spending the day before to meet China’s threat — a development that will not go over well in Beijing.

There is also danger that the highly controversial AUKUS defence treaty between the UK, the US, and Australia may drag Britain into a battle with China over Taiwan.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, called the AUKUS pact an example of a “obsolete cold war zero-sum thinking.”

“On a scale of one to 10, how likely is it that we’ll see a military clash between America and China over this issue?” LBC host Matt Frei questioned Inkster.

“Right now, we’re up to eight,” Inkster replied.

“The best-case scenario is that both China and the United States realize they are on an equal footing militarily, with neither having a significant edge, said Inkster.

“This acknowledgement could help to keep the peace, even if it is shattered. That is our only ray of hope.”

“We may be approaching a tipping point when the Chinese party-state believes that peaceful reunification with Taiwan is not possible,” Inkster added.

As if on cue, this week China sent 24 fighter jets toward Taiwan in a large display of force Thursday, after the self-governing island announced its intention to join an 11-nation Pacific trade group that China has also applied to join, AP reported.

China’s People’s Liberation Army flew fighter jets toward Taiwan twice on Thursday, once in the morning with 19 planes, and once in the afternoon with five more.

Taiwan deployed air patrol forces in response to the Chinese jets and tracked them on its air defense systems, the island’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

As Inkster spoke, across the pond at the Air, Space & Cyber conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Air Combat Command’s Gen. Mark D. Kelly told attendees that China must be challenged, Air Force magazine reported.

A fighter jet attached to an air force base under the PLA Southern Theater Command taxis on the runway of a military airport in south China before takeoff for a joint training exercise involving multi-type fighter jets. ( by Fan Yishu)

The “cold, hard realities” are that the Air Force was superbly prepared and trained to defeat a peer adversary — Russia — 30 years ago, then achieved a highly lopsided victory in Iraq, Kelly said.

But in the last 20 years, USAF was optimized for combat in a “permissive environment” that didn’t test the force. During that same time, China was focused completely on “the high-end fight, and fighting us.”

China’s force structure and systems are “designed to inflict more casualties in the first 30 hours of combat than we’ve endured over the last 30 years in the Middle East,” Kelly said.

As the Air Force inventory has aged and diminished, the balance with China has tilted more toward Beijing, he added.

Kelly said Russia has been able to annex Crimea and China has claimed parts of the South China Sea “without firing a shot” because contesting those situations has become harder thanks to adversary air defenses.

To regain the advantage — “to be a resolute world power ”— the US, through its Air Force, has to be able to penetrate “highly contested sovereign [airspace],” Kelly asserted.

Nigel Inkster has worked at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) since 2007. He is the former Director of Future Conflict and Cyber Security and currently a Special Adviser at IISS.

Source:, Air Force magazine,, Wikipedia, IISS, CNBC