As head of Beijing's strategic nuclear forces and its fastest rising general, Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe had a reputation for "doing more and saying less." It was a methodical, determined approach that made him a clear favorite of President Xi Jinping, placing him at the heart of China's remarkable military revolution and its efforts to dominate the region.

Recently, however, in his first major international appearance, Wei chose to say a lot. At the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore — arguably Asia's premier diplomatic gathering — his speech and the question and answer session were unexpectedly aggressive, even by China's recent standards. He focused on two topics in particular: threatening Taiwan and defending the massacre of protesters in a Beijing square 30 years ago.

That may have been a mistake — particularly when it comes to Taiwan. Instead of intimidating China's potential enemies, Wei instead unified and motivated them — particularly empowering Taiwan's current government, which faces elections next year and has been desperate to persuade its population of the growing threat from China.