China-Taiwan War Answers

Western response to the Ukraine deters China from attacking Taiwan

Stacey, May 18, 2022, Dr. Jeffrey A. Stacey is a former official in the Obama Administration and author of Integrating Europe. His forthcoming book is entitled, Full Spectrum Warfare: Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and the Fight for Global Democracy, Has Western Aid for Ukraine Deterred China in Asia?,

By responding to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s gamble with unexpected unity and strength, equally unintentionally, the Western allies have not only weakened Russia but appear to have deterred China from attacking Taiwan. Russia has stymied its ally China, unintentionally but perhaps definitively. China had every intention of following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this spring with a takeover of Taiwan. However, by responding to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s gamble with unexpected unity and strength, equally unintentionally, the Western allies have not only weakened Russia but appear to have deterred China from attacking Taiwan. President Xi Jinping endorsed Russia’s plan when Putin visited Xi during the Winter Olympics, hatching up an understanding that each in succession would try to take advantage of their mutual misperception of the West’s weakness. To China’s considerable dismay, however, it watched the United States lead a vaunted global coalition against Russia in defense of a country it was not formally obligated by treaty to defend. By contrast, China is well aware that the United States has a formal defense treaty with Taiwan. Chinese academics often provide an early tell as to what Xi and his coterie are planning in private. According to these tea leaves, China has been thwarted and its elites are distraught. In private chat rooms, Chinese generals are bemoaning their forces’ lack of battlefield experience, along with their perceived inability to win a war of information with the West. China has backed away from its full-throated public support of Russia’s war on Ukraine, for with a mercantilist export-dominated economy it simply cannot afford to be cut off from Western markets. China knows it has suffered for its support of Russia, particularly in diplomatic terms. Recently, several key countries have openly opposed Beijing, starting with Lithuania but more recently including harsh rhetoric from Georgia, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Finland, and especially the Czech Republic as Sweden announced it is upgrading its office in Taipei while Britain finalized a new security agreement with Japan. Moreover, prior to the populists adding insult to injury by losing in France and Slovenia, China conducted a summit with the EU that was a failure across the board (followed by the EU reporting China to the World Trade Organization for coercive actions against Lithuania, which is working with Taiwan on joint semiconductor production). China went directly into damage control mode in Central Europe, hoping to keep alive what it refers to as the “16 + 1” framework—what it has imagined as a proto alliance with a sizable swath of democratic Europe. But the Czech foreign minister inter alia poured scorn all over China for its support of Russia and declared the death of “16 + 1.” This has only further deterred China from attacking Taiwan, as it then feebly attempted to revive the defunct EU-China investment deal of 2020 by rather ironically ratifying two International Labor Organization conventions on forced labor. China may have just signed a defense pact with the tiny Solomon Islands, but aside from North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, China has few true allies to speak of. On the contrary, it is rapidly headed in the opposite direction having watched its reputation suffer even further when it announced an alliance with Russia “with no boundaries,” along with being the only powerful country not to denounce Russia over its war on democratic Ukraine. China was planning to wait to attack Taiwan, which it considers Chinese territory, until later this year after a series of major Communist Party meetings related to Xi’s quest to become the longest-serving president of China. Xi already engineered Party elevation of him to Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping’s level of official veneration and planned to cap off last week’s Party Congress with the subjugation of Taiwan in late summer to follow on from its successful stamping out of democracy in Hong Kong. However, China has made a series of additional stumbles that have contributed to its global demise, and further deterred it from attacking Taiwan. Recently, it supplied Russia-dominated Serbia with a cluster of ballistic missiles, pilloried Western democracies with Russian propaganda, failed to rein in North Korea, and bequeathed a deadly pandemic to the entirety of the world. At least China can credibly claim that its reputation is not suffering as badly as Russia’s, but it is not far behind. Even the lowly Solomon Islands told the West that it will not be hosting Chinese military installations. And of course, the Quad grouping of the United States, Australia, Japan, and India is rounding on China, along with the succession of Western naval armadas that recently sailed through the Taiwanese Strait (from the UK, France, and Germany) as yet another U.S. Navy destroyer just did. China has a lot to be held accountable for, but unlikely to go on this list is its erstwhile plan to take over Taiwan. The West and its allies need to maintain their vigilance with regard to China’s aggressive grand strategy. Xi may not get another chance, for China’s ability to project power abroad is already starting to suffer from its rapidly shrinking population at home.

The Pro is wrong – a China attack on Taiwan is not inevitable

Dr. Zheng Wang is the Director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS) and Professor in the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, May 1, 2022, Ukraine’s Wrong Lessons for Taiwan,

It’s also wrong to assume that a conflict between China and Taiwan is inevitable. There still remains a large space for peacemaking between the two parties as there has been no hatred or violence between the two societies. Additionally, Taiwan and China are deeply linked economically. In 2020, Taiwan’s trade surplus with mainland China and Hong Kong amounted to $86.7 billion. Over 400,000 Taiwanese are also currently working in mainland China, operating many successful corporations and small businesses. Furthermore, the two sides also share the same language and culture as over 95 percent of Taiwan’s 24 million people are Han Chinese, while about 92 percent of the population of mainland China are also Han Chinese. More importantly, China currently still operates under the policy of prioritizing a peaceful reunification with Taiwan and has the strategic patience to wait for this to occur. For the Taiwanese people, various national polls suggest that the majority of the population prefer the status quo stability rather than rushing for independence. Therefore, if we begin to prepare for war, we will lose the opportunity to make peace and avoid mutually undesirable violence.

China lacks the military capability to invade Taiwan

Pietrucca, May 18, 2022, Mike “Starbaby” Pietrucha retired from the Air Force as a colonel. He was an instructor electronic warfare officer in the F-4G Wild Weasel and the F-15E Strike Eagle, amassing 156 combat missions over 10 combat deployments. As an irregular warfare operations officer, he has two additional combat deployments in the company of U.S. Army infantry, combat engineer, and military police units in Iraq and Afghanistan, MATEUR HOUR PART I: THE CHINESE INVASION OF TAIWAN,

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine set off a flurry of handwringing over Taiwan. Russia, in this interpretation, “broke the ice” by attacking Ukraine, emboldening China versus Taiwan. But any such action by China would likely run into a similar buzzsaw of resistance, while lacking Russian advantages such as access to overland transit. Ukraine is not Taiwan, and regardless of what Chinese leadership thinks they are learning about the benefits of naked aggression, the People’s Liberation Army lacks the necessary power projection and sustainment capability and capacity to execute an opposed occupation of a densely urbanized island packed with citizens who have no interest in living under Communist rule. Since 1949, when the defeated Kuomintang retreated to Formosa, the Chinese Communist Party has maintained the fictional goal of “reunifying” Taiwan by force. That’s never been possible. Even after a victory on the mainland, China has never had the capability to take Taiwan, particularly in the face of US opposition in three successive Taiwan Strait crises. While the Chinese military has strengthened, re-organized, and reequipped with new technology, it’s still not possible. Yet despite publicly releasing data that shows how inadequate Chinese amphibious capabilities are, the Pentagon has dreaded the Taiwan scenario for over 20 years. The conventional wisdom remains that improvements in technology and capacity will somehow allow China to invade the island, notably highlighted in 2021 when Commander of the Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. Phil Davidson, postulated a Chinese attack against Taiwan by 2027. Adm. Charles Richard doubled down in early May, stating that China is “watching the war in Ukraine closely and will likely use nuclear coercion to their advantage in the future. Their intent is to achieve the military capability to reunify Taiwan by 2027 if not sooner.” It’s not clear what analysis backs up these assertions, as long-running studies of the Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute regularly conclude the opposite: China lacks the capability and the capacity to handle a full-scale invasion against a defended island country. Instead of viewing the Russian invasion of Ukraine as encouragement of authoritarian neighbors, China and the United States should look at it as a cautionary tale about what happens when amateurs go to war. One key fact about the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is that it is a party army first and a professional army second. It has not engaged in any major ground combat action since 1979, when the Chinese military invaded Vietnam, which ended in disaster for the aggressors. Vietnam was able to successfully resist, causing such a high casualty count that China was forced to withdraw due simply to attrition and the inability of the PLA to supply their own forces for combat operations. Looking further back we find that China’s navy has never fought a combat action of any significant size, intensity, or duration. China’s air force last participated in combat operations in the 1955 Yijiangshan Campaign, when they were used as aerial bombardment assets, targeting fixed positions. China’s military still struggles with joint operations. It has not had to plan a logistical campaign or deal with evacuation efforts for large numbers of casualties. All of these issues together would seem to spell doom for a complex, amphibious campaign.

China doesn’t have the logistics to support a Taiwan invasion

Pietrucca, May 18, 2022, Mike “Starbaby” Pietrucha retired from the Air Force as a colonel. He was an instructor electronic warfare officer in the F-4G Wild Weasel and the F-15E Strike Eagle, amassing 156 combat missions over 10 combat deployments. As an irregular warfare operations officer, he has two additional combat deployments in the company of U.S. Army infantry, combat engineer, and military police units in Iraq and Afghanistan, MATEUR HOUR PART I: THE CHINESE INVASION OF TAIWAN,

Equipment comparisons aside, it is not entirely clear that China has the logistical capabilities to move a large force ashore and support it. In an amphibious operation, getting all of the pieces and parts together in the proper sequence is a major challenge, and there is simply no substitute for combat experience. While two of the three landing zones in the American Zone were assaulted by green troops, the logisticians who planned and executed the assault were experienced and had the benefit of previous direct experience, to say nothing of lessons trickling in from the Pacific theater. Attempting an assault where every member of the planning staff and execution team is inexperienced is a recipe for confusion, if not outright catastrophe. The challenges faced from a logistical standpoint are greater than they were in 1943. Vehicles are heavier, fuel and ammunition consumption is higher, and captured gasoline is not terribly useful for the powerful diesel engines used by most fighting vehicles. The electronic systems of modern AFVs require them to be running most of the time, so that even standing still has a fuel penalty — a point illustrated well in Ukraine.

If a Chinese force is to effectively sustain itself in combat operations, it needs to bring up support forces, none of which can swim aboard by themselves and only a small fraction of which can fit in the LSTs. That means that ports are not optional, but the difference in ship designs between the 1930s and today has effects that reduce the ability to lift vehicles rather than increase it. Today’s container ships are not particularly useful for transporting vehicles and are largely dependent on intact port facilities for offload. Container ships with onboard cranes, called “geared” ships, do exist but compose less than 10% of the global container ship fleet. Thus, in order to transport containerized cargo, the Chinese military will need to gain control of a port.

The obvious method of movement of large numbers of vehicles is to use vehicle carriers, ranging from the big, dedicated roll-on/roll-off ships to seagoing ferries. Some of these ships are configured to carry passengers, while others are pure car and truck carriers. Extreme caution must be used when transporting heavy vehicles, as the high-clearance vehicle decks tend to be higher in the ship, threatening the ship’s stability when heavily laden. Many ships of this type were designed to carry empty vehicles from the factory to the market; vehicle ferries are more often required to carry loaded vehicles (plus drivers and passengers). The ability to carry 36-ton AFVs was generally not a design consideration when these classes of ships were designed.

Therefore it is necessary to capture a port relatively intact, but even then, the landing forces are vulnerable. The war in Ukraine illustrated this point when an unexplained explosion occurred on the Alligator-class Assault Transport BDK-65 Saratov, pier side in the captured Ukrainian port of Berdyansk. Surveillance video of the port showed a single small explosion, followed by a large secondary explosion 21 seconds later that started a fire aboard the ship and led to further explosions. Two neighboring Ropucha-class transports, Tsesar Kunikov and Novocherkassk, were showered with flaming debris and suffered casualties, but managed to move off and extinguish their deck fires.

China won’t attack Taiwan unless the US offers military support for Taiwan’s independence

Xuetong, May 2, 2022, YAN XUETONG is Distinguished Professor and Dean of the Institute of International Relations at Tsinghua University, China’s Ukraine Conundrum: Why the War Necessitates a Balancing Act,

This is not the first time Beijing has found itself caught between major rival powers. Between 1958 and 1971, the People’s Republic of China faced the most hostile international environment in its brief history. During this period, it had to confront strategic threats from the United States and the Soviet Union simultaneously. In response, the Chinese government devoted all its economic resources to preparing for a full-scale war against one of the two powers. To better shield its industrial base from attack, it moved many factories from more developed areas in eastern China to underdeveloped and mountainous western areas, hiding them in artificial caves. This large-scale industrial reorganization plunged China into a significant economic hardship, causing severe commodity shortages and widespread poverty.  The memory of this awful history has informed China’s response to the war in Ukraine and hardened its commitment to avoid getting sandwiched between Washington and Moscow once again. Official Chinese statements have thus been finely calibrated to avoid provoking Russia. In an interview in March, for instance, Qin made clear that Beijing seeks a cooperative relationship with Moscow but does not support its war in Ukraine. “There is no forbidden zone for cooperation between China and Russia, but there is also a bottom line, which is the tenets and principles established in the UN Charter,” he said. In a press briefing on April 1, Wang Lutong, director-general of European affairs at China’s Foreign Ministry, sought to walk a similarly fine line: “We are not doing anything deliberately to circumvent the sanctions against Russia imposed by the US and the Europeans,” he said, adding that “China is not a related party to the crisis in Ukraine.” In choosing a middle path on Ukraine, China has refrained from providing military aid to Moscow but maintained normal business relations with Russia, a decision that other countries have also made. For example, India—a strategic partner of the United States—has adopted a similar stance, drawing a clear distinction between military and economic affairs. Even some NATO countries have continued to buy Russian gas to heat homes through the winter. If the war in Ukraine drags on, more countries may start mimicking China’s balancing policy to minimize their own economic losses caused by the war.  As the world’s second-largest economic power, China intends to play an important role in shaping global economic norms. But it has no ambition to play a leading role in global security affairs, especially in matters of war, because of the huge military disparity between it and the United States. Shaping a peaceful environment favorable to China’s economic development remains an important diplomatic goal. As long as the United States does not offer military support for a Taiwanese declaration of de jure independence, China is unlikely to deviate from this path of peaceful development.

China won’t attack Taiwan

Goddard, May/June 22, STACIE E. GODDARD is Mildred Lane Kemper Professor of Political Science and Paula Phillips Bernstein ’58 Faculty Director of the Albright Institute at Wellesley College, Foreign Affairs, The Outsiders How the International System Can Still Check China and Russia,

The growing alarm about China’s and Russia’s revisionism has amplified calls for the United States to abandon its institutionalist strategy and instead embrace traditional realpolitik. The goal is no longer integration; it is deterrence: the United States must ensure that its military and alliances are strong enough to dissuade China and Russia from using force to achieve their aims. This was the stated approach of the Trump administration. Its 2017 National Security Strategy argued that while the United States would still “seek areas of cooperation with competitors,” its primary aim would be to “deter and if necessary, defeat aggression against U.S. interests and increase the likelihood of managing competitions without violent conflict.”

The United States needs to embrace a strategy of institutional realpolitik.

But turning away from institutional engagement with revisionist powers would be a mistake. Although military instruments remain important, the United States already holds a sizable advantage in military power over all its rivals, and any increased investment would matter only on the margins. And given that no major power today wants to engage in a large-scale conventional or nuclear war, it is doubtful that military power would be the weapon of choice in direct international political rivalries. Revisionists will continue to use force, but only in places where they believe the United States and its allies are unlikely to directly counter their violence. Washington was unable to deter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it remains improbable that Putin will directly attack a NATO member. Even in Taiwan, Beijing is not liable to turn to force if it can avoid it. There is no reason to risk escalation with the United States and its Asian allies if economic and diplomatic instruments are just as likely to secure Chinese aims.

Western response to Ukraine means China won’t attack Taiwan

Allison & Yaldin, 3-24, 22, Graham T. Allison is the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is the former director of Harvard’s Belfer Center and the author of Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? Amos Yadlin is former Chief of Israel’s Defense Intelligence and a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Piercing the Fog of War: What Is Really Happening in Ukraine?,

Could Xi now be having second thoughts about the “no limits” partnership with Moscow that the 5,000-word communique that capped the Xi-Putin summit at the opening of the Beijing Olympics declared? Certainly, he and his colleagues have to be thinking about: the underperformance of Russian soldiers, weaponry, and logistics; the rapid and massive response of the “Global West,” including Japan and Australia, that is willing to upend decades of economic, financial, and trade relationships to punish aggression; the beginning of the end for Putin, who will become an isolated pariah regardless of the outcome of the war; the growing domestic disturbances across Russia; the promise of prolonged popular resistance or insurgency in Ukraine even if Russia sacks Kyiv and installs a puppet regime On the other hand, if the U.S.-led sanctions and other forms of economic warfare were to prove effective in crippling Russia, China has to fear that it could be the next target. If the West were to succeed in “canceling” Putin, his circle of oligarch supporters, and other Putinistas, China would have to be concerned about its own vulnerabilities to something similar. Thus, at this point, we have seen no concrete evidence to suggest that China is seeking to constrain Russia’s war. If Russia had achieved a quick victory at low costs, and the West’s response essentially mirrored the sanctions imposed after Crimea, the likelihood of a Chinese move against Taiwan would have increased. Watching the performance of what Putin had advertised as a new modern army with the capacity to “fight and win,” the repeated breakdowns and malfunctions of Russia’s most modern military equipment and logistics, and the ferocity of the U.S.-led Western response, we suspect Beijing is pausing to review its plans for military action against Taiwan.

Ukraine doesn’t mean China will attack Taiwan

Symington W. Smithm, May 6, 2022, Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Has Little to Do With Taiwan,

Comparisons that claim Vladimir Putin’s invasion is a turning point for Taiwan are simply not based on evidence. After a military buildup near the Ukrainian border starting in 2021, Russia moved its armed forces into separatist-controlled regions of Ukraine on February 22, 2022, and then launched a full-scale, still-ongoing invasion of Ukraine two days later. Russian president Vladimir Putin has been widely condemned by Western countries, including by entire blocs like the European Union, which have issued some of the toughest sanctions ever on Russia. News outlets and experts have been quick to publish a range of analyses drawing comparisons between the Russo-Ukrainian War and the ongoing tensions between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. This was not just limited to pundits or news outlets, however. World leaders also offered their own Taiwan takes. British prime minister Boris Johnson, for example, stated that “echoes” of the Ukraine situation “will be heard in Taiwan.” Although seemingly understandable, statements like these are the result of lazy thinking and bad history, often blurted out by those who have little experience with East Asia. In reality, there is little similarity between Ukraine and Taiwan, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry was quick to point this out. Regardless of where one personally stands on the matter, the Russian invasion of Ukraine means little when it comes to analyzing cross-strait relations. There are four reasons for this. First, there is geography and demographic makeup. In regard to the former, Taiwan is an island, though it is 100 miles off the coast of China. Ukraine, on the other hand, is bordered by seven different European countries, and its access to the world’s oceans is limited. This makes a serious difference when it comes to military strategy, logistics, and so forth. China cannot send troops over land as Russia has in its invasion of Ukraine. Due to geography, any campaign by Mainland China to retake Taiwan militarily would be naval in nature, which is significantly riskier and less straightforward than a spirited charge across open steppes. For the Russian military, Ukraine is a neighboring country whose climate is similar to parts of Russia’s own. It also has many entry points over land from which to invade. For China, Taiwan is instead an island fortressone that is now armed to the teeth and surrounded by waters that know no master. As any military strategist knows, battles over land and sea are entirely different. The Mongol Empire under Kublai Khan learned this lesson the hard way when, in the thirteenth century, despite having conquered as far west as Europe through a series of successful land wars, they attempted to conquer Japan. The endeavor was a disastrous failure. When it comes to demographics, the situation is, again, incredibly different. Ukraine, a country with an estimated population of around 41.2 million, is the eighth most populous country in Europe. Ethnically, it is inhabited by some 77 percent of Ukrainians—an ethnic group that is distinct from Russians. The remainder of the population is an assortment of different ethnic groups, including an estimated 17 percent Russian. This makes Ukraine and Russia two ethically different states. Compare this to Taiwan, which is highly similar ethnically to Mainland China. Taiwan is inhabited by a much smaller 23.45 million inhabitants, of whom 95 to 97 percent are Han Chinese. Second, there is history, language, and culture. Ukraine has a tumultuous history stretching far back into the Middle Ages. It’s been a kingdom, a vassal state of the Mongols, annexed by Polish King Casimir III the Great, existed as part of the Russian Empire, experienced rough periods as a Cossack Hetmanate, engaged in experiments with socialism as the Ukrainian People’s Republic, and even become a founding member of the Soviet Union. It is only relatively recently, in the eyes of history, that it became independent as we know it today. Compared to Ukraine, Taiwan’s history is much simpler. In the seventeenth century, Han Chinese immigration began to Taiwan when it was then a Dutch colony. It was annexed as early as 1683—339 years ago—by the Qing dynasty, and then ceded to the Empire of Japan in 1895. When the Qing were overthrown, the new Republic of China, run by the Nationalist government, took control of Taiwan in 1945. It then engaged in a civil war with the Chinese Communist Party, lost, and retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Mainland China and Taiwan thus share strong cultural and linguistic ties. These are deep enough that, despite the current political situation, Taiwanese residents who travel to the Mainland can attain a document popularly called the “Taiwan Compatriot Permit.” This permit accords Taiwanese residents with many of the same legal rights and access to social services that Mainland Chinese enjoy. Likewise, Mainland Chinese also have a similar document for traveling to Taiwan. Nuances like this change the cultural context of potential conflict with Taiwan drastically. Third, there’s the treaty situation. Lazy comparisons between the situations in Ukraine and Taiwan forget that Ukraine and the United States are not bound by any treaty, whereas such is indeed the case with Taiwan. Although the United States does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state, Washington and Taipei are linked through the Taiwan Relations Act. Passed in 1979, it requires the United States “to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character,” and “to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.” The fact that this treaty exists between the United States and Taiwan, and that no such similar arrangement exists between Ukraine and the United States, changes the situation on the ground entirely. It means that China would face a vastly different set of consequences should it decide on the armed military reunification of Taiwan. Putin does not have any treaties like this hindering him as he invades Ukraine. Fourth and finally, there is public support. Most Americans sympathize with Ukraine and are in support of sending financial aid, but are against sending American troops to defend it. Taiwan is different. Alarmist, hawkish headlines and risky policy promotion by American officials have led a slight majority of Americans to favor sending troops to Taiwan. Just like treaties, this shifts a hypothetical Chinese conflict with Taiwan into a vastly different arena than the one unfolding in Ukraine. Yes, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is against international law. Yes, it’s against everything the liberal international rules-based order stands for. But will the West send soldiers to fight and shed blood, sweat, and tears? Highly unlikely. This might not be the case in Taiwan. Regrettably, officials like U.S. Air Force commander Kenneth S. Wilsbach have also jumped the bandwagon and claimed that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine provides China with a playbook for Taiwan. But far away from Washington and armed with the facts, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine does not provide China with any meaningful “playbook.” Continuing to insist that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is something that can be compared with Taiwan is an ideological statement not at all based on empirical evidence. Putin is weathering international condemnation, fury, and heavy sanctions for his decision. But it is unlikely he will see any meaningful military pushback from the rest of Europe or its allies. Ukraine is a conflict Putin will, for better or worse, likely win. China risks much more if cross-strait relations turn hot. It would have to endure everything that’s been thrown at Putin, yet at the same time also contend with a military conflict possibly involving foreign forces deployed in Taiwan’s defense. Although China will likely win, as suggested by war games conducted by the U.S. military, this is still a different scenario with dramatic consequences—one no Chinese leader would blindly take. Although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a regrettable turn of events and a humanitarian crisis, in regard to Taiwan, it means little. Comparisons that claim Putin’s invasion is a turning point for Taiwan are simply not based on evidence. Defense experts, foreign policy analysts, and other interested parties would do better focusing their attention and

No Taiwan invasion

Thompson 20—(former US Defence Department official responsible for managing bilateral relations with China, currently a visiting senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore). Thompson, Drew. 2020. “Beijing Is Unlikely to Invade Taiwan During the Pandemic.” Foreign Policy, May 11, 2020.

Yet despite the triumphal tone in public, China is far from ready to launch an invasion of Taiwan. China’s leaders are far from confident in the Communist Party’s ability to remain in power, to the point of paranoia, and continually emphasize the threats and risks that they face, both internally and externally. China’s top think tank affiliated with the Ministry of State Security, the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, reportedly advised party members in an internal report to prepare for armed conflict with the United States, which is driving global anti-China sentiment in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic to levels not seen since 1989. Initiating a war over Taiwan in the face of both internal and external threats is the greatest risk imaginable. Regardless of these risks, invading Taiwan would not be a cakewalk. Taiwan has been upgrading and reforming its defense over the past decade, adopting an asymmetric strategy designed to capitalize on its strengths to counter PLA power projection capabilities. U.S. President Donald Trump’s unpredictability, and his administration’s steadfast support for Taiwan, makes it impossible for Xi to believe China’s hawks who claim that the United States is unwilling to brave the costs of coming to Taiwan’s defense. Japan’s steady turn away from China also raises doubt about whether it would sit out a Taiwan contingency. An even bigger factor is the global economic impact of the pandemic and whether or not economic decline in China is long- or short-term and whether it causes persistently high unemployment, public dissatisfaction, and domestic unrest, which will focus the immediate attention of senior leaders in Beijing to these internal challenges. The uncertainty of the global economy, shifting trade and investment trends, and high debt-to-GDP ratios also argue against Beijing starting a potentially costly war.

No Taiwan war

Greer 18 [T. Greer is a writer and analyst formerly based out of Beijing. His research focuses on the evolution of East Asian strategic thought from the time of Sunzi to today. 9/25. “Taiwan Can Win a War With China.”]

Two recent studies, one by Michael Beckley, a political scientist at Tufts University, and the other by Ian Easton, a fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, in his book The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia, provide us with a clearer picture of what a war between Taiwan and the mainland might look like. Grounded in statistics, training manuals, and planning documents from the PLA itself, and informed by simulations and studies conducted by both the U.S. Defense Department and the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense, this research presents a very different picture of a cross-strait conflict than that hawked by the party’s official announcements.

Chinese commanders fear they may be forced into armed contest with an enemy that is better trained, better motivated, and better prepared for the rigors of warfare than troops the PLA could throw against them. A cross-strait war looks far less like an inevitable victory for China than it does a staggeringly risky gamble.

Chinese army documents imagine that this gamble will begin with missiles. For months, the PLA’s Rocket Force will have been preparing this opening salvo; from the second war begins until the day the invasion commences, these missiles will scream toward the Taiwanese coast, with airfields, communication hubs, radar equipment, transportation nodes, and government offices in their sights. Concurrently, party sleeper agents or special forces discreetly ferried across the strait will begin an assassination campaign targeting the president and her Cabinet, other leaders of the Democratic Progressive Party, officials at key bureaucracies, prominent media personalities, important scientists or engineers, and their families. The goal of all this is twofold. In the narrower tactical sense, the PLA hopes to destroy as much of the Taiwanese Air Force on the ground as it can and from that point forward keep things chaotic enough on the ground that the Taiwan’s Air Force cannot sortie fast enough to challenge China’s control of the air. The missile campaign’s second aim is simpler: paralysis. With the president dead, leadership mute, communications down, and transportation impossible, the Taiwanese forces will be left rudderless, demoralized, and disoriented. This “shock and awe” campaign will pave the way for the invasion proper. This invasion will be the largest amphibious operation in human history. Tens of thousands of vessels will be assembled—mostly commandeered from the Chinese merchant marine—to ferry 1 million Chinese troops across the strait, who will arrive in two waves. Their landing will be preceded by a fury of missiles and rockets, launched from the Rocket Force units in Fujian, Chinese Air Force fighter bombers flying in the strait, and the escort fleet itself. Confused, cut off, and overwhelmed, the Taiwanese forces who have survived thus far will soon run out of supplies and be forced to abandon the beaches. Once the beachhead is secured, the process will begin again: With full air superiority, the PLA will have the pick of their targets, Taiwanese command and control will be destroyed, and isolated Taiwanese units will be swept aside by the Chinese army’s advance. Within a week, they will have marched into Taipei; within two weeks they will have implemented a draconian martial law intended to convert the island into the pliant forward operating base the PLA will need to defend against the anticipated Japanese and American counter-campaigns.

This is the best-case scenario for the PLA. But an island docile and defeated two weeks after D-Day is not a guaranteed outcome. One of the central hurdles facing the offensive is surprise. The PLA simply will not have it. The invasion will happen in April or October. Because of the challenges posed by the strait’s weather, a transport fleet can only make it across the strait in one of these two four-week windows. The scale of the invasion will be so large that strategic surprise will not be possible, especially given the extensive mutual penetration of each side by the other’s intelligence agencies.

Easton estimates that Taiwanese, American, and Japanese leaders will know that the PLA is preparing for a cross-strait war more than 60 days before hostilities begin. They will know for certain that an invasion will happen more than 30 days before the first missiles are fired. This will give the Taiwanese ample time to move much of their command and control infrastructure into hardened mountain tunnels, move their fleet out of vulnerable ports, detain suspected agents and intelligence operatives, litter the ocean with sea mines, disperse and camouflage army units across the country, put the economy on war footing, and distribute weapons to Taiwan’s 2.5 million reservists.

There are only 13 beaches on Taiwan’s western coast that the PLA could possibly land at. Each of these has already been prepared for a potential conflict. Long underground tunnels—complete with hardened, subterranean supply depots—crisscross the landing sites. The berm of each beach has been covered with razor-leaf plants. Chemical treatment plants are common in many beach towns—meaning that invaders must prepare for the clouds of toxic gas any indiscriminate saturation bombing on their part will release. This is how things stand in times of peace.

As war approaches, each beach will be turned into a workshop of horrors. The path from these beaches to the capital has been painstakingly mapped; once a state of emergency has been declared, each step of the journey will be complicated or booby-trapped. PLA war manuals warn soldiers that skyscrapers and rock outcrops will have steel cords strung between them to entangle helicopters; tunnels, bridges, and overpasses will be rigged with munitions (to be destroyed only at the last possible moment); and building after building in Taiwan’s dense urban core will be transformed into small redoubts meant to drag Chinese units into drawn-out fights over each city street.

To understand the real strength of these defenses, imagine them as a PLA grunt would experience them. Like most privates, he is a countryside boy from a poor province. He has been told his entire life that Taiwan has been totally and fatally eclipsed by Chinese power. He will be eager to put the separatists in their place. Yet events will not work out as he has imagined. In the weeks leading up to war, he discovers that his older cousin—whose remittances support their grandparents in the Anhui countryside—has lost her job in Shanghai. All wire money transfers from Taipei have stopped, and the millions of Chinese who are employed by Taiwanese companies have had their pay suspended. Our private celebrates the opening of hostilities in Shanwei, where he is rushed through a three-week training course on fighting in the fetid and unfamiliar jungles of China’s south. By now, the PLA has put him in a media blackout, but still rumors creep in: Yesterday it was whispered that the 10-hour delay in their train schedule had nothing to do with an overwhelmed transportation system and everything to do with Taiwanese saboteurs. Today’s whispers report that the commander of the 1st Marine Brigade in Zhanjiang was assassinated. Tomorrow, men will wonder if rolling power outages really are just an attempt to save power for the war effort. But by the time he reaches the staging area in Fuzhou, the myth of China’s invincibility has been shattered by more than rumors. The gray ruins of Fuzhou’s PLA offices are his first introduction to the terror of missile attack. Perhaps he takes comfort in the fact that the salvos coming from Taiwan do not seem to match the number of salvos streaking toward it—but abstractions like this can only do so much to shore up broken nerves, and he doesn’t have the time to acclimate himself to the shock. Blast by terrifying blast, his confidence that the Chinese army can keep him safe is chipped away. The last, most terrible salvo comes as he embarks—he is one of the lucky few setting foot on a proper amphibious assault boat, not a civilian vessel converted to war use in the eleventh hour—but this is only the first of many horrors on the waters. Some transports are sunk by Taiwanese torpedoes, released by submarines held in reserve for this day. Airborne Harpoon missiles, fired by F-16s leaving the safety of cavernous, nuclear-proof mountain bunkers for the first time in the war, will destroy others. The greatest casualties, however, will be caused by sea mines. Minefield after minefield must be crossed by every ship in the flotilla, some a harrowing eight miles in width. Seasick thanks to the strait’s rough waves, our grunt can do nothing but pray his ship safely makes it across. As he approaches land, the psychological pressure increases. The first craft to cross the shore will be met, as Easton’s research shows, with a sudden wall of flame springing up from the water from the miles of oil-filled pipeline sunk underneath. As his ship makes it through the fire (he is lucky; others around it are speared or entangled on sea traps) he faces what Easton describes as a mile’s worth of “razor wire nets, hook boards, skin-peeling planks, barbed wire fences, wire obstacles, spike strips, landmines, anti-tank barrier walls, anti-tank obstacles … bamboo spikes, felled trees, truck shipping containers, and junkyard cars.” At this stage, his safety depends largely on whether the Chinese Air Force has been able to able to distinguish between real artillery pieces from the hundreds of decoy targets and dummy equipment PLA manuals believe the Taiwanese Army has created. The odds are against him: As Beckley notes in a study published last fall, in the 1990 to 1991 Gulf War, the 88,500 tons of ordnance dropped by the U.S.-led coalition did not destroy a single Iraqi road-mobile missile launcher. NATO’s 78-day campaign aimed at Serbian air defenses only managed to destroy three of Serbia’s 22 mobile-missile batteries. There is no reason to think that the Chinese Air Force will have a higher success rate when targeting Taiwan’s mobile artillery and missile defense. But if our grunt survives the initial barrages on the beach, he still must fight his way through the main Taiwanese Army groups, 2.5 million armed reservists dispersed in the dense cities and jungles of Taiwan, and miles of mines, booby traps, and debris. This is an enormous thing to ask of a private who has no personal experience with war. It is an even great thing to ask it of a private who naively believed in his own army’s invincibility.

This sketch makes sense of the anxiety the PLA officer manuals express. They know war would be a terrific gamble, even if they only admit it to each other. Yet it this also makes sense of the party’s violent reactions to even the smallest of arms sales to Taiwan. Their passion betrays their angst. They understand what Western gloom-and-doomsters do not. American analysts use terms like “mature precision-strike regime” and “anti-access and area denial warfare” to describe technological trends that make it extremely difficult to project naval and airpower near enemy shores. Costs favor the defense: It is much cheaper to build a ship-killing missile than it is to build a ship.

Taiwan War Answers – Pressure on China Causes War

China-Taiwan war would draw-in the US, destroy the economy, and collapse access to food and medical supplies, must avoid tilting the balance against China to avoid war

Dr. Zheng Wang is the Director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS) and Professor in the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, May 1, 2022, Ukraine’s Wrong Lessons for Taiwan,

Compared to the war in Ukraine, a war between China and Taiwan would have consequences that are much worse than is currently imagined. For one, any war between China and Taiwan would more likely involve an intervention by the United States, unlike in the Russo-Ukrainian War where it has simply supplied military equipment and resources. A direct confrontation between the PLA and American troops, two nuclear powers and the world’s two largest economies, would be both unthinkable and unpredictable.

As we have seen with the Russo-Ukrainian War, the war has had a large impact on the world economy and its markets, especially regarding oil and food. Yet a conflict between China, Taiwan, and the United States, would cause far greater disruption. China’s economy is the same size as the entire European Union, and China is also the largest trade partner with over 120 countries in the world. Furthermore, since China is a world factory, as its manufacturing output is larger than that of the United States, Japan, and Germany put together, any conflict would disrupt the trade of goods that many of its trading partners depend on to stabilize their society and feed their people. Disruptions to the supply chain from a country that serves as a factory for many of the world’s goods would be devastating. For example, China produces a big portion of pharmaceutical prescriptions and personal protective equipment (PPE) that the American people depend on. Any conflict with China would certainly disrupt this supply of needed medicine and medical supplies. Additionally, Taiwan is a leading producer of advanced chips globally; only one Taiwanese company—Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)— accounts for over 50 percent of the global chip market share. All of this makes it clear for rational people that a war between China and Taiwan should be avoided and actively prevented where possible.

Moreover, Taiwan is basically undefendable—many people would strongly disagree on this—but it is a sad reality, especially if one thinks of Taiwanese civilians and their welfare. Geography is Taiwan’s destiny. Compared with Ukraine, which is the second-largest country in Europe, Taiwan is just a little bigger than the size of Maryland and is seventeen times smaller than Ukraine. If Russia is having trouble supplying the war front in Ukraine, China will have no trouble doing so in Taiwan. Also, Taiwan would be very easy to isolate as it is an island. In the interest of the Taiwanese people, there are no readily available pathways to escape like Ukraine, as Taiwan is surrounded by water. Taiwan is also too close to Mainland China and the narrow 100-mile-wide strait makes effective missile defense for Taiwan extremely difficult.

Compared to Russia, China is the second-largest economy in the world with plenty of human and material resources that would be all focused on a collectively accepted strong vision for reunification. It would be a war that China has prepared for since 1949. For instance, the PLA has built several one-to-one reproductions of its major military targets in Taiwan, such as a major military airport and even Taiwan’s Presidential Office Building, to conduct many military exercises during the past seven decades. Numerous public opinion polls have also indicated that the Chinese have a strong consensus on national reunification with Taiwan. With decades of education and propaganda, this has become a collective belief and a part of the national identity as a group-shared objective. In terms of the determination, motivation, and public support at home during wartime, Beijing will likely upset Taipei and Washington, DC.

For Taiwan, if the war happens it will experience the worst consequences and damages, and it will be the Taiwanese that suffer the most from the war. Therefore, it is essential for Taiwan to fight for peace. Taiwanese society needs to openly debate whether Taiwan should maintain a more balanced approach toward China, including whether it belongs to Taiwan’s long-term interest to reduce anti-China sentiments and increase its neutrality in foreign relations. Taiwan could learn from Switzerland and a few other countries that put neutrality as its main principle of foreign policy. Neutrality would increase Taiwan’s security and chances for long-term peace rather than reduce them.

For China, an important lesson from Ukraine should be that launching an invasion of another democracy is unacceptable to the entire liberal international community. An invasion of Taiwan would have long and large negative consequences rather than bring China what it really wants. China needs to seriously consider the long-term consequences of governing Taiwan as unavoidable rebellions and resistances from the Taiwanese people should be expected. Moreover, Beijing’s dream to become a respected world power requires functional relations with the West. It belongs to China’s principal interest to avoid full confrontation and hostility with the entire West over Taiwan. Self-sufficiency and deepening ties with the developing world are important, but not a substitute.

For the United States, policymakers with a long-term strategic view should realize that to use Taiwan as a tool to contain or defeat China is desirable, but would be an extremely dangerous game to play as the consequences of such an action would be unpredictable. Rather than seeing its desired outcome, the United States would likely experience consequences that would be largely negative, deeply felt, and enduring. Even putting the economic consequences aside, one of the worst scenarios for the U.S. strategists would be for China to control Taiwan as this would break the first island chain of control and allow for China’s greater control of the Asia-Pacific. Moreover, even if there is failure and change in leadership as an outcome of a war, the best scenario for the United States, the next leader in line could be even more hawkish and nationalistic. History has shown how defeat and humiliation served by the West have motivated nationalistic responses in China and Russia in the past decades. Why would another war inspire anything different? Some strategists in the United States believe that providing arms to Taiwan could deter Chinese incursions. However, any arming of Taiwan could create a bad security dilemma, and could instigate and accelerate conflict between China, Taiwan, and the United States. China has been clear that its red line would include the arming of Taiwan with advanced offensive weaponry and the United States sending troops to station in Taiwan.

Concrete Measures for Making Peace

While the world has seen the consequences of the war in Ukraine, all three parties should realize that the war over Taiwan would be unpredictable and eventually unaffordable. Only after this is accepted can all three parties act to prevent war from breaking out. Promoting pathways for peace is the only way that we can all win. There are several concrete measures that the countries can take to facilitate peace rather than war.

Increasing ties to Taiwan risks conflict with China

Bloomberg, May 18, 2022,, China Warns US a ‘Dangerous Situation’ Forming Over Taiwan

(Bloomberg) — China’s top diplomat again warned the US over its increased support for Taiwan, showing the island democracy remains a major sticking point between the world’s biggest economies as Beijing sent more military aircraft toward the island. “If the US side insists on playing the Taiwan card and goes further and further down the wrong road, it will certainly lead to a dangerous situation,” Yang Jiechi, Beijing’s top diplomat, said in a phone call with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Yang said Washington should “have a clear understanding of the situation,” according to a statement posted online by his nation’s Foreign Ministry. “China will certainly take firm action to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests,” he added. The White House issued a short statement on the Wednesday call, saying the pair “focused on regional security issues and nonproliferation.” They also discussed Russia’s war against Ukraine and specific issues in U.S.-China relations, it added. The Yang-Sullivan call was the most high-level contact between the US and China since Joe Biden and Xi Jinping spoke in March, their first conversation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ties have remained frosty since then, with the nations sparring over Vladimir Putin, democracy in Hong Kong, forced labor allegations in Xinjiang and a range of other issues. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said on its website that four People’s Liberation Army aircraft, including a pair of J-16 fighter jets, entered its air defense identification zone on Wednesday, skirting close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait. China frequently lashes out at the US over its backing for Taiwan, saying it amounts to interference in its internal affairs. Xi told Biden in the March call that the issue could “have a disruptive impact on the relationship between the two countries” if it was not properly handled, and has referred to China’s quest to gain control of the democratically ruled island as a “historic mission.” Earlier this week, Admiral Michael Gilday, the top American naval officer, said Taiwan must prepare itself against potential Chinese aggression through military deterrence that includes getting the right weapons and training. Gilday said this was the a “big lesson learned and a wakeup call” following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Why Taiwan Is the Biggest Risk for a U.S.-China Clash: QuickTake The US has stepped up its backing for Taiwan since the war in Ukraine started, with a group of senior senators including Republican Lindsey Graham visiting last month. China responded to that trip by conducting air and naval training near the island. Last week, the State Department updated a Taiwan factsheet posted on its website, dropping a reference to not supporting the island’s independence, and describing it as “a leading democracy and a technological powerhouse.” It also said Taiwan was a key partner in the semiconductor industry and “other critical supply chains.” On Wednesday, more than 50 senators signed a letter urging Biden to include Taiwan as a partner in the proposed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, part of Washington’s efforts to counter China’s clout in Asia. Biden will hold a summit in Tokyo with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia as part of a trip to Asia that begins later this week. Those four nations form a grouping known as the Quad that is largely aimed at countering China’s influence. While the government of President Tsai Ing-wen asserts Taiwan is already a de facto independent nation in need of wider international recognition, Beijing claims it as part of its territory that must be brought under control by force if necessary. Tsai has played down worries Russia’s invasion could trigger a similar crisis for Taiwan in the near term. One of the reasons for that is the leadership in Beijing wants domestic stability before a twice-a-decade congress this year that is likely to hand Xi a precedent-defying third term in power.