Friday, August 9, 2019

Invasion Taiwan - how it might happen, why it would be costly

[It started with a comment when China warned that if Taiwan tries to declared that they are an independent country, China was ready to defend their national interest with military force. This was the comment:
Ok, so here's the plan.
1) HK protesters escalate their... "protests" until Beijing sends in the Military.
2) When Beijing has committed troops to HK to quell the protests, Taiwan declares that they are independent and not just a "Rogue Province" of China. They may also want to send a diplomatic note Beijing: "nyah! nyah! nyah!" 
3) When the Chinese begin military operations to... "re-take" Taiwan, Vietnam and Philippines will then move to occupy the contested islands in the South China Sea - Paracels, Spratley, etc. 
4) I think Japan also has an island that they are contesting ownership with China? Dunno. If they do, they should move to... "protect" that island. 
5) Xinjiang Uighurs should watch closely the developments, and when China is fighting HK, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, they should declare independence. 
6) Meanwhile in Tibet, the people there should pray for peace... NAH! they can try to breakaway, too. 
7) At this point, the orang utan in the White House will do what he usually does. Or maybe someone might advise him that this is an opportunity to be seized. Or not. Who cares. 
Well, it's just a plan.
The tone suggests that this was not a serious plan, or at least not one to be taken seriously (certainly, the question would be whether the various factions are ready to breakaway). But part of China's problem is that even if it has almost a million soldiers, those soldiers are needed to keep the country together. Or Tibet might breakaway, Xinjiang might revolt, and... Hong Kong is already rioting.

But I was curious. 

How would Taiwan defend against a Chinese invasion? 

Surprisingly, I found that Taiwan's chances were actually quite good!

Like most people (?), I was under the impression that retaking Taiwan would be a walk in the park for China, with the size of her army, and military budget. And the only thing holding it back was the threat of the US coming to the rescue of Taiwan. 

BUT... Taiwan is prepared to defend itself WITHOUT overt US intervention.

These are the reports/articles I found.]

A Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be a bloody, logistical nightmare

By Ben Westcott


June 24, 2019

Taiwan (CNN) Roaring out of the sky, an F-16V fighter jet lands smoothly to rearm and refuel on an unremarkable freeway in rural Taiwan, surrounded by rice paddies.

In different circumstances, this could be alarming sight. Taiwan's fighter pilots are trained to land on freeways between sorties in case all of the island's airports have been occupied or destroyed by an invasion.

Luckily, this was a training exercise.

There's only really one enemy that Taiwan's armed forces are preparing to resist -- China's People's Liberation Army (PLA). And as China's reputation as an economic and military superpower has grown in recent years, so too has that threat of invasion, according to security experts.

Taiwan has been self-governed since separating from China at the end of a brutal civil war in 1949, but Beijing has never given up hope of reuniting with what it considers a renegade province.

At a regional security conference in June, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said: "If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs for national unity." In some shops in mainland China, you can buy postcards and T-shirts emblazoned with patriotic emblems promoting the retaking of Taiwan.

But for seven decades, China has resisted attacking Taiwan partly for political reasons, including the prospect of a US intervention and the potential heavy human toll. But the practical realities of a full-blown invasion are also daunting for the PLA, according to experts.

Ferrying hundreds of thousands of troops across the narrow Taiwan Strait to a handful of reliable landing beaches, in the face of fierce resistance, is a harrowing prospect. Troops would then have a long slog over Taiwan's western mudflats and mountains to reach the capital, Taipei.

Not only that, but China would face an opponent who has been preparing for warfor almost 70 years.

At mass anti-invasion drills in May, Taiwan military spokesman Maj. Gen. Chen Chung-Chi said the island knew it had to always be "combat-ready."

"Of course, we don't want war, but only by gaining our own strength can we defend ourselves," he said. "If China wants to take any action against us, it has to consider paying a painful price."

Difficult and bloody

It could be easy to assume that any invasion of Taiwan by Beijing would be brief and devastating for Taipei: a David and Goliath fight between a tiny island and the mainland's military might, population and wealth.

With nearly 1.4 billion people, the People's Republic of China has the largest population in the world. Taiwan has fewer than 24 million people -- a similar number to Australia. China has the fifth largest territory in the world, while Taiwan is the size of Denmark or the US state of Maryland. And Beijing runs an economy that is second only to the United States, while Taiwan's doesn't rank in the world's top 20.

But perhaps most pertinently, China has been building and modernizing its military at an unprecedented rate, while Taiwan relies on moderate US arms sales.

In sheer size, the PLA simply dwarfs Taiwan's military.

China has an estimated 1 million troops, almost 6,000 tanks, 1,500 fighter jets and 33 navy destroyers, according to the latest US Defense Department report. Taiwan's ground force troops barely number 150,000 and are backed by 800 tanks and about 350 fighter aircraft, the report found, while its navy fields only four destroyer-class ships.

[How many of those 6000 tanks will be able to land on Taiwan's beaches?]

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the PLA has rapidly modernized, buoyed by rises in military spending and crackdowns on corruption in the army's leadership.

"China's leaders hope that possessing these military capabilities will deter pro-independence moves by Taiwan or, should deterrence fail, will permit a range of tailored military options against Taiwan and potential third-party military intervention," according to a 2019 US Defense Intelligence Agency report on China's military.

Yet while China hawks in the media might beat the drum of invasion, an internal China military study, seen by CNN, revealed that the PLA considers an invasion of Taiwan to be extremely difficult.

"Taiwan has a professional military, with a strong core of American-trained experts," said Ian Easton, author of "The Chinese Invasion Threat" and research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, as well as "highly defensible" terrain.

In his book he described an invasion by China as "the most difficult and bloody mission facing the Chinese military."

The plan to take Taiwan

China's Taiwan invasion plan, known internally as the "Joint Island Attack Campaign," would begin with a mass, coordinated bombing of Taiwan's vital infrastructure -- ports and airfields -- to cripple the island's military ahead of an amphibious invasion, according to both Easton and Sidharth Kaushal, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies.

At the same time, the Chinese air force would fly over the Taiwan Strait and try to dominate the island's air space. Once the PLA was satisfied it had suitably disabled Taiwan's air and naval forces, Kaushal said soldiers would begin to invade on the west coast of the island.

The island's rocky, mountainous east coast is considered too inhospitable and far from mainland China.

The amphibious invasion needed to put troops on Taiwan, however, could be the biggest hurdle facing the PLA.

In its 2019 report to Congress, the US Department of Defense said China -- which has one of the largest navies in Asia -- had at its command 37 amphibious transport docks and 22 smaller landing ships, as well as any civilian vessels Beijing could enlist.

[So, those 6000 tanks have to cross in 59 landing ships. Assuming the transport docks can take THREE tanks each, and the 22 smaller landing ships can take TWO tanks each, that would be about 150 tanks per crossing. Assuming NONE of the landing ships are intercepted or sunk on the way over. with 6000 tanks... that's 40 crossings if none of the landing ships are destroyed.]

That might be enough to occupy smaller islands, such as those in the South China Sea, but an amphibious assault on Taiwan would likely require a bigger arsenal -- and there is "no indication China is significantly expanding its landing ship force," the report said.

That makes it vital for Beijing to neutralize Taiwan's navy and air force in the early stages of an attack, Kaushal said.

"The Taiwanese air force would have to sink around 40% of the amphibious landing forces of the PLA in order to render this sort of mission infeasible," he said.

Essentially, that's only about 10 to 15 ships, he added.

If they did make it across the strait, the PLA would still need to find a decent landing spot for its ships.

China's military would be looking for a landing site both close to the mainland, and a strategic city, such as Taipei, with nearby port and airport facilities.

That leaves just 14 potential beaches, Easton said -- and it's not only the PLA that knows it. Taiwanese engineers have spent decades digging tunnels and bunkers in potential landing zones along the coast.

Furthermore, the backbone of Taiwan's defense is a fleet of vessels capable of launching anti-ship cruise missiles, on top of an array of ground-based missiles, and substantial mines and artillery on the coastline.

"Taiwan's entire national defense strategy, including its war plans, are specifically targeted at defeating a PLA invasion," Easton said.

Chinese troops could be dropped in from the air, but a lack of paratroopers in the PLA makes it unlikely.

If the PLA held a position on Taiwan, and could reinforce with troops from the mainland to face off about 150,000 Taiwan troops, as well as more than 2.5 million reservists, it would have to push through the island's western mud flats and mountains, with only narrow roads to assist them, towards Taipei.

Finally, the mobilization of amphibious landing vessels, ballistic missile launchers, fighters and bombers, as well as hundreds of thousands of troops, would give Taiwan plenty of advance warning of any attack, Kaushal said.

"It's extremely unlikely that the invasion could come as a bolt from the blue," Kaushal added.

Four US-made Apache attack helicopters launch missiles during the
35th "Han Kuang" military drill in southern Taiwan on May 30.
'The bad guy in the neighborhood'

There is, of course, one final deterrent to any PLA invasion of Taiwan.

It isn't clear whether or not such an attack by China would spark an intervention by the United States on Taipei's behalf.

Washington has been a longtime ally of the island, selling weapons to the Taiwan government and providing implicit military protection from Beijing.

Easton said that, at present, the US would likely intervene in Taiwan's favor, both to protect investment by US companies on the island and reassure American allies in the region, who are also facing down a resurgent PLA in the East and South China seas.

Collin Koh Swee Lean, research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies' Maritime Security Program in Singapore, said there would also be "immense political consequences" from taking over Taiwan, in the event of a successful China invasion.

"It will likely mean that China will be seen as the bad guy in the neighborhood, who uses force," he said. "It will alienate some regional partners and the good will which China has been trying to build over the years will evaporate. And it will set China on a collision course with the US."

But Taipei isn't taking anything for granted.

On the sidelines of the massive Han Guang drills, Taiwan's Maj. Gen. Chen pointed out the hundreds of spectators who had come out to watch and support the island's military.

"These exercises let people know the national army of the Republic of China is ready," he said.

Taiwan is taking no chances.

CNN's Serenitie Wang contributed to this article.

China’s Plan to Invade Taiwan By 2021

March 12, 2019

World powers are moving around Taiwan this year, and it looks as though Chinese President Xi Jinping has decided to annex Taiwan by 2021 when the Communist Party of China will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Military Action Against Taiwan

In the beginning of January, Xi gave an important speech to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” (1979), a message that requested a peaceful unification with Taiwan.

Xi’s Taiwan policy is based on 5 articles including a peaceful unification with Taiwan, and the implementation of the One Country Two Systems policy.

Xi mentioned “unification” forty-five times in his speech, and while saying that “Chinese people don’t attack other fellow Chinese people,” he later made contradictory a statement that, “We will not forgo military action against Taiwan.”

Two days later, Xi presided over a military activities council and ordered them to “Start at the beginning again and prepare for military combat.”

Xi clearly desires to become more powerful than any of his predecessors and to establish his absolute authority. Xi worships Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China and a man who possessed absolute authority, so much so that he has even been copying Mao’s words and actions.

In order to stand superior to Mao, Xi must do what Mao could not: annex Taiwan and reunify the fatherland.

In 1949, Mao defeated Chiang Kai-shek’s political party Kuomintang in a civil war. He subsequently founded the People’s Republic of China, and the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan.

Later Mao attempted Taiwan annexation many times, but his dream would never be realized. Japanese political scientist Shigeo Hiramatsu points out that Mao’s dream was to annex Taiwan before the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party in 2021. If Xi succeeds in annexing Taiwan he would surpass Mao as the most powerful leader in China.

Xi, who has abolished the presidential term limits and has been steadily constructing his dictatorship, probably wants to invade Taiwan before his second term ends in 2023 at the latest. He presented concrete aims to achieve this in his speech in January.

Lieutenant General He Lei of the People’s Liberation Army followed up by threatening that if Beijing were to annex Taiwan through military action, those people who support Taiwan’s independence would be treated as war criminals.

“Taiwan’s separatists must stop, reconsider, and return to the right path in order to avoid catastrophe,” he said. “Or else, you will become trash to China, and history will accuse you.”

This was effectively a purge declaration aimed at Taiwan’s pro-independence forces.

Additionally, in February, just before the Chinese New Year, the Beijing Air Force uploaded an official video hinting at their intention to use military means to unify Taiwan.

The video included footage of Beijing’s newest stealth aircrafts in flight alongside scenes of Taiwan’s Alishan National Scenic Area and the landmark skyscraper Taipei 101. No one can doubt that it is a threat saying that Beijing is prepared to annex Taiwan at a moment’s notice.

Taiwan Tsai Administration Resists

Taiwan has not been silent against Xi’s aggressive speech and his military threats.

Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen defied Xi’s desire to introduce the One Country Two Systems policy. “The people of Taiwan will never accept it,” she said. She wants the U.S., Japan and other countries to cooperate with Taiwan, she added.

“Democracy is a value that is highly prized by the people of Taiwan... Mainland China should also make the courageous step to democracy,” she said.

The approval rate for Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party was dwindling due to their ambiguous stance towards China and the insufficient provisions towards economic problems. But it has started to rise again ever since Tsai began to show resolute resistance against China’s intimidations.

The approval rate shot up from 19% to 61% when Tsai started to fire back at China.

The presidential elections scheduled for January 2020 will decide Taiwan’s fate. If the pro-China Kuomintang assume government there is a danger that it will aid Beijing in invading Taiwan.

The U.S. holds the key to Taiwan’s defense. The Trump administration has always been strengthening relations with Taiwan, a significant moment being the legislation of the Taiwan Travel Act that encourages U.S. high-level officials to visit Taiwan.

Many of Taiwan’s democracy activists have reciprocated by having a high opinion of the U.S. administration. There is, however, a danger that Trump may compromise on the China trade negotiations, and that makes it unclear whether the U.S. can continue to protect Taiwan.

Taiwan also wants Japan’s support, but Japan has suspended political relations with Taiwan in the hope of pleasing China. Nor has Japan made the effort to legislate a Relations Act that could allow them to aid in Taiwan’s defense in case of emergency.

But Taiwan’s problem is also Japan’s problem. If China invades Taiwan, it would give them smooth passage to target the Okinawa and Nansei islands. China would also have power to block the sea-lane through which Japan procures its petroleum. They will use this power to threaten Japan.

The Mao Zedong versus Chiang Kai-shek Battle Continues

Master Ryuho Okawa, founder and CEO of Happy Science, has uncovered that the battle between Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek still continues.

In November 2018, Master Okawa recorded the spiritual messages of Mao Zedong. Mao’s spirit boasted, “I can end that thing [Taiwan] in one month.”

“Revolution is born out of the muzzle of a gun. So if we try, we can capture Hong Kong or Taiwan or wherever, no problem,” he added.

Then in February 2019, Master Okawa recorded the spiritual messages of Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang’s spirit

“Please guide the world in a good direction: that is, through opinion, worldly activities [activism], and international encirclement networks. We cannot lose against Mao. It’s time for retribution.”

The spiritual messages uncovered that Mao Zedong’s spirit is now the greatest of all devils, and is a being who can manipulate dark matter. Science has yet to explain what dark matter is, but from a religious perspective is in understood to be a power that triggers despair in people’s minds, and brings the world towards destruction.

The Communist Party of China is now receiving “guidance” from Mao Zedong, and their repeated military and media threats towards Taiwan’s pro-independence faction, is a way of planting despair in their minds to force them to give up their hopes.

In fact there are many people in Taiwan who have despaired and given up, and many of them think that it is more advantageous to prioritize business relations with China.

But there are still many Taiwanese activists who are fighting to protect their freedom and democracy despite these tough conditions. The Liberty Magazine has interviewed many of them.

[Huh? Ok... who let the kooks in?]

These activists embody the spirit of self-sacrifice: striving along the path they think is right through listening to their conscience and questioning “What is true justice in the eyes of God?”

“Our ancestors sacrificed their lives to protect freedom and democracy,” says one activist. “We can easily lose these values if we do not work hard to protect them. That’s why we cannot give up.”

In WWII, the people of Taiwan fought and died for Japan. Now it is Japan’s turn to aid in Taiwan’s defense and prevent the tragedy of a Taiwanese invasion from unfolding. Japan must become worthy of the respect they receive in Asia.

A Freedom, Democracy and Faith Encirclement

Taiwan and Japan must of course protect their independence, but they also have a greater mission: to spread the value of freedom, democracy and faith into anti-religious China, and save those people suffering under the oppressive regime.

In China, religious people – such as Christians and Muslims – and people who oppose the government are suffering from severe human rights oppression at the hands of the Beijing government.

The Japanese Abe administration, however, is ignoring China’s atrocious oppressions of Muslims in Xinjiang Uyghur, so there is a likelihood that they will simply sit there as onlookers as Taiwan loses her freedom and democracy.

In his book “The Laws of Bronze” Master Okawa says

Please have the tolerance to ultimately forgive and overcome those who are born in evil countries . . . Please believe that Love surpasses the boundaries of the small country of Japan, surpasses the boundaries of the East, surpasses the boundaries of Earth, and brings everything together into One.

Now is the time for countries that share the values of freedom, democracy and faith to come together and create a China encirclement network. The moving force is the Love that envelops those people in China.

2021: An Important Year For China 1921

Mao Zedong’s Communist Party and Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang engage in a civil war. 1949

Mao defeats Chiang and founds the People’s Republic of China. After his defeat, Chiang flees to Taiwan. 1972

Japan and China form diplomatic ties, and Japan suspends ties with Taiwan. 1979

The U.S. and China form diplomatic ties, and the U.S. suspends ties with Taiwan. 1988

Lee Teng-hui becomes President of Taiwan. 1989

Taiwan’s People’s Progressive Party gains popularity in the first legislative elections since the lifting of martial law. 2008

Ma Ying-jeou becomes president of Taiwan, and the Kuomintang assumes government. 2012

Xi Jinping becomes General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. 2016

Tsai Ing-wen becomes president of Taiwan, and the People’s Progressive Party assumes government. 2019

China celebrates the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. 2021

The Communist Party of China celebrates its 100th anniversary.

[The US's Department of Defence report “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019”, was released on May 2, 2019. The next three articles analysed the contents and implications.]

China is laying the groundwork for war with Taiwan

May 3 2019,

Mike Yeo

MELBOURNE, Australia – China is improving and increasing its options for a possible future invasion of Taiwan, with military reforms and investments in multi-domain military capabilities offering a range of options to defeat the self-governing island, according to a Pentagon report.

These options range from an air and sea blockade of Taiwan to a full-scale invasion, although the latter option would require a significant increase in the number of amphibious ships, according to the latest annual China Military Power Report released Thursday by the Department of Defense.

Nevertheless, the report cautioned that the People’s Liberation Army or PLA’s efforts to convert the bulk of its maneuver units to combined arms brigades, “should eventually create more capable, modular brigades and battalions,” while the “expansion of army aviation and the creation of two new air assault brigades also provides more attack, air assault and close air support options for a Taiwan invasion.”

China’s PLA has also made efforts to improve its ability to insert forces by air, by restructuring its airborne corps and establishing air assault units, which would be charged with aerial insertion and seizing key terrain. This restructure saw it reorganizing its previous units into airborne infantry brigades, a special operations brigade, an aviation brigade, and a support brigade, with the corps conducting training exercises in 2018 that involved long-range raid and airborne operations based on actual war plans.

The service has also established a joint logistics support force in late 2016, with the primary goal of supporting a strategic campaign such as a Taiwan invasion. This would be accomplished through command and control of joint logistics, delivering of materiel, and managing various civil-military integration support mechanisms. It’s strategic support force would then be responsible for the use of electronic warfare and cyber operations during a Taiwan contingency, by “seizing and maintaining battlefield information control in contemporary informatized warfare.”

The report added that the PLA is likely still exploring how to reform its joint command processes to integrate information operations and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities more fully at the theater-level, but noted that the structural reforms have removed the biggest barriers to integrating these strategic capabilities.

Nonetheless, the report raises questions about China’s current ability to conduct a full-scale invasion. Despite advances in the quality and quantity of its surface combatants and submarines, the PLA Navy has in recent years only acquired a small number of landing platform docks “indicating a near term focus on smaller scale expeditionary missions rather than a large number of [Landing Ship Tanks] and medium landing craft that would be necessary for a large-scale direct beach assault.”

The preparedness of the recently expanded PLA Marine Corps was also in doubt, with exercises rarely going beyond battalion level events, and its newly raised brigades yet to receive “their full complement of required equipment and not fully mission capable.” As a consequence, the report noted that the scope of training for these units was “rudimentary and the new brigades remain unequipped to perform amphibious assault operations," concluding that an invasion of Taiwan, besides being fraught with significant political risk, “would likely strain China’s armed forces.”

Why China isn’t ready to invade Taiwan (at least not yet)

May 13 2019

by Kristin Huang

China is stepping up its military capability to invade Taiwan, but might lack the core assault landing capabilities to conquer the self-ruled island, military experts said.

The assessment follows an annual report to the US Congress saying China was likely to be preparing a plan to take Taiwan by force, while simultaneously deterring, delaying, or denying any third-party intervention on the island’s behalf.

The 136-page report, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019,” was released last week and listed a number of options, including a blockade to cut off Taiwan’s imports accompanied by large-scale missile strikes and the occupation of Taiwanese administered islands like Quemoy (also known as Kinmen) and Matsu.

An air and missile attack might aim to destroy important military and communications infrastructure, while a full-scale invasion might start at northern or southern points along Taiwan’s west coast, according to the Pentagon report.

Turning to Taiwan’s defenses, the report noted the island’s advantages continue to decline as China’s military modernization proceeds, with significant problems in recruiting sufficient military personnel. Taiwan also faces “considerable equipment and readiness challenges,” the report said.

Military analyst Collin Koh, from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said an amphibious operation to take over the island, as outlined in the report, was unlikely due to China’s inadequate sealift capability and the inability of its amphibious forces to work in concert with other services.

“Amphibious assault landing operations are, after all, highly complex operations that require so many moving parts across branches and services that it’ll take much effort and time to promote and inculcate that concept and spirit of fighting jointly and in an integrated manner,” he said.

Koh’s view was echoed by Timothy Heath, a senior international defense research analyst at the US think tank Rand, who said inadequate numbers of ships capable of transporting troops for an invasion remained an important shortfall for any Chinese military plan to invade Taiwan.

“Amphibious assault ships and other vessels for conveying combat troops onto the beaches of Taiwan are essential because invasion is the only way the PLA can guarantee conquest of Taiwan,” said Heath, adding that the PLA currently has a relatively modest inventory of such ships.

However, Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said China’s armed forces could accomplish goals as long as orders came from China’s top leaders, despite various weaknesses in the Chinese military.

“And, when compared to the past, China’s amphibious combat capabilities have already improved after extensive training in recent years,” Li said.

[Right! It is not a matter of objective capability, as long as there are relative improvements. Training is training. Extensive training is extensive training. "Relevant", "focused", "goal-directed training"... are just words!]

Ties between Beijing and Taipei nosedived after Tsai Ing-wen from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party became the island’s president in May 2016 and repeatedly refused to endorse the “1992 consensus” which refers to an understanding that there is only one China, though each side may have its own interpretation of what constitutes “China.”

Beijing responded by stepping up military and diplomatic pressure against the island, ramping up live-fire military exercises and luring away Taiwan’s diplomatic allies.

Taiwan is now one of a growing number of flashpoints in the China-US relationship – along with a trade war, Beijing’s growing influence in emerging economies, and its stronger military posture in the South China Sea.

On May 6, two guided-missile destroyers, USS Preble and USS Chung-Hoon passed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratly Islands, drawing immediate criticism from Beijing.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously backed legislation supporting Taiwan.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States is bound by law to help defend the self-ruled island. Washington is Taipei’s main source of arms, selling the island more than $15 billion in weapons since 2010, according to the Pentagon.

Kristin Huang is a contributor to Inkstone and a senior China reporter at South China Morning Post. She is most interested in security topics in northeast Asia and China's growing military might.

Report prepared by US govt says it’ll be tough for China to invade Taiwan

A large-scale amphibious invasion of Taiwan is a highly complex and difficult operation to pull off.

Kayla Wong

May 16, 2019

An annual report to the United States Congress said that while China is likely to be preparing a plan to take Taiwan by force, it is difficult for it to do so.

The 136-page report, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019”, was released on May 2, 2019.

It was prepared by the Department of Defense (DOD), and is coordinated with other departments and agencies in the U.S. government, according to a news release by the DOD on May 1.

Many different ways to force Taiwan to reunite with the motherland

According to the report, it will be tough for China to take Taiwan by force as China lacks the core assault landing capabilities required to do so.

The self-governing island is located about 180km off the southeastern coast of mainland China across the Taiwan Strait.

The report, which cites writings by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), said China has “an array of options for a Taiwan campaign” to bring the entity under its control.

It ranges from an “air and maritime blockade to a full-scale amphibious invasion to seize and occupy some or all of Taiwan or its offshore islands”.

It goes on to provide details as to how China can conduct these operations.

For instance, a strategy that makes use of an air and maritime blockade can potentially cut off Taiwan’s vital imports and isolate it, therefore, forcing it to surrender.

Experts: China will find it hard to conquer Taiwan

Another option is a large-scale amphibious invasion, which the report said is one of the “most complicated and difficult military operations”.

The difficulties involved in such an invasion include having air and maritime superiority, being able to sustain the attacks with “uninterrupted support”, as well as the “complexity of urban warfare and counterinsurgency”.
China can deploy 400 fighter jets against Taiwan's 420. This does not guarantee 
the air superiority China needs to ensure a smooth and safe crossing of the
Taiwan straits.

But that depends on the troops being able to make a successful landing and breakout (military term for “advancing from the enemy’s defensive line”) in the first place.

While the report said the PLA is capable of taking medium-sized Taiwan-held islands, such as Matsu or Kinmen, accomplishing a full-scale invasion of Taiwan will be challenging.

In addition, Timothy Heath, a research analyst at U.S. think tank Rand, told South China Morning Post that China currently does not have enough number of ships capable of transporting troops for an invasion.

Not a wise move politically

Besides the military risk, such an operation carries political risk too.

The report said an attempt to invade Taiwan would not only “likely strain China’s armed forces”, but would also “galvanise pro-independence sentiment on Taiwan and generate international opposition”, even inviting “international intervention”.

China’s military is advancing

However, despite current weaknesses in the Chinese military, China could still improve on its military capabilities as long as orders came from the country’s top leaders, Beijing-based military expert Li Jie was quoted in SCMP.

The report also noted that “Taiwan’s advantages continue to decline as China’s modernisation efforts continue”:

“The PLA continues to make modest gains in amphibious warfare by developing additional capabilities to conduct amphibious landings and seize and defend small islands.”

But to counter China’s advancing capabilities, Taiwan is also taking measures to develop new strategies and capabilities for asymmetric warfare.

China has not ruled out military option to “reclaim Taiwan”

China has not ruled out the use of force to take Taiwan under its control.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has reiterated this message earlier in January on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the issuing of “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan”, urging the Taiwanese people to accept that Taiwan “must be and will be reunited” with the “motherland”.

He also lauded the “one country, two systems” model as an arrangement that Taiwan can follow.

The model is currently applied on Hong Kong and Macau.

However, critics watching Hong Kong closely have dismissed the idea, saying, “Today Hong Kong, tomorrow Taiwan”.

They argue that Hong Kong’s autonomy has eroded under the model as the Beijing government is increasingly asserting its authority on the Special Administrative Region (SAR), despite initially promising not to export its socialist system and policies to Hong Kong.

Taiwan remains as one of Beijing’s “core interests”, which are issues that the party leaders would not compromise on.

Relations between Taipei and Beijing have taken a dip under the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen refused to affirm the “1992 Consensus”, which is a mutual agreement that there is only “one China”, although both sides interpret it differently.

Is China planning to take Taiwan by force in 2020?

Deng Yuwen believes Beijing is coming to the conclusion that if it is to achieve reunification with Taiwan, as Xi Jinping has pledged to do at the 19th party congress, it has to do so by force, and sooner rather than later

Deng Yuwen

4 Jan, 2018

Does Beijing have a timetable for seizing control of Taiwan?

This has been a hot topic for the media and among experts on cross-strait relations. I believe such a timetable exists. If the timeline was rather vague in the past, it has become clearer now. And the US security strategy that President Donald Trump recently unveiled will hasten the pace of Beijing’s plan to take back the island, probably in 2020.

President Xi Jinping’s report at the 19th Communist Party congress offers some clues. In the address, he identified “one country, two systems” and the reunification of the motherland as a fundamental strategy of a “new era” for China. This provides a clue to Beijing’s timeline for resolving the Taiwan problem.

According to the report, the new era refers to a period from now until the middle of this century. By 2050, China is to achieve the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” and become a modern socialist power.

A list of 14 items describe this new era, and one of them involves reunification with Taiwan. This means Beijing must take control of Taiwan by 2050 at the latest.

Plainly, as long as Taiwan remains outside the Chinese fold, the “great rejuvenation” of the Chinese nation cannot happen.

No surprise, then, to hear Xi say that Beijing would never allow “any individual, any organisation, any political party, at any time or by any means, to split any single piece of the Chinese territory”.

Last month, a Chinese diplomat’s fighting words over the idea of the US sending navy ships to Taiwan were also revealing. Li Kexin, a minister at the Chinese embassy in Washington, warned that port-of-call exchanges between the US and Taiwan would not be tolerated.

“The day a US Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung is the day that our People’s Liberation Army unifies Taiwan with military force,” he told mainland media.

While it is unlikely the PLA would really start a war over a US Navy visit to Taiwan, the words reflect a consistent belief of Chinese leaders: that Taiwan has to be taken back by force.

Since Xi came to power, the party has been open about its wish for the PLA to be battle-ready. No doubt the army’s first target would be Taiwan.

Also, Xi’s sense of calling would never allow him to tolerate Taiwan’s indefinite separation from the mainland. Whatever one may think of Xi, most people would agree that he is driven by a strong sense of national pride.

That is why, as soon as he came to power, he launched the “Chinese dream” campaign and set out the goal of achieving national rejuvenation. In the party congress address, he painted a picture of the new era that reflected his thinking and linguistic style.

As a leader who is bent on raising China’s global stature to a level that rivals the nation’s glory years in Han and Tang times, Xi would surely not tolerate an indefinite split between Taiwan and the mainland.

Nonetheless, the points raised so far only signal that Beijing has a timetable in mind to unify Taiwan with China, but they do not explain why the PLA could move to take Taiwan by force in 2020.

A combination of factors could point to a military confrontation.

They include Trump’s labelling of China as a strategic rival in his administration’s national security strategy; Beijing’s worry about the pro-independence movement in Taiwan and its belief that it now has the ability to resolve the Taiwan problem once and for all; a misjudgment by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen; and Xi’s sense of his own legacy.

First of all, why would Beijing opt for unification by force, rather than through the peaceful negotiation it has always championed? There are four reasons. First, after extending economic help to the island for years, Beijing has still failed to win the hearts and minds of its people. Instead, cross-strait relations have deteriorated.

Second, as one generation of Taiwanese replaces another, the “Chinese” identity among the people will only grow weaker.

Third, the influence of Taiwan’s political parties is waning. Even if the Kuomintang wins back power, it would not be in a position to lead cross-strait unification.

Fourth, more and more Chinese are calling for unification by force.

Thus, though on the surface Beijing has continued to call for a peaceful reunification, it has in fact ditched the idea.

As Beijing believes it has to use force to reunite with Taiwan, the next step would be to find a good time to do so. The year 2020 offers such an opportunity.

That’s the year when China would be approaching the first of its “two centenary” goals – the establishment of a xiaokang, or moderately prosperous, society by 2021, the 100th year of the founding of the Communist Party.

This would act as a driving force for China to take back Taiwan by force. If China becomes a well-off nation with Taiwan in its fold, it would mean a historic achievement for Xi.

Next, Trump’s national security strategy not only labels China and Russia as America’s “strategic rivals”, it also pledges to maintain strong ties with Taiwan. This will quicken Beijing’s plans to take back Taiwan by force.

In reality, China and the US are, of course, strategic rivals. But by stating it in its security strategy, the US indicates a shift in its long-term policy on China, letting it be known that it would seek to contain China rather than work with it. This would lead Beijing to conclude that it should resolve the Taiwan problem sooner rather than later.

Is the PLA ready for such a battle? In a recent interview, China analyst Ian Easton said he believed the Chinese military would not be ready for an attack in 2020 because of the slow pace of military reform. However, many Chinese analysts would not agree with that view.

At the 19th party congress last October, Xi pledged a major upgrade in mechanisation and the communications systems in the armed forces by 2020, which would greatly enhance the country’s strategic capabilities.

By 2035, he said, China would have completely modernised its defence forces; by the middle of the century, it would become a world-class military force.

The military has come a long way since reforms were launched four years ago. And fighting a war would be the best way to gauge its improvements.

In today’s China, more and more people are advocating the use of force to unify Taiwan with the mainland.

A series of military drills focused on Taiwan in recent days has also raised speculation that the mainland is preparing itself for a military invasion. It is likely that such "encirclement patrols" might become routine.

All is set for Beijing to unify with Taiwan by force, except for one thing – a pretext or a reason to take action. Emboldened by US support, the Taiwanese government that Tsai leads may well test China’s bottom line by further cementing its ties with America, such as with the proposed exchanges between US and Taiwanese navies.

Finally, whether Beijing decides to mobilise against Taiwan in 2020 will still depend on the decision of its leaders.

Xi may be tempted to secure the historic achievement of reunification as part of his legacy. Furthermore, if war breaks out, the peacetime systems and procedures will have to be set aside.

This will allow Xi to stay in power beyond his expected retirement in 2022, to give him more time to work on realising the Chinese dream of rejuvenation.

If Beijing takes up arms against Taiwan in 2020, there will be formidable changes for East Asia and the world.

North Korea may also risk waging war on South Korea, if its nuclear capabilities are not eradicated earlier.

I do not want to see war breaking out. For this reason, we must pay more attention to what happens in 2020.

Deng Yuwen is a researcher at the Charhar Institute think tank. This article is translated from Chinese

What Happens if China Tried to Invade Taiwan?

Who wins?

by J. Michael Cole

In the end, absent a U.S. and Japanese commitment to intervene in the early stages of an attempted PLA invasion of Taiwan, there is only a slim likelihood that the Taiwanese military would be able to “defeat” its opponent in the conventional sense of the term.

April 10 2019

A consensus seems to have developed among a large number of defense analysts in recent years arguing that despite the balance of power having shifted in China’s favor, Beijing has no intention to use its military to invade Taiwan and thus resolve the Taiwan “question” once and for all. Doing so would be too costly, some argue, while others contend that Beijing can accomplish unification by creating enough economic dependence and incentives to convince Taiwanese over time of the “inevitability” of a “reunited” China.

(This first appeared in 2015.)

Although these factors certainly militate against the desire to go to war over the island-nation, we cannot altogether discount the probability that the Chinese military would be called into action, especially if the rationale for launching an attack were framed in terms of a defensive war—China being “forced” to take action because of changing and “untenable” circumstances in its environment.

Therefore, despite the relatively low probability of war in the Taiwan Strait in the immediate future, Taipei cannot afford to be complacent and must actively pursue an effective defense strategy.

The first component of such a strategy is for Taipei to clearly define what the mission is, and just as importantly, what “victory” would look like. Given the quantitative and qualitative differences that exist between the two militaries, it is clear by now that victory for Taiwan can no longer be defined in maximalist terms: the total destruction of enemy forces.

(Recommended: Japan's Master Plan to Defeat China in a War)

Moreover, Taiwan does not have the means, nor does the intent, to take the fight to China to annihilate People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces stationed on Chinese territory. Therefore, with a few—and important—exceptions that will be discussed below, the military area of operations in a war scenario would be the Taiwan Strait, and in a full invasion, the Taiwan side of the median line that divides the Strait.

Of course there are many different scenarios in which the PLA could be activated to pressure Taiwan, not all of them involving an all-out assault to invade the island. The PLA Navy (PLAN) and Air Force (PLAAF), for example, can be used to blockade Taiwan, while the Second Artillery Corps could be called upon to launch decapitation missile attacks against the Taiwanese leadership and other key targets across Taiwan, such as radar sites, airstrips, naval bases, and its C4ISR architecture.

In all those scenarios, Taiwan would be forced to adopt a purely defensive posture. The hardening and dispersal of targets, as well as improved air defense capabilities, are part of that strategy and what the Taiwanese military has prepared for over the years. The key in such “limited” scenarios will be to lower the chances that China would achieve its objectives.

Under current conditions, Taiwan arguably has sufficient resources and the right strategies in place to address those limited contingencies. If true, this would mean that those options are off the table for China, therefore forcing it to either abandon the idea that force can be used to coerce Taipei, or to escalate. The logic behind ensuring that Fortress Taiwan has the wherewithal to defend itself against limited attacks is that the more Beijing has to escalate, the greater the dilemma it faces as pressures—domestic and international—against such use of force, and therefore the potential costs of unleashing it, would be much more severe.

Still, there are contexts in which the dynamics that militate against full invasion would lose momentum. Chinese military literature is replete with references to defensive war and variations on that theme. Such language would be critical if it became necessary for the Beijing leadership to rationalize a decision to use total force to achieve its objectives. In such scenarios, China would position itself not as the aggressor, but rather as the victim, “forced” by external circumstances to go on the offensive, however begrudgingly, to protect its “vital” or “core” interests.

In other words, a change in context would leave the leadership with only two choices: capitulation or battle to defend the integrity of the Chinese territory. A declaration of de jure independence by Taiwan would certainly prompt such a response, with laws—the Anti-Secession Law—“forcing” Beijing to respond. China could also feel “compelled” to act if it deemed that political instability on the island were such that it threatened the safety of “Chinese compatriots”—in other words, Beijing could use its own “Crimea model” to justify massive use of force (humanitarian in this case) to occupy Taiwan.

It would therefore be incautious to rule out any possibility that China would use maximum force (short of the nuclear option) to attack Taiwan, to believe that rational calculations of costs versus benefits will prevail under any and all circumstances. Even if the probability is remote, it still exists. And given the trends within Taiwanese society which make unification with China less and less appealing, it is not entirely infeasible that a decade from now the Chinese leadership could decide it has to take military action—again for purely “defensive” purposes—lest “splittists” (of course aided by the CIA and other agencies bent on subjugating China) threaten to tear apart “one China” and inspire other groups within its territory to move in a similar direction.

So what could Taiwan do to ward off a PLA invasion? Since the Taiwanese military cannot hope to defeat the PLA in a conventional battlefield, and given that Taipei has no assurances that allies such as the United States and Japan would intervene on its side, its best defense is to ensure that China does not launch such an aggression in the first place. In other words, Taiwan must substantially increase the costs of invasion—real and perceived—by promising unacceptable amounts of pain to the PLA, the leadership in Beijing, and the Chinese population. Logically, this implies building up its capabilities to counter an amphibious assault through a combination of naval and aerial assets, as well as anti-armor rockets, missile batteries, artillery, mobile special forces units, and a well-trained and equipped reserve, to saturate the beaches with lead and create a kill zone for advancing PLA forces. Ensuring the survival of its air force and navy assets following saturation bombing by the Second Artillery in the initial phase of major hostilities would also be important, as those would also be necessary to counter PLA transport vessels ferrying troops across the Taiwan Strait.

[Sept 2019 edit: China is proud of its Carriers. Perhaps Taiwan should have a special project/task force/special forces tasked with sinking the Liaoning or its sister carrier. This would be devastating to the PLA's morale. Of course, it could also rouse the PLA to greater efforts to vanquish Taiwan. But then again, "those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad." Of course the PLA/CCP are godless heathens.]

However, such a passive, or “porcupine” defense strategy would probably not be enough to deter Beijing. Consequently, a second aspect of Taiwan’s plans to inflict unacceptable pain on China must explore more offensive options. It has already begun doing so, with the production and deployment of Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LACM), naval suppression kits, and standoff air-to-ground missiles (cluster bombs, anti-radiation) capable of disabling airfields as well as missile and radar sites in China. The deployment and dispersal of larger quantities of road-mobile or naval LACM launchers would also make it more difficult for the PLA to locate and destroy all of them and thus increase the potency of Taiwan’s counterstrike capabilities, especially if their range were increased (Taiwan should nevertheless keep the moral high ground by promising it would only use such assets against military targets). To maximize the impact of its counterforce capabilities, Taiwan would also have to improve its ability to pinpoint targets through greater investment in radar and satellite technology—and ensure redundancy, as those would also likely be targeted by the PLA in the initial phase of a conflict. Greater human intelligence assets inside China, as well as the ability to conduct sabotage against key military (and economic) sites, would complement the offensive aspect of Taiwan’s defense strategy. Other options include armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and a larger fleet of submarines with conventional LACM capability. All of this is contingent on a political decision to invest more on defense than Taiwan does at present.

Beyond kinetic strategies, several asymmetrical options are also available to Taiwan to maximize the pain of a PLA invasion, with the ultimate goal of deterring such action. On the political side, Taipei should redouble its efforts in political warfare. The first aim of this strategy should be to counter similar operations by China, which have succeeded in undermining morale in the Taiwanese military while encouraging the perception abroad that Taiwan is an unreliable security partner, or that unification is inevitable or even desirable.

The second leg of a more active political warfare strategy would be to convince Beijing that Taiwan’s allies—the United States., and possibly Japan—would act quickly should the PLA attempt an invasion of Taiwan. In other words, Beijing should not longer be kept guessing whether the United States would enter a conflict in the Taiwan Strait, especially at a time when Washington’s commitment to the region—and to Taiwan more specifically—is in serious doubt. Strategic ambiguity, which has served as a cornerstone of Washington’s policy in the Taiwan Strait since the conclusion of the Korean War, should be abandoned and replaced by a series of well advertised tripwires or “red lines” that, if crossed, would prompt a response by the U.S. military. Tokyo is also ripe for closer cooperation with Taiwan, and as such, political warfare that plays up the possibility of joint efforts between the two countries could be of great assistance to Taiwan. The more Beijing is convinced that the United States., and possibly Japan, would intervene in the Taiwan Strait, the greater will be its reluctance to launch operations that would spark such a response, as their entry in a conflict would substantially increase the costs of an invasion while diminishing the likelihood of a quick “low-cost” resolution on Beijing’s terms.

Elsewhere, Taiwanese lobbyists and the Taiwanese diaspora could make more effective use of the island’s assets—a vibrant liberal democracy and an important economy—to encourage the international community to adopt a more vocal line in its opposition to the resolution of the Taiwan “question” by military or coercive means. Convincing Beijing that the international community would not countenance use of force—and would slap painful economic sanctions should it decide to do so—would contribute to Taipei’s deterrent. Helping visitors to Taiwan better understand the nature and preciousness of its unique society, and encouraging them to be more proactive in their home countries convincing their representatives to take a more principled stance on Taiwan could go a long way. Existing programs under Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs could serve as a basis for such efforts; increasing contact via other departments—e.g., creating more exchange programs for foreign military personnel to undergo language training in Taiwan—should also be explored.

Additionally, taishang, the Taiwanese who operate businesses in China and who played a crucial role in helping develop the Chinese economy over the decades, could also threaten to cease their operations or pull out altogether if the PLA were activated in the Strait. Though happy to make money in China, most taishang(including the many who vote for the KMT) remain proud Taiwanese who do not want to see their home country devastated by war. Their possible role as a pressure point against Beijing should not be underestimated.

One last area where Taiwan could do more to deter Beijing is in cyber warfare, or “electronic sabotage.” Using intelligence assets in China (closer contact between the two societies works both ways and doesn’t only create opportunities for China), Taiwan could identify and select civilian and military targets for retaliation, with the aim of severely disrupting China’s ability to operate normally should it launch an attack against the island. The banking and high-tech sectors would be likely targets. On the military side, promising to degrade, or perhaps even disable, China’s nuclear deterrent—even if momentarily— or knocking out its air defense systems, thus exposing China to USAF bombing runs, would be enough to make Beijing think twice about launching an invasion.

In all those efforts, Taiwan would need to strike a balance between signaling its intent and capability to launch disruptive attacks of that nature—in other words, for deterrence to work, Beijing must be convinced that the threat is real—and the need to protect itself against Chinese espionage which could undermine those efforts.

In the end, absent a U.S. and Japanese commitment to intervene in the early stages of an attempted PLA invasion of Taiwan, there is only a slim likelihood that the Taiwanese military would be able to “defeat” its opponent in the conventional sense of the term. The force disparity between the two sides has simply become too wide. As such, under prevailing circumstances, the only way that Taiwan can defeat China is to make sure that the PLA is never used to attack Taiwan. Deterrence, therefore, is its most credible asset, and one which it can put to much better use.

[So the above article is rather pessimistic about Taiwan's chances in a conventional war, and pushes the not-unreasonable view that the best (or only) way to safeguard Taiwan is to dissuade China from the military option. Then there is the more optimistic view below. Note that the article below is from Sept 2018, and the one above is from April 2019. Has the situation changed so much in 6 months?]

Taiwan Can Win a War With China

Beijing boasts it can seize the island easily. The PLA knows better.

By Tanner Greer

September 25, 2018

When Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke to the 19th Party Congress about the future of Taiwan last year, his message was ominous and unequivocal: “We have firm will, full confidence, and sufficient capability to defeat any form of Taiwan independence secession plot. We will never allow any person, any organization, or any political party to split any part of the Chinese territory from China at any time or in any form.”

This remark drew the longest applause of his entire three-hour speech—but it’s not a new message. The invincibility of Chinese arms in the face of Taiwanese “separatists” and the inevitability of reunification are constant Chinese Communist Party themes. At its base, the threat made by Xi is that the People’s Liberation Army has the power to defeat the Taiwanese military and destroy its democracy by force, if need be. Xi understands the consequences of failure here. “We have the determination, the ability and the preparedness to deal with Taiwanese independence,” he stated in 2016, “and if we do not deal with it, we will be overthrown.”

[Propaganda. Or motivational speaking.]

China has already ratcheted up economic and diplomatic pressure on the island since the 2016 election of Tsai Ing-wen and the independence-friendly Democratic Progressive Party. Saber-rattling around the Taiwan Strait has been common. But China might not be able to deliver on its repeated threats. Despite the vast discrepancy in size between the two countries, there’s a real possibility that Taiwan could fight off a Chinese attack—even without direct aid from the United States.

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.

[Extract from the 2009 analysis cited:
"any near-term Chinese attempt to invade Taiwan would likely be a very bloody affair with a significant probability of failure"...
RAND found that F-22s flying from the relative safety of Guam could be surprisingly effective in blunting a Chinese air assault...
The entire Chinese navy could only carry 31,000 troops in the first wave – a number RAND admits would "almost certainly not" suffice, "assuming that Taiwan’s government, military, and populace chose to put up a fight." It would take just one successful attack by Taiwan's missile boats, or one day's sorties by the island's attack choppers, to incapacitate the whole Chinese assault fleet...
... the force that would really play the biggest role in halting a Chinese invasion: the U.S. Navy's huge, lethal fleet of nuclear submarines.
So, has things changed in 10 years?]

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.

Treacherous Conditions in the Taiwan Strait
Low clouds
Heavy fog*
High to low**
Heavy fog
Heavy fog
Plum rains
Heavy fog
Plum rains
Fog, currents***
Varies with storms
Strong currents
Varies with storms
Strong currents
Varies with storms
Strong currents
Low to high**
Low clouds
Low clouds
*Fog is a major operational factor from Feb. 15 to June 15, with the worst fog in the morning hours of April and May. Overall, average visibility is 1.2 miles in spring, 2.4 miles in winter, and 6.2 miles in summer.
**The wind and wave conditions start out as high in early March and become very low by the end of the month. By October, that is reversed.
***Currents in the strait tend to be stronger in summer and weak in winter.
Sources: Ian Easton, The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan ‘s Defense and American Strategy in Asia, p. 172.

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 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.

But if this means that the Chinese army can counter U.S. force projection at a fraction of America’s costs, it also means that the democracies straddling the East Asian rim can deter Chinese aggression at a fraction of the PLA’s costs. In an era that favors defense, small nations like Taiwan do not need a PLA-sized military budget to keep the Chinese at bay.

No one needs to hear this message more than the Taiwanese themselves. In my trips to Taiwan, I have made a point of tracking down and interviewing both conscripts and career soldiers. Their pessimism is palpable. This morale crisis in the ranks partly reflects the severe mismanagement of the conscription system, which has left even eager Taiwanese patriots disillusioned with their military experience.

But just as important is the lack of knowledge ordinary Taiwanese have about the strength of their islands’ defenses. A recent poll found that 65 percent of Taiwanese “have no confidence” in their military’s ability to hold off the PLA. Absent a vigorous campaign designed to educate the public about the true odds of successful military resistance, the Taiwanese people are likely to judge the security of their island on flawed metrics, like the diminishing number of countries that maintain formal relations with Taipei instead of Beijing. The PLA’s projected campaign is specifically designed to overwhelm and overawe a demoralized Taiwanese military. The most crucial battlefield may be the minds of the Taiwanese themselves. Defeatism is a more dangerous threat to Taiwanese democracy than any weapon in China’s armory.

Both Westerners and Taiwanese should be more optimistic about the defense of Taiwan than is now normal.

Yes, the Taiwanese Army projects that it can only hold off its enemy for two weeks after the landing—but the PLA also believes that if it cannot defeat the Taiwanese forces in under two weeks, it will lose the war! Yes, the disparity between the military budgets on both sides of the strait is large, and growing—but the Taiwanese do not need parity to deter Chinese aggression. All they need is the freedom to purchase the sort of arms that make invasion unthinkable. If that political battle can be resolved in the halls of Washington, the party will not have the power to threaten battle on the shores of Taiwan.

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.

No comments: