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article imageOp-Ed: Chinese leaked plans to invade Taiwan in mid 2020s in new book

By Paul Wallis     Oct 14, 2017 in World
Sydney - According to a new book called "The Chinese Invasion Threat" by Ian Easton, research fellow of the 2049 Institute, China has drawn up plans to invade Taiwan some time in the mid-2020s. These plans are deemed credible in Washington.
The book is based on a mix of leaked information and insights in to the Taiwan/China relationship by Easton, a respected analyst. Easton makes the perfectly reasonable points that:
1. China has always wanted reunification with Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
2. Taiwan’s democratic moves make voluntary reunification much less likely.
3. The People’s Liberation Army documents used for analysis indicate the use of fourth generation technologies, a much higher level of fast combat capacity than in previous generations.
Plans, however, don’t mean that the Chinese will invade. It means that they have a contingency plan for that situation. The ramifications of an invasion, however are undisputed. The US would defend Taiwan, and get help from its regional allies, expanding the whole frame of reference. Australia, and possibly Japan, could be drawn in to the conflict.
The US Navy regularly carries out such operations to challenge China's vast claims to the South...
The US Navy regularly carries out such operations to challenge China's vast claims to the South China Sea, where Beijing has turned reefs into militarised artificial islands.
It’s pretty safe to say that nobody’s too happy with the idea. A conflict with China, literally a few minutes away from mainland China, might be no fun at all. For the Taiwanese, it means all that firepower from China would be raining down, doing a lot of damage to Taipei. The whole island could be collateral damage.
The Chinese, however, may have a few reservations themselves. Seen as an operation purely for the purpose of conquering Taiwan, it’s not a great proposition. “Winning” a burned-out cinder in the South China Sea wouldn’t be much of a return on investment.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) attends a meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi (...
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) attends a meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi (R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 30, 2017
Lintao Zhang, POOL/AFP/File
Even if they won, rebuilding and occupation would cost a fortune. They’d also have to deal with a hostile population, global trade ramifications, and a truly lousy diplomatic situation. Seen this way, nothing about the idea looks good. (Easton makes the point that Taiwan would be a good base for projection of power in the region, but how much power does China really need to project?)
The Chinese problems - Operational problems, risks, and lots of both
On the purely operational level, Taiwan is also a hard target, perfectly capable of doing a lot of damage in its own right. The Taiwanese military may not be the equivalent of the US, but it has many troops, including reservists, plenty of hardware, and would definitely put up a hell of a fight.
If Taiwan has direct US support, China would have to conduct arguably the most difficult of all military operations, an amphibious invasion, against US Navy opposition. That means any method used to attack would have to factor in fighting a US carrier group.
That’s another rather thankless task for the Chinese navy and air force. Countering a carrier group would also mean a massive escalation of military power, and perhaps a carrier battle. That’s hardly an easy tactical environment in which to try to invade anywhere.
The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto
The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto
Tommy Lamkin / U.S. Navy
To beat a US carrier force, what the Chinese traditionally call “extraordinary” tactics would have to be employed to give any real chance of victory without major losses. The Chinese Invasion Threat points out this very real problem for Chinese planners.
A further aspect of this operation is less obvious, but critical to any actual attack planning - Failure could be catastrophic for China and fatal for any commander who screws up. A severe defeat could have horrific consequences inside China, including regime destabilization. Any real plan will have to be carried out with those risks in mind.
“Extraordinary” tactics, therefore, are certain. This means a surprise attack, and/or unusual weaponry being deployed to counter any US move before that move is made. Sleeper cells in Taiwan would have to do a lot of work, and it’s pretty safe to assume a massive cyber-attack would also be part of the framework.
Taking Taiwan by surprise, or for that matter US military intelligence, could not be easy. This area is always on a high level of alert. Any movement of anything in this region is monitored. US satellite surveillance, aerial reconnaissance, and espionage management would have to be put out of the equation to actually deliver a surprise attack.
The US position, problems, and risks
Since 1949, defence of Taiwan has been a rock solid principle of US strategy. During the Cold War, there were several reasons for this:
1. The invasion of Taiwan would have opened up the Pacific to China and by default the USSR.
2. Taiwan was a good forward position in those days.
3. Even though Truman despised Chiang Kai Shek on a personal level, he preferred to have a confirmed anti-communist in charge of Taiwan.
4. The risk of spreading Indochina-style and later Korean War-like conflicts was quite real enough to justify a strong US military presence in the Asian region.
5. There aren’t that many places on land where the US can mount a forward defence against China, and Taiwan is an obvious choice.
The US has never really changed its position regarding the strategic importance of Taiwan, despite changes in the global environment and massive leaps in military technologies. One of the reasons the Chinese island land grab in the South China Sea is considered important, not merely tactically ridiculous, is because of Taiwan.
The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Montpelier  returns to its homeport at Naval Station Norf...
The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Montpelier, returns to its homeport at Naval Station Norfolk
Todd A. Schaffer / U.S. Navy
The ”America First” pseudo-philosophy of the Trump administration won’t and can’t have much impact on these issues. Abandoning such a long-term strategic commitment would look astonishingly weak, (and probably very stupid), to professional military analysts. There’s no military basis for a rethink, especially when so many important allies, like South Korea and Japan, are literally right next door to Taiwan.
The forward defence position allows some flexibility in US operations. Guam, Taiwan and Japan form a good operational framework if there’s conflict with China. If one goes, they all go. That elephant-sized fact won’t have escaped the notice of the Chinese planners, either.
The alternative to a forward defence is the Pacific-based defence. A Pacific-based defence would effectively revert to the very dubious 1941 defensive posture which was such a help during the Second World War. All the US had in Asia was in the Philippines, and these very limited-scope US defences were taken out very quickly. That sort of defence is simply absurd these days.
Bear in mind that nukes are NOT an option in any war with China. Escalation to nuclear war means game over, and probably WW3 as well. Whatever’s put in place by the US to fight a war with China has to work on a purely conventional basis. That means the Taiwan defence policy is still functional.
A Chinese invasion? Maybe, BUT-
A Chinese invasion of Taiwan cannot be discounted. It’s been stated Chinese policy for nearly 70 years that China and Taiwan will reunite. The One China policy is generally accepted by the world, including the US. Nor is a war inevitable. We’ve seen how the world has shrunk in the last 20 years. It may shrink a lot more, very quickly. The economic union/rapprochement of China and Taiwan is another scenario which could happen, if China and Taiwan soften their positions regarding each other. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to war, because there will be no winners, just another massive death toll to stain human history.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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