Can China Invade Taiwan? Not Likely

Mikesingh

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Introduction

Can the Chinese invade Taiwan? Not in the near future because it would be suicidal if they attempted to do so. As Sun Tzu said, 'the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. It's all about the usual Chinese bluster and pressure tactics on Taiwan to relent. War is the last resort and only to defend their mainland. So a real war with Taiwan is highly unlikely at the present juncture keeping the geographical constraints and the combat ratio in view.

Let's delve into the brass-tacks of an invasion of this magnitude which includes the nightmare of logistics of such a massive invading force crossing the strait but more importantly, the ability of a depleted Chinese invading force resulting from attrition, to hold on to captured territory involving 36,000 sq km (if they succeed in capturing real estate) seeing that at least one-third of their invading forces would have been unfit to fight after the initial battle due to attrition. They would not only be up against a million reservists but up against the population of Taiwan amounting to millions ready to wage an insurgency.

The Chinese forces will never be able to hold on to captured territory in Taiwan for any length of time. And the Chinese know it and the reason why they haven't invaded Taiwan so far.

What Would An Invasion Of Taiwan By China Involve?

The Taiwan Strait between them ranges from 220 km at its widest point to 130 km at its narrowest. China would need a massive force to be transported by a colossal fleet of ships and assault landing crafts that they do not possess at present. Out of the approximately 350 ships the PLAN possesses, not a lot are troop carriers, about 40 including amphibious landing craft.

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Terrain


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Geologically, Taiwan is a mountainous island. The highest mountain is Jade Mountain, seen in the picture below from the north peak. The main peak reaches the height of 3,952 metres (12,966 ft), the main island comprises a tilted fault block, characterized by the contrast between the eastern two-thirds, consisting mostly of five rugged mountain ranges running parallel to the east coast, and the flat to gently rolling plains of the western third, where the majority of Taiwan's population resides. Several peaks exceed 3,500 m in height and makes Taiwan the world's fourth-highest island.

The Chinese are not adept at mountain warfare and will be up against the well trained Taiwanese army which knowa thwe ground well. An attacker here would need a combat ratio of at least 6:1 to capture vital grounds and areas of tactical importance. The attcker would also need to move all his supporting arms across the vast rugged Western plains and establish several logistics nodes to support an offensive in nthe mountains, becoming vulnerable to air and ground action.

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Jade Mountain, north peak


Ready For Combat

Taiwan has a total strength of 1,800,000 military personnel including reserves, 290 fighter aircraft including 115 F-16s, (66 new F-16s in the pipeline), 95 attack choppers, 117 corvettes, destroyers, minesweepers, and frigates as well as 4 subs.

China would need at least three times this force to even attempt an offensive on Taiwan, the beaches which are chockablock with anti-ship weapon clusters. In addition to hundreds of sea-skimming Harpoons, it also has dozens of the Yun Feng supersonic cruise missiles, which can travel as far as 2,000 km and strike targets on the Chinese mainland, which needless to say, include the financial hub of Shanghai - China's jugular.

Thus, it comes about that an invasion of Taiwan would require the transportation of at least 30 to 40 infantry divisions by sea plus all their supporting arms like artillery, engineers, signals, missile regiments etc. They don't have the capability and wherewithal to launch their forces on such a massive scale at present. The Chinese airforce will not be very effective due to their restricted operational range. With the Taiwanese air force equipped with F-16s, Mirage 2000 etc, and scores of air defence regiments equipped with the Antelope air defence systems and the Sky Bow series of Advanced Surface to Air Missile Systems, it will be fairly difficult if not impossible for the PLAAF to establish a favourable air situation over Taiwanese airspace for close air support and interdiction.

The sheer magnitude of logistics over the Taiwan Strait to launch an offensive of this nature is mind boggling. The Chinese are nowhere near the combat ratio required for invading Taiwan from the sea. Period. The Chinese failed spectacularly in Vietnam with an army 5 times bigger - on land! This one would be across a huge obstacle - the 200 km wide Taiwan Strait. The geography of an amphibious landing on Taiwan is so difficult that it would make a landing on Taiwan harder than the US landing on D-Day. Many of Taiwan’s beaches aren’t wide enough to station a big force, with only about 14 beaches possibly hospitable for a landing of any kind. If the Taiwanese air force could sink around 40 percent of the amphibious landing forces of the PLA — around 15 ships — it would render China’s mission infeasible. That’s a complicated but not impossible task as not only are Taiwan's beaches crammed with anti-ship weapon clusters with hundreds of sea-skimming Harpoons but also the latest upgraded F-16s with stand-off weapons in c;ose support. What’s more, the island’s forces have spent years digging tunnels and bunkers at the beaches where the Chinese might arrive, and they know the terrain far better than the PLA do. Taiwan is made up of over 100 islands, most too tiny to see on the map. Many of Taiwan’s outer islands bristle with missiles, rockets, and artillery guns.


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Members of the Taiwanese military pose with artillery during a anti-invasion drill in Pingtung, Taiwan.(PATRICK AVENTURIER)

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A military exercise in Taichung, Taiwan, last month.Credit. Ann Wang/Reuters


It's clear that an invasion of such magnitude not only includes the nightmare of logistics of such a massive invading force crossing the strait but more importantly, the ability of a depleted Chinese invading force to hold on to captured territory involving 36,000 sq km (if they succeed in capturing real estate) seeing that at least one third of their invading forces would have been unfit to fight after the initial battle due to attrition and destruction of equipment. They would not only be up against a million reservists but up against the population of Taiwan amounting to millions ready to wage an insurgency. To this day, the Chinese have not been very successful in quelling the situation even in Hong Kong, the Special Administrative Region of China, against the defenceless and unarmed civilian population. Hong Kong is fighting for democracy whereas the people of Taiwan will be fighting for their survival. That’s a problem for China, as winning the war would require not only defeating a Taiwanese military of around 175,000 plus 1 million reservists, but also subduing a population of 24 million.

The US Factor

A U.S. special-operations unit and a contingent of Marines have been secretly operating in Taiwan to train military forces there as part of efforts to shore up the island’s defenses as concern regarding potential Chinese aggression mounts. U.S. special-operations and support troops are conducting training for units of Taiwan’s ground forces. The American forces have been operating in Taiwan for at least a year.

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US troops secretly training Taiwanese soldiers during an anti-invasion drill on the beach during the annual Han Kuang military drill last month.


“The United States has a commitment to help Taiwan provide for its self-defence,” said Sandra Oudkirk, the new head of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy in the absence of formal diplomatic ties. “The value of our partnership and our support for Taiwan is rock solid.”

The US could provide intelligence, surveillance, and logistics support to Taiwan; try to break China’s naval blockade of the island, assisting with logistics and supplies; and deploy its Carrier Strike Groups and submarine force to augment Taiwan’s naval capabilities.

When asked if the United States would come to Taiwan’s defence if mainland China attacked, Oudkirk said the policy towards Taiwan had been clear and remained unchanged, citing US laws governing its relations with the island. In other words, it will be incumbent on the part of the US to come to the aid of Taiwan if attacked by China. If a war breaks out over Taiwan, Biden may be forced into a decision no American president since 1979 has wanted to make.

An invasion by China would force Biden to make a choice: wade into the fight against a nuclear-armed China, or hold back and watch a decades-long partner fall. Stark choice that.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that the Chinese forces do not have the resources and the combat ratio needed to invade, capture and hold on to Taiwanese territory for any length of time at present. A faint possibility may arise probably by 2030/35. It would be suicidal for the Chinese to attempt such a campaign at the present juncture. And the Chinese know it and the reason why they haven't invaded Taiwan so far even after indulging in verbose threats of invasion for the past several years.

“Taiwan’s entire national defense strategy, including its war plans, are specifically targeted at defeating a PLA invasion,” Easton told CNN in 2019. In fact, in his book he wrote that invading Taiwan would be “the most difficult and bloody mission facing the Chinese military.”

So all this talk of an imminent invasion of Taiwan by China is pure fiction. Just hype and sheer misplaced bravado by the Chinese! To reiterate what Sun Tzu's wrote, 'the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting'.

Mikesingh
 
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Tupac slayer

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While Taiwan is much more better equipped than Germany which faced similar Invasion DD Day. What If China focus on a Particular Beach head, secure it both on the sea and in Land? And then advance from there to Capture Taiwan. I feel the article ignores, Chinese Anti Ship missiles especially DF-41, Carrier killer. We need to analyze various scenarios, China will impose a naval Blockade on Taiwan, Position DF-41 along the sea to destroy any ship carrying logistics for Taiwan. China might knock down few Taiwan Satellites, Massive Cyber war will be unleashed.
 

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