Fri, Aug 15, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Make national security a priority

By Chen Shih-min 陳世民

Most of the Pentagon's latest Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China to Congress, published on July 30, remains the same as last year's report. In addition to pointing out in its estimate of China's strength that Beijing has increased the number of missiles aimed at Taiwan to 450, the main difference is that it stresses that Taiwan's "will to resist" is crucial to the question of whether a Chinese attack will be successful.

The report points out that, for China's coercive strategy towards Taiwan to be successful, "perhaps the most important factor is the degree to which Taiwan's leaders and populace perceive themselves to be different and separate from the mainland. Will they perceive that there is something real and significant to be protected by resisting the PRC?"

In last year's report, the US believed that "perhaps the most important factor is the nature of the demands that Beijing imposes. If Beijing's demands [for granting Taiwan autonomy] are limited, then the threshold at which Taiwan would be willing to [give up its resistance and] negotiate may be lower." This year, how-ever, that factor was listed third, after the second factor, "Taiwan's assessment whether the US will assist in deterring and defeating PRC coercion."

The US clearly believes that current differences in domestic opinion in Taiwan severely affects its national security and that China is using this factor to divide the country.

As it did last year, the US states that China may already have gradually abandoned its past search for a method to militarily invade and occupy Taiwan in favor of a coercive strategy which stresses that Taipei should be forced to capitulate during the early days [of an invasion], before the US has come to the aid of Taiwan, so that China would never have to engage in ground warfare in Taiwan. In other words, the use of a wide-ranging, total solution consisting of military, political and economic means to create a comprehensive coercive force in order to send Taiwan the signal that resistance is futile and that des-truction or capitulation are the only two choices.

Beijing's main target is Tai-wan's leadership and its military and their will to resist. It aims to use the most economical method to achieve the greatest political benefit. The report also believes that China's assessment of Tai-wan's will to resist is crucial to the decision of whether or not Beijing will initiate an attack.

There are two aspects to this strategy. China may, without prior notice, take advantage of an initial surprise attack, deceiving and frightening the people of Taiwan, thus forcing the country to quickly give up any resistance. Methods would include missile and air attacks, information warfare and a sea blockade. Special forces, such as an amphibious-striking force or paratroopers, would rapidly occupy or destroy key facilities, causing the the nation's military to lose its will to resist.

"The PLA also could adopt a decapitation strategy, seeking to neutralize Taiwan's political and military leadership on the assumption that their successors would adopt policies more favorable to Beijing," the report said.

During the war in Iraq earlier this year, the US' scare tactics and decapitation strategy caused a rapid collapse in the will to resist of former president Saddam Hussein's government and therefore its defeat. This may have increased China's confidence in the use of such coercive strategies.

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