In his classic study of guerrilla warfare War of the Flea, Robert Taber compares the small, disadvantaged opponent in an armed conflict to a flea, whose small, intractable nature can be turned into an advantage against its enemy.
As the military divide between China and Taiwan widens in China's favor -- thanks, in part, to the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) efforts to block weapons development and acquisition -- Taiwanese who are committed to defending the nation have had little choice but to begin considering asymmetrical or nonconventional options. That is, they have been forced to look at a potential war with China from the flea's perspective.
While much has been said in recent weeks about Taiwan's development of the Hsiung Feng II-E cruise missile and -- for a brief, hallucinatory moment -- nuclear weapons, ultimately these remain part of an arsenal that, should war break out, stands little chance of overwhelming Beijing's massive and widely distributed forces. Even if, for a while, Taiwan could inflict punitive damage against an invading People's Liberation Army (PLA), past experience shows that massive casualties within PLA ranks does not deter Beijing. During the Korean War, Chinese "volunteers" suffered 148,000 deaths, while an estimated 20,000 lost their lives in the debacle following China's invasion of Vietnam in 1979.
History also teaches us that successive regimes in Beijing have no compunctions about noncombatant casualties -- as the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square Massacre so starkly remind us. More recently, former PLA chief of the general staff Xiong Guangkai's (
Two traditional pillars of deterrence -- massive military losses or threats against civilian populations (a reprehensible option) -- are denied Taiwan. It must therefore find China's Achilles' heel elsewhere.
And that's its economy.
Enter the graphite, or "blackout" bomb, a non-lethal weapon that can knock out an enemy's power grid by short-circuiting it. Taiwan has announced it could begin development of that weapon, which can be dropped by aircraft or mounted onto cruise missiles such as the Hsiung Feng. Whether that device will suffer the same fate as the Hsiung Feng at the hands of the KMT remains to be seen, but its introduction shows that a paradigm shift has occurred within the nation's defense apparatus, which, by sheer virtue of its size and the prevailing international context that favors China, is awakening to the realization that it cannot hope to compete with China in conventional military terms.
Beyond the graphite bomb, Taiwan must explore other venues where its technological advantage could be put to good use and continue to identify other weaknesses in China's defenses, such as maritime ports, industrial centers and command-and-control nodes.
Beijing has made no secret of the fact that, aside from the very survival of the Chinese Communist Party, the economy is paramount. Many of its policies are formulated to ensure that economic growth continues unhampered, even at a debilitating social or environmental cost. It is therefore not difficult to imagine how Beijing could be made to pause should a credible threat to its economy come from Taipei.
Taiwan has all it needs to mount a countervailing strategy based on innovative technologies and an asymmetrical mindset to make Beijing think twice before it attempts to take on the flea.
The beauty of it is that Taiwan might not even have to kill people to achieve its objectives.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday last week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) wrote: “The KMT must fall for Taiwan to improve.’ Allow me to ask the question again: Is this really true?” It matters not how many times Hsu asks the question, my answer will always be the same: “Yes, the KMT must be toppled for Taiwan to improve.” In the lengthy Facebook post, titled “What were those born in the 1980s guilty of?” Hsu harked back to the idealistic aspirations of the 2014 Sunflower movement before heaping opprobrium on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP)
The scuffle between Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji and a Taiwanese diplomat at a Republic of China (ROC) Double Ten National Day celebration has turned into a public relations opportunity for the government, Beijing and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Although the incident occurred on Oct. 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) downplayed it, only for the story to be picked up by the foreign media, forcing the ministry to respond. The public and opposition parties asked why the government had failed to remonstrate more strongly in the first instance. It is still unclear whether the ministry missed a trick
US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, former US vice president Joe Biden, are holding their final debate tonight. In their foreign policy debate, China is sure to be a major issue of contention for the two candidates. Here are several questions the moderator should pose to the candidates: For both: In the first televised US presidential debates in 1960, then-Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy and his Republican counterpart, Richard Nixon, were asked whether the US should intervene if communist China attacked Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu. Kennedy said no, unless the main island of Taiwan was also attacked.
For most of us, the colorful, otherworldly marinescapes of coral reefs are as remote as the alien landscapes of the moon. We rarely, if ever, experience these underwater wonderlands for ourselves — we are, after all, air-breathing, terrestrial creatures mostly cocooned in cities. It is easy not to notice the perilous state they are in: We have lost 50 percent of coral reefs in the past 20 years and more than 90 percent are expected to die by 2050, a presentation at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego, California, earlier this year showed. As the oceans heat further and