Mon, Jun 24, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Ian Easton On Taiwan: Compete to defeat the PLA

China’s growing military power is a source of shared concern in Washington and Taipei. To avoid an enemy attack and the catastrophe of a great power war, the United States and Taiwan should work together to balance against Beijing’s offensive buildup.

It is increasingly clear that Xi Jinping (習近平) has become a brutal dictator. He intends to turn China into a nightmarish surveillance state. To ensure his personal security, Chairman Xi has poured rivers of cash into lethal armaments programs and bizarre science experiments. The same technology used to scan checks on mobile banking apps is now being twisted by China’s secret police to track the faces of human rights lawyers. School children in China are now being fed propaganda amplified by medical-grade brain monitoring devices.

Chairman Xi’s appetite for power has grown with the eating. He wants to dominate the Indo-Pacific region. His ultimate killing machine, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is programmed not just to rule China, but also to expand that nation’s borders outward. To achieve his dark vision for the future, Xi seeks to export Beijing’s repressive governance model around the globe, by force when necessary.

The United States and its allies must stay ahead of the armed forces of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Human progress and peace will not flourish in a world dominated by China. Yet it will be difficult to guarantee that a dystopian future does not come to pass, first in Taiwan, and then in other once free countries.

ENTER STRATEGIC COMPETITION

For the past two decades, the superpower of democracy has been distracted by terrorist attacks, financial disaster, and dysfunctional leadership. But America has finally woken up to the dangers lurking across the Pacific.

The Pentagon’s 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy Report states: “The People’s Republic of China, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, seeks to reorder the region to its advantage by leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce other nations.” The report makes clear that China is a revisionist power and America’s main strategic rival.

But what exactly is strategic competition? From the birth of atomic weaponry, contests between great powers have generally been about deterring attacks and preventing conflicts from starting. For rational actors, resorting to war is a strategic failure. When wars do occur, the focus is on keeping them small and limited. Victory is about achieving national aims without putting millions of lives in jeopardy.

Such a victory cannot be taken for granted in the 21st century. It may even prove unlikely. China is a dedicated revanchist, and American military planners know that war is now a real possibility, especially if Chairman Xi makes good on his threats to invade Taiwan. The US military is starting to prepare accordingly. No matter how insane a Taiwan invasion scenario might appear, history shows time and time again that dictators have a way of presenting their more civilized neighbors with “unthinkable” surprises.

If China attacks Taiwan, whatever options the Indo-Pacific Command offered the White House would be unpalatable and fraught with risk. For this reason, the question American strategists will be pondering for years to come is this: How might the US compete and defeat the PLA without drawing blood? That is the essence of strategic competition: to fight and win with latent violence instead of kinetic action.

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