Thu, Nov 07, 2019 - Page 8 News List

PRC victory not forgone conclusion

By Robert Portada and Uttam Paudel

The steady supply of arms from the US demonstrate that in the event of a Chinese military action, Beijing would face an opponent that has spent the past 70 years anticipating an invasion.

When anti-invasion drills were held in May, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General Chen Chung-Chi (陳中吉) said Taiwan knew it had to always be “combat-ready.”

Moreover, the US Department of Defense’s report to Congress this year asserted that China would require a far bigger navy to occupy Taiwan than its current capacity allows. According to the report, China’s fleet of 37 amphibious transport docks, 22 smaller landing ships and scattered civilian vessels would only be enough to occupy the smaller islands of the South China Sea.

A stalled or failed military conquest of Taiwan would not only jeopardize China’s aspirations to become the next superpower, it would create reverberations of discontent at home that could threaten the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party leadership. An invasion would also tarnish China’s image as a benevolent superpower interested in pursuing win-win economic deals across the global south.

Furthermore, China’s strategic posture toward the protests in Hong Kong reveals a marked caution in Beijing about deploying offensive military capabilities. If China will not risk a massacre to put down protests in Hong Kong, the world should not expect that it would risk an exponentially more destructive war in Taiwan.

In raw terms, estimates of Taiwan’s military capacity leave the nation far behind China: Taiwan has 150,000 troops to China’s estimated 1 million, 800 tanks to China’s 6,000 and 350 fighter jets to China’s 1,500. Most importantly, Taiwan lacks a nuclear deterrent.

However, Taiwan possesses a heightened degree of military readiness that was nonexistent in either Crimea or Kashmir.

In Crimea, the Russian military was already stationed in Sevastopol, and benefited from a large local Russian population that supported the annexation. Similarly, Indian troops stationed in well-fortified surrounding areas could occupy Kashmir by land.

A Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be forced to cross the Taiwan Strait, would meet much more fierce local resistance and could lead to any number of political, economic or military conflicts with the US.

Russia and India chose hard power strategies to achieve military annexation of their coveted territories. They might find that they never receive full diplomatic recognition of these conquests.

Meanwhile, China has been seeking full diplomatic recognition of a conquest that has yet to come to fruition. China might eventually find success in the diplomatic realm, but it will be much more difficult to carry out a military invasion of Taiwan than it was for Russia to take Crimea or India to occupy Kashmir.

China’s long diplomatic game was designed to exploit an international order rooted in law and diplomacy that is fading from view. As the US and Taiwan prepare for defensive wars, China plows ahead with many more billions of dollars in aid and loans to microstates and impoverished Central American countries.

The power disparity between China and Taiwan will keep the potential for military action a pervasive concern, but Taiwan will remain more secure than other similarly coveted territories.

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