Thu, Nov 16, 2017 - Page 14 News List

Book review: If worst comes to worst

In this landmark work, US scholar Ian Easton outlays what a cross-strait invasion scenario would look like and what should be done now to safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty

By Gerrit van der Wees  /  Contributing Reporter

The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s defense and American strategy in Asia, by Ian Easton.

Taiwan and its future are always sensitive topics, in the US, China and in the nation itself.

Its complicated history is often a source of confusion to policymakers around the world, who for many decades only heard the two opposing and conflicting “one China” narratives from Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

However, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the people of Taiwan forged a momentous transition to a dynamic and vibrant democracy, eager to cast off the bonds of the past, and anxious to be accepted in the international community as a full and equal member.

However, Mao’s political descendants in Beijing still perceive Taiwan as an unfinished piece of business from their Chinese Civil War against the KMT, and thus Taiwan still dangles in international isolation. Most nations, including the US, have refrained from normalizing relations with Taiwan for fear of offending authoritarian China.

Since the founding of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, Beijing has been attempting to isolate Taiwan and pull it into its orbit, with the purpose of eventual “unification” — which is odd because Taiwan was never part of the PRC, as prior to its 1945 occupation by the KMT it was a Japanese colony.

Beijing is utilizing a wide range of tools to try to achieve its goals: political, diplomatic, economic and military. In this book, US scholar Ian Easton focuses on the military aspects — based on internal documents of the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA). He describes a detailed scenario of how the PLA plans to go about an amphibious invasion of Taiwan.

While the threat of a Chinese invasion has been bandied around by analysts for decades, this is the first time a scholar has pieced together how it could actually work — and how it could fail.

Publication Notes

The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s defense and American strategy in Asia

By Ian easton

406 pages

The Project 2049 Institute

Paperback: US


Easton starts by giving a sobering picture of the PRC’s intentions and capabilities regarding Taiwan. He then goes through a detailed scenario (down to the level of individual army divisions, brigades and regiments, navy and air force squadrons) of how the PLA would go about planning and implementing an invasion — under ideal circumstances.

Easton then details what could go wrong with an invasion of such massive scale (up to 1 million men) across such a wide body of water — the 177km-wide Taiwan Strait is known for its treacherous weather and Easton argues that there are only two brief periods, April and October, when the weather conditions would be favorable to such a large-scale operation.

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In addition, Easton describes Taiwan’s rocky coastline as quite inhospitable to an invading force, while the few beaches that would lend themselves to large-scale landings are heavily defended. He points to areas in intelligence, personnel and equipment where an invasion would be likely to go wrong.

Easton then describes how Taiwan would prepare, and fight such an attack. He details three phases: mobilization and force preservation, joint interdiction and homeland defense. He emphasizes that although the invading PLA forces would have numerical superiority, the Taiwanese defenders would have the home advantage and would likely hold off or even severely cripple the invaders. He concludes an invasion is likely to fail, even in the absence of US intervention.

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