Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Strait Talk

The Department of Defense has released its annual report on Chinese military power.

It seems fairly straightforward in its discussion, noting that the balance of power between China and Taiwan has been shifting toward China. The Chinese government reacted rather harshly:

"The report groundlessly attacks China's military modernization and makes unwarranted charges about China's normal national defense building and military deployments," Vice Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in a statement.

It "ignores the facts, spares no effort to spread the 'China threat theory', rudely interferes in China's internal affairs," Yang was quoted as saying on the Foreign Ministry's Web site,

Touchy in Peking, eh?

The article wrongly says the report assesses that the Chinese lack the military capability to attack Taiwan. The report says something different:

Amphibious Invasion. An invasion of Taiwan would be a complex and difficult operation relying upon timing and pre-conditions set by many subordinate campaigns. Publicly available Chinese writings on amphibious campaigns offer different strategies for an amphibious invasion of Taiwan. The most prominent of these is the Joint Island Landing Campaign. The objective of this campaign is to break through or circumvent the shore defense, establish and build a beachhead, and then launch an attack to split, seize and occupy the entire island or important targets on the island. To achieve the final objective of the Joint Island Landing Campaign, a series of sub-campaigns, such as electronic warfare, naval, and air campaigns, must be executed, including the underlying logistics support.

Amphibious operations are logistics-intensive and rely for success upon the rapid build-up of supplies and sustainment ashore and an uninterrupted flow of support thereafter. This particular amphibious operation would tax the lift capacities of China’s armed forces needed to provide sustainment for this campaign. Add to these strains the combat attrition of China’s forces, and an amphibious invasion of Taiwan would be a significant political and military risk for China’s civilian and military leaders.

The PLA's prospects in an invasion of Taiwan would hinge on: availability of amphibious and air lift, attrition rates, interoperability of PLA forces, the ability of China's logistic system to support the necessarily high tempo of operations, Taiwan’s will to resist, and the speed and scale of third-party intervention.

This isn't quite the same as saying an amphibious conquest of Taiwan can't be done, now is it? The report says that the success of an invasion depends on how well the Chinese can pull it off (obviously!), whether Taiwan has the will to resist, and how quickly Japan and America intervene with sufficient power.

It is all the more significant since of the military options the report discusses, invasion is the only one judged capable of resolving the issue without risking a full-scale conflict. Since the limited force option, a missile and air campaign, and blockade are all judged to risk taking time, thus allowing time for other nations (US and Japan) to intervene, logically the Chinese should just go right to the invasion option. And since third-party intervention is the biggest threat to Chinese success, a speedy invasion with the element of surprise is the only way to win before intervention brings superior US and Japanese power to bear on the campaign.

This interpretation also makes sense in light of the report's finding that the PLA is modernizing its forces into a "professional force capable of fighting high-intensity, local wars of short duration against high-tech adversaries." China knows we can win in a long war so they want short ones to prevent a long war with America from developing. The lesser force options make no sense in light of this objective.

I stand by my invasion scenario in light of this report. The Chinese are getting ready. They are getting set. And they want to go. By the 2008 summer Olympics, I should say.

Preparing to beat China or getting Taiwan up to speed to defend their island on their own are the best choices of a bad situation (letting China take Taiwan is the worst). I'd rather focus China away from Taiwan and the sea toward the interior of Asia. I don't forgive the Russians for pointing the Chinese at us.

Oh, and in an amusing little error that I expect the Chinese government to go batty over when they notice it, the map on page 27, apparently a 1996 model, indicates Macau as Portugese territory and Hong Kong as British territory. Heh. Peking doesn't know the half of our interests in their "internal" politics, apparently, if they are only thinking of Taiwan!