Sunday, March 22, 2009


This is an expansion of an update to this post. It seemed a good enough topic to expand in pull together some past posts.

The basic situation of the Taiwan Strait crisis is that China is much weaker militarily than America but China is much closer to Taiwan, giving China a head start on deploying decisive power to the combat area.

Further, Taiwan is weaker than China and the imbalance grows as Chinese national power expands each year. Taiwan's basic hope is to be too difficult to conquer quickly, buying time for America (and Japan) to intervene.

Third, Taiwanese defense efforts can counter the Chinese-Taiwanese military balance trend, but as Chinese power projection capabilities continue to grow, at some point Taiwan's efforts become insignificant.

Strategypage sets for the basics as I've long discussed:

The Taiwanese government is increasing defense spending, including the development of more locally made weapons (like cruise missiles to take out targets on the mainland.) Chinese pressure on the U.S. caused Taiwan's recent request to buy 60 F-16 fighters, to be turned down. Taiwan wants to increase its military capability because its arrangement with the United States requires that Taiwan be strong enough to hold off a Chinese attack long enough for American forces to arrive. This means keeping control of air bases on the island for up to a week. China is apparently building up its land, air and naval forces to the point where a surprise attack could conquer Taiwan in a few days, if the defending Taiwanese were not ready.

There is still a problem with this Taiwanese strategy. And that's aside from whether the Chinese don't need a week or whether a week is sufficient time for the American government to decide to intervene and then get forces to Taiwan in time to make a difference.

The problem is that a strategy of buying time usually buys that time with the currency of real estate. That is, you fall back to keep your forces intact and make sure the enemy must advance slowly to deal with your still-functioning forces.

So even if the Taiwanese successfully buy that time, doesn't this mean that the PLA is entrenched on parts of Taiwan? Doesn't this mean we have a new status quo on the island with two armies contesting the same real estate?

Which means that the initial attack could be just the softening up phase to prepare for the real killing blow (perhaps even a non-military killing blow against a demoralized Taiwan that can see what is coming), that will fall at a later date. And my solution still assumes we keep China off the main island. This is the problem of basing a defense not on defeating the enemy, but just slowing them down. Slowing the enemy down just means it takes them longer to get where they are going.

I don't believe I've read any article that doesn't assume we either defeat the Chinese (and keep them from landing on the island) or lose to the Chinese (who occupy the entire island). These are not the only two options.

Increasingly, the most likely outcome of a war will be that China establishes control of some territory on Taiwan, perhaps just clinging on or perhaps a substantial bridgehead, but that American and Taiwanese forces prevent the PLA from completely defeating the Taiwanese and taking over all of Taiwan. And the Taiwanese will either lack the ability (either in units or simply ammunition supplies) to eject the Chinese troops and American refuses to risk nuclear war to either eject the Chinese or supply Taiwan with ammunition to do the job.

China then has a jumping off point for a million-man march in a few years.

Eventually, Taiwan--with American and Japanese backing--will need to break out of this pattern of buying time, by slowing down the Chinese who are in turn trying to slow down America and Japan, to come up with a new strategy to survive living next door to China.

Will the new means of security be inviting American forces to deploy on the island, creating a tripwire that bypasses the race aspect of Chinese and American forces trying to get to Taiwan first with the most?

Will it be going nuclear to provide the ultimate asymmetric weapon that will deter China without relying on America?

Of course, either of these would likely trigger a Chinese attack. Unless China was busy with a war with Russia or India, for example. Or focused internally because of domestic unrest in the northwest, southwest, or even nationwide.

Or will it be by getting the Chinese to focus on the interior of Asia which might eventually lead their naval power to halt its expansion and perhaps wither compared to American, Japanese, and Taiwanese naval power?

Could the Taiwanese actually leverage economic power to undermine Chinese will to use force?

Or will a new strategy be to use Taiwan's soft power of being a democracy to undermine the stability of Peking's rule, in the hope that the communists will be overthrown and that the new government will not be interested in conquering Taiwan? Or perhaps this would lead China to break up into successor states, none of which will be interested in taking on Taiwan--or perhaps just be too weak individually to do the job.

We need a new plan for how to deal with such a two-step conquest:

China is vulnerable to internal unrest and fissures. Once Peking shows it will wage war to upset the status quo over Taiwan by use of force, we need to push back and attempt to end the threat at the source--by attempting to roll back the Communist dictatorship that will without a doubt launch the Second Taiwan War when the time seems right to them. Call our policy "Two Chinas. One System." The one system being Taiwan's system of democracy and free markets.

The old plan worked for decades, but only because we faced an old PLAN, so to speak. It is clear that this plan is increasingly insufficient to defend Taiwan in the face of the new PLAN.