Thursday, July 16, 2009

Drawn and Quartered

China's ability to invade Taiwan rests not just with an analysis of China's ability to attack, but a comparison of China's ability to attack to Taiwan's ability to defend. Reducing the latter is just as important to determining whether China can pull off an invasion and the price they'd have to pay in lives.

The Chinese charm offensive is paying off:

Taiwan will reduce the size of its armed forces by a fifth as ties improve with longtime rival China, a defense ministry official said Wednesday.

The defense ministry hopes to cut the number of soldiers to 215,000 within five years from 275,000 now, the official said, adding that about a quarter of the generals would also be phased out.

So let me get this straight. For decades the Chinese have snarled at and threatened Taiwan, asserting Peking's right to rule Taiwan, right?

But recently, the Chinese have been smiling and acting nice--while not abandoning their claim of having the right to rule Taiwan as one big China--and this means ties between the two are improving?

I don't know about you, but when a long-time enemy suddenly starts acting all friendly, I don't draw the conclusion that I have a new friend. I raise my level of suspicion.

Instead of keeping their guard up, the Taiwanese government is literally betting their lives that the smiles unaccompanied by any policy changes regarding China's goals genuinely reflect China's intentions to leave Taiwan alone.

With thinking like that being displayed by the rulers in Taipei, I'm starting to come to the conclusion that Taiwan is doomed.

Sure, if we have enough time to move forces into the western Pacific, we can defeat whatever the Chinese can deploy. The problem is that the Chinese may need less time to conquer Taiwan than we need to decide to intervene and actually move sufficient forces to the Taiwan region to defeat the Chinese navy and air force.

The Taiwanese just don't have a consensus to defend their democracy from China, and we can no longer hold off China in the short run regardless of what the Taiwanese do in regard to defending themselves. They can kiss their freedom goodbye.

UPDATE: While the reduction in troops was portrayed as due to better relations with China, if the reduction is really being done to focus on defeating a Chinese invasion in the Taiwan Strait, that's a different manner:

"We have changed the definition of 'winning the war' (for Taiwan's survival) from 'winning over our enemies' to 'preventing enemies' landing on Taiwan'," the Taiwanese Defence Ministry said in a statement.

"Under this guideline, we want to build a small but strong armed force to defend our country and fend off enemy invasion," the statement continued.

Of course, Taiwan still needs a mobile army to drive any invaders who make it past the air and naval shield.

And the bigger problem is civilian morale if the public really believes that China would never invade. The shock of being invaded after believing they are safe--despite the lack of supporting evidence--might be too much to support a hard fight to defeat the Chinese invaders.