China’s Vast Fleet Is Tipping the Balance in the Pacific: A US Carrier Hasn’t Sailed the Taiwan Strait in 11 Years

US used to sail carrier groups through the Strait of Taiwan, now it's down to destroyer pairs

Washington now displays the kind of caution around Chinese shores that would be unheard of 20 years ago. It still loves to provoke, but not so much it would risk a clash

A generation ago, from mid-1995 into early 1996, China lobbed missiles in the waters around Taiwan as the self-governing island prepared to hold its first fully democratic presidential election. Washington forcefully intervened to support its ally, sending two aircraft carrier battle groups to patrol nearby. The carriers, then as now the spearhead of American power, intimidated Beijing. The vote went ahead. The missiles stopped.

Today, with tension again running high, Washington still backs Taiwan. Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 2 renewed Beijing’s longstanding threat to use force if necessary to restore mainland control over the island. But the United States is now sending much more muted signals of support.

On Sunday, American ships sailed through the Taiwan Strait. This was the seventh passage of U.S. warships through the narrow, strategically sensitive waterway since July. Each time, though, just two U.S. vessels have ventured through; this week, it was a pair of destroyers. No powerful flotillas and certainly no aircraft carriers. It has been more than 11 years since an American carrier traversed the Taiwan Strait.

“The Trump administration faces a dilemma,” said Chang Ching, a retired Taiwan naval captain and researcher at the Taipei-based Society for Strategic Studies. “They want to send smart, calibrated signals to Beijing without causing an overreaction or misunderstanding.” [Ie they want to keep provoking, but not so much to cause a war.]

This caution is typical of the restraint the U.S. and allied navies, including Japan and Australia, now display in international waters near the Chinese coast, according to more than 10 current and former senior U.S. and Western military officials.

China now rules the waves in what it calls the San Hai, or “Three Seas”: the South China Sea, East China Sea and Yellow Sea. In these waters, the United States and its allies avoid provoking the Chinese navy.

In just over two decades, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese military, has mustered one of the mightiest navies in the world. This increased Chinese firepower at sea – complemented by a missile force that in some areas now outclasses America’s – has changed the game in the Pacific. The expanding naval force is central to President Xi Jinping’s bold bid to make China the preeminent military power in the region. In raw numbers, the PLA navy now has the world’s biggest fleet. It is also growing faster than any other major navy.

“We thought China would be a great pushover for way too long, and so we let them start the naval arms race while we dawdled,” said James Holmes, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and a former U.S. Navy surface warfare officer.

China’s Ministry of National Defense, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the Pentagon did not respond to questions from Reuters.

For the United States, the stakes are now much higher in any operation to support its regional allies, including Japan and Taiwan. America now faces daunting obstacles to any efforts to reinforce heavily outgunned Taiwan in a crisis. Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province and is currently building an amphibious force that could give it the capacity to launch an invasion of the island.

Senior Asian defense and security officials say the PLA’s naval advances have introduced a new uncertainty in such scenarios: If Beijing can sow serious doubt about whether Washington will intervene against China, it would undermine the value of U.S. security guarantees in Asia.

In November, a bipartisan commission set up by Congress to review the Trump administration’s national defense strategy reported that in a war with China over Taiwan, “Americans could face a decisive military defeat.”


As China gains confidence that it can dominate its near seas, it intends to challenge the dominance of the U.S. Navy in distant waters, too, in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, according to U.S and Chinese military officials.

Satellite imagery of Chinese dockyards, reports in China’s state-controlled media and assessments of U.S. and other foreign naval experts show the PLA navy is expanding as fast as shipyards can weld hulls together.

This emerging blue water fleet was just a dream for the early commanders of the communist navy born in 1949, during the closing stages of the nation’s civil war. Then, the People’s Liberation Army assembled a motley collection of conscripted fishing boats and vessels defecting from the Nationalists.

Since 2014, China has launched more warships, submarines, support ships and major amphibious vessels than the entire number of ships now serving in the United Kingdom’s fleet, according to an analysis from the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies published in May last year. Between 2015 and 2017, China launched almost 400,000 tonnes of naval vessels, about twice the output of U.S. shipyards in that period, the IISS said.

The PLA navy now has about 400 warships and submarines, according to U.S. and other Western naval analysts. By 2030, the Chinese navy could have more than 530 warships and submarines, according to a projection in a 2016 U.S. Naval War College study.

A shrunken and overworked U.S. Navy, which has ruled the oceans virtually unchallenged since the end of the Cold War, had 288 warships and submarines at the end of March, according to the Pentagon.

Globally, the U.S. Navy remains the dominant maritime force, the power that keeps the peace and maintains freedom of navigation on the high seas. Chinese military and political figures say that while their nation’s fleet has more ships, America has more powerful ones, and overall supremacy at sea.

“The Chinese navy is at least three decades behind the United States,” a retired Chinese naval officer told Reuters, requesting anonymity. “It is too early for the United States to fret.”

China, however, has established dominance in the waters closest to its coast.


The regular, highly publicized launch of new warships is a powerful political weapon for Xi Jinping. For a domestic audience, modern aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines are hard evidence that what Xi describes as the “Chinese dream,” his vision of a strong, rejuvenated nation, is becoming reality.

Almost immediately after taking power in late 2012, Xi began a series of high profile visits to naval bases and voyages at sea on sleek, new warships. In documentary footage and news reports, he is piped aboard to the salutes of immaculately turned out officers and crew. Underway, he peers into the distance from the bridge through bulky naval binoculars, climbs ladders between decks and shares meals with sailors.

Last spring, he watched a giant exercise in the South China Sea, where a flotilla of 48 warships assembled in formation. Half of these vessels had been commissioned since Xi took power, state-controlled media reported. The highlight was the launch of jet fighters from China’s first aircraft carrier: the 60,000-tonne Liaoning, a refurbished Soviet-era flat top that has served as a test bed for carrier operations. The Chinese navy has launched a second carrier as well, which is now in sea trials and expected to join the fleet this year, according to U.S. officials.

A key message in the official coverage of Xi’s voyages: A vigilant navy under his command will guard against a repeat of the century of humiliation that began with the First Opium War in 1839, and during which European colonial powers and Japanese invaders took cruel advantage of a vulnerable China.

Every Chinese school child learns that China’s suffering arose partly because of the lack of a modern navy. Infamously, in the final years of the Qing Dynasty, the Empress Dowager diverted funds earmarked for naval modernization to building a new Summer Palace. This contributed to China’s heavy defeat in the 1894-95 war with Japan, in which a rising Japanese navy smashed the Chinese fleet.

While Beijing’s repeated references to these past humiliations have propaganda value, invasion is now regarded as a highly unlikely threat, according to military strategy documents published by the Chinese government. Instead, China needs to prepare for high intensity conflict in its near seas, these documents say.

It is not spelled out exactly how these conflicts would arise. But officers from the U.S. and other foreign militaries say they have no doubt Beijing is referring to clashes over Taiwan or disputed territories in China’s near seas. This strategy is driving a shift away from Beijing’s traditional emphasis on land forces. It marks a historic transformation for an ancient continental power that for millenia feared armies encroaching overland from the north and west.

Xi has elevated the status of the navy within what is the world’s biggest military. In an unprecedented move for what has been an army-dominated force, a senior naval officer, Vice Admiral Yuan Yubai, was appointed in 2017 to head China’s Southern Theater Command, one of the country’s five regional commands.

Under Xi, the Communist Party has also opened the funding tap. Between 2015 and 2021, total military outlays are projected to jump 55 percent from $167.9 billion to $260.8 billion, according to a report last year that the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission ordered from Jane’s By IHS Markit, a defense information company. Over the same period, the navy’s share of this budget is expected to increase 82 percent, from $31.4 billion to $57.1 billion, the report said.

The Chinese leader has set a clear direction for the navy to become a truly global force that would protect the country’s vast seaborne trade and expanding international interests. In its 2015 White Paper on defense, China said its navy would gradually shift its focus from defending its offshore waters to operations in the open seas.

For now, many of China’s warships are smaller vessels, including a big fleet of fast missile-attack craft. But Chinese shipyards are launching surface warships that are closing the gap in size, quality, and capability with the best of their foreign counterparts, according to interviews with veterans of the U.S., Taiwanese and Australian navies. China’s big fleet of conventional and nuclear submarines is also improving rapidly, they say.

By 2020, the PLA navy will boast more big surface warships and submarines than the Russian navy, [which anyway is split up between four different fleets] the former head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, told a congressional committee last year. Some American naval experts believe China could achieve rough parity with the U.S. Navy in numbers and quality of major surface warships by 2030.

Crucially, the Chinese navy already has an edge in hitting power, according to senior officers from the U.S. and other regional navies. The best Chinese destroyers, frigates, fast attack craft and submarines are armed with anti-ship missiles that in most cases far outrange and outperform those on U.S. warships, these officers say.


This firepower explains why Washington keeps its carriers at a distance. The last U.S. carrier to pass through the Taiwan Strait was the now-decommissioned USS Kitty Hawk, which made a transit with its battle group in late 2007 after being denied a port visit to Hong Kong.

The U.S. Navy and other foreign navies still sail near the Chinese mainland. But they avoid overt shows of force that would increase the risk of clashes with modern Chinese warships and submarines. Retired U.S. Navy carrier-fleet officers say that in recent years the Pentagon has also avoided sending carriers to the Yellow Sea between the Korean Peninsula and the Chinese mainland, amid repeated Chinese warnings.

An example of China’s determination to control its near waters came this month, when a French warship passed through the Taiwan Strait. After the April 6 transit of the frigate Vendemiaire, China informed Paris that France was no longer welcome to attend celebrations last week to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese communist navy, U.S. officials told Reuters.

Veteran U.S. Navy officers predict any serious conflict with China off its coast would be bloody. The United States and its allies would risk heavy losses and possible defeat, they say.

This type of conflict would be vastly different from the wars the United States has been fighting in the Middle East and Afghanistan. There, America enjoyed unchallenged air and sea superiority and unimpeded logistics, said Gary Roughead, co-chairman of a 2018 review of the Trump administration’s defense strategy.

Today, heavy damage to or losses of American warships or major bases is a real but underappreciated possibility for the United States in a conflict with China, said Roughead, the former Chief of Naval Operations, the top job in the U.S. Navy. “We have not thought about the significant capital losses that will occur – and the American people not being prepared for that,” he said in an interview with Reuters. “Those are significant factors in the win-loss equation.”

Chinese military veterans and people with ties to the ruling Communist Party leadership say China’s new naval muscle is defensive in nature. It is essential, they say, to counter a hostile United States that sees China as an enemy.

“Without air and sea domination, Chinese naval vessels will just be targets in the event of conflict,” said a retired PLA officer. “For Southeast Asian neighbors, China’s navy may be intimidating, but its prowess is limited to waters near the country’s shores and too early to be a force to be reckoned with in the open sea.”

The PLA navy is growing and improving, and in sheer numbers of vessels, exceeds its American rival. But China still falls well short of overall U.S. naval power. With 11 aircraft carriers, 88 powerful surface warships and 69 nuclear-powered submarines, America deploys the mightiest fleet and is likely to maintain a technological edge for some time, according to U.S. and Chinese military officials.

In response to the challenge from China and a resurgent Russian navy, the Pentagon is rebuilding its fleet and accelerating development of new weapons, including the urgent introduction of longer-range missiles. The United States aims to deploy a 355-strong fleet by 2034, according to the Trump administration’s 2020 budget proposal documents. And key U.S. allies Japan, South Korea and Australia are upgrading their navies with new, advanced warships and submarines.

China also faces challenges in its drive to become a global naval power. Chinese and foreign naval experts warn that Beijing faces a colossal funding burden as it adds multiple warships to its fleet. Typically, navies wind up paying the initial price of building a warship three times over its service life, if maintenance and refitting costs are included, according to shipbuilders.

In some vital naval technologies, China is struggling to catch up. Chinese shipyards still rely on foreign suppliers for some engines, weapons and sensors, according to global arms trade registers. High-profile arrests of suspected Chinese spies accused of stealing military secrets in the United States suggest China’s navy has shortcomings in radars, underwater sensors and other electronic technologies.

The PLA navy is well behind the U.S. and other navies in anti-submarine warfare, a serious deficiency, according to Chinese and Western military experts. Most Western military analysts also believe the Chinese navy lacks the amphibious capability to invade Taiwan – the vessels and skills to reach the island by sea and then put boots on the ground.


However, when it comes to dominating its near seas, China doesn’t need to match the U.S. ship-for-ship. The U.S. Navy is a globe-spanning force with offshore bases and multiple missions, including supporting Middle East operations, bolstering European allies, countering Russia’s naval revival and safeguarding global shipping routes. To do this job, the U.S. Navy has to dominate virtually all the world’s oceans.

In contrast, the entire Chinese fleet is based on the mainland coast. This means it has the advantage of being the home team. Without major global military responsibilities, the PLA navy can concentrate virtually all its forces in its coastal waters, flooding the zone inside what Beijing refers to as “the first island chain”: the arc that runs through the nearby major islands of the Japanese archipelago, Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo.

In a conflict in these near seas, the Chinese mainland would function as a vast, unsinkable aircraft carrier. China’s warships would be close to logistical support and the firepower of land-based missiles and strike aircraft. These forces would seek to overwhelm enemy warships with volleys of missiles and torpedoes from multiple directions, U.S. and Chinese military analysts say.

Most of this firepower was unavailable to Beijing when President Bill Clinton deployed the two carrier battle groups off Taiwan in early 1996. China’s obsolete navy, geared for coastal defense, was powerless to respond, and Beijing could only watch helplessly as the Taiwanese vote went ahead.

This humiliation was a turning point, Chinese and Western navy officers say. Stung, China ordered from Russia two powerful destroyers armed with supersonic anti-ship missiles that could take out American carriers and other warships. Two more arrived later from a subsequent order.

Then China’s naval shipyards started cranking. Satellite imagery of the key yards at Shanghai, Dalian, Guangzhou and Wuhan show them almost continuously crowded with warships and submarines at different stages of construction. Since June 2017, Chinese shipyards have launched four heavily armed Type 055 cruisers, which U.S. and Chinese military officials say are a match for any modern warship.

Multiple warships can be seen under construction in one section of the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai in April 2018, including Type 055 cruisers and Type 052D destroyers, advanced surface warships armed with long-range missiles for attacking naval and airborne targets. The first Type 055 cruiser, the 10,000-tonne Nanchang, has completed most of its sea trials and will soon join the fleet, the Chinese military said on April 25. It will deliver a major boost to China’s naval firepower when fully operational.

And the PLA is building a force of modern, amphibious heavy-lift vessels that in time could allow Beijing to mount a landing on Taiwan or disputed territories such as the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China. The PLA is also training an expanded force of marines for amphibious landings. China’s marines are expected to be a 30,000-strong force by 2020, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power released in August.

On February 27, China’s second aircraft carrier put to sea from Dalian for its fifth round of sea trials, according to reports in the official media.

With the still-unnamed carrier now close to joining the fleet, the PLA navy celebrated its anniversary on April 23 with a multinational naval display off the North Sea Fleet headquarters at Qingdao. Xi Jinping was on hand as the Nanchang made its first public appearance with the fleet.

Source: Reuters


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  2. cechas vodobenikov says

    only the amerikans and Japanese exhibit this Sino-phobia—China does not send their navy to patrol the Caribbean or threaten Venezuela w their navy like the amerikans…Everyone comprehends that amerikans r immure—they only respond to force and power—-with these barbarians, one must recall the axiom: if you want peace prepare for war!
    today the fascist politicians accuse the Chinese of creating the virus—invented at ft Detrick by the amerikans

  3. Michael says

    As a metaphor once upon a time America sent a squadron of tall strong men now she sends a group of geriatrics with walking sticks

  4. David Chu says

    With 11 aircraft carriers, 88 powerful surface warships and 69
    nuclear-powered submarines, America deploys the mightiest fleet and is
    likely to maintain a technological edge for some time, according to U.S.
    and Chinese military officials.

    Those 11 Death Stars are what the Maginot Lines were for WW2: Colossal Sitting Ducks. Now those 69 nuclear subs are something else. But once they start firing their SLBMs, they are dead.

  5. David Chu says

    Globally, the U.S. Navy remains the dominant maritime force, the
    power that keeps the peace and maintains freedom of navigation on the
    high seas.

    What high fluting hogwash! The Imperial US Navy is patrolling the oceans and seas to enforce it’s imperialism and genocide of those who don’t obey the dictates and edicts of the Yankee Overlords.

    1. cechas vodobenikov says

      precisely—Russian and Chines hypersonics (according to US experts) will destroy all US carriers in 3-5 days, in event of war (unless hidden in Virginia, needing repairs)…today Russian subs can launch nuclear armed hypersonics while submerged…the US invests in outdated irrelevant weapons…they did not learn from Hitlers mistakes…German subs were extremely effective; Hitler ignored his generals and transferred resources to expansion of the Luftwaffe—history demonstrates this was a strategic mistake, the F-35 scandal shows that amerikans are as Santayana wrote, “ignorant and unteachable”

      1. David Chu says

        No, your understanding of this history is incorrect.

        Hitler’s big mistake was that he was too soft on those whom he trusted implicitly, i.e., Hermann Goering. It was Goering who couldn’t/didn’t deliver the fighter jets as he had promised. Goering was very effective in implementing the 4-year program during 1933-1936 and also during those years running up to WW2, and of course during the blitzkriegs in Poland and France. But he lost it during the latter years of WW2.

      2. Robert Bruce says

        The type XXI and XXIII subs were a very huge waste of resources towards the end of the war. The small numbers that were actually produced and set to sea had enough steel to make 5,000 panzers. In late 1944/early 45, that might have made an impact.

    2. Jihadi Colin says

      I responded to that line with a string of hahahahas but my comment is still “pending”.

  6. Jihadi Colin says

    Here is something I wrote a couple of years ago about a hypothetical Chinese invasion/liberation of Taiwan:

    For how many days could Taiwan resist if China unexpectedly invaded Taiwan?
    There are two possible scenarios that would change the status quo over Taiwan.

    In the first, the decaying American Empire, in its drive to try and attack Chinese interests in all ways, will incite the Taiwanese rump regime to formally declare independence, promising to come to its aid. Until the Taiwanese rump regime formally declares independence, in fact, America can’t station forces on its territory, because that would constitute an invasion of China; and China is not Syria, riven by violence and loss of state control, where American invaders can operate in relative safety.

    So, if the Taiwan rump can be incited to officially announce secession, American rapid deployment forces could be rushed to the island in a matter of days, and then any attempt by China to take the island would risk starting a full on nuclear war.

    In the second scenario, the American Empire does not incite the Taiwanese rump to secede; but the Taiwanese regime, watching the decline of the Empire, thinks that it’s its last chance for independence before America gets too weak to help it, and so declares independence unilaterally.

    In both circumstances, China will have no option but to retake Taiwan by force. There are two more reasons for this:

    The first is common to all multi-ethnic nations, from Turkey to Spain, from India to Nigeria and Pakistan to Russia. If any ethnicity of the nation is allowed to secede, the result is likely to be the secession of other ethnicities as well, causing the disintegration of the state, or at the least a massive, ruinous war to prevent this disintegration. That is the primary reason Spain continues to hold on to Catalonia (or else the Basques would secede), Nigeria to the Ibo areas that used to be Biafra (or else the Muslim Fulani areas of the North would go too), Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran to the Kurdish areas, India to Kashmir and Nagaland, Pakistan to Balochistan, Russia to Chechnya. Nobody wants to end up like another Yugoslavia, where the failure to crush initial secessionism led to the total destruction of the country.

    (Czechoslovakia is often held up as an example of how two ethnicities can secede without harming each other. False analogy. The country only had two main ethnic groups, and though they separated into two nations, both of them merely traded their Czechoslovak citizenship for the status of slaves of the European Union and cannon fodder for NATO.)

    So, China would have to crush any secession attempt by the Taiwan rump regime; it would be an existential threat to the entire Chinese nation, which is well aware that the same American Empire is stoking secessionism among the Tibetans and Uighurs. It would have no choice; the fact that invading Taiwan will be a bloody and costly business, both in terms of blood and money, makes no difference.

    And this is why analyses that claim that the economic and political pain of a military campaign to take Taiwan would be that China would be deterred miss the point. Without exception, all these analyses are American, and are therefore the product of an Empire owned by Wall Street, whose entire foreign policy depends on the balance sheets of the oligarchs there. American think tankers can only conceive the world in terms of money; they have long since abandoned all ideas of nationalism except as a tool to brainwash and manipulate the masses. But not all nations think this way. And China, which has had the profoundly scarring experience of a century of humiliation by Western and then Japanese imperialists, from the 1830s to the 1940s, certainly does not think that way.

    The second reason China would have to crush Taiwanese separatism has everything to do with that century of humiliation. Perhaps surprisingly, for a nation that covers such an immense land mass, almost all invasions and aggressions against China in the modern era have come from the sea. It is the Western sea-borne foreigners who coerced the Chinese to buy opium at gunpoint, hand over their cities as “settlements”, and virtually become a series of colonial enclaves. It was the sea borne Japanese who also invaded first Korea and then Taiwan; who carved out Manchuria, and then invaded Shanghai and Nanjing, and massacred millions. And it is the sea-borne American fleet which still threatens China today.

    For hundreds of years, Chinese seaborne abilities were almost nonexistent – a situation that persisted, in fact, until a few years ago. When in 1996 the American Empire sent an aircraft carrier into the Taiwan Straits, China could do nothing, and if the Taiwanese had declared independence at that point could have done little except massed missile barrages and perhaps nuclear war. But it served as a wake up call, and set Chinese defence sights from the land to the sea. Ever since then, the Chinese have been building up their naval capabilities, acquiring new submarines, destroyers, and now aircraft carriers. Most significantly, all the latest acquisitions are not only Chinese built but Chinese designed; in the field of aircraft carriers, for example, China is already decades ahead of Russia and far ahead of India, which has fifty years more experience. This means that, again for the first time ever, China is not beholden to anyone for its naval defence acquisitions.

    This naval buildup is inexplicable except as a means of guarding Chinese shores and the increasingly vital trade lanes, including those through the Straits of Malacca, which are chokepoints through which most shipborne Chinese trade passes….and as an essential means to a secessionist Taiwan from American reinforcement.

    Simultaneously, the Chinese are their Marine Corps – from twenty thousand troops to a hundred thousand – and upgrading their capabilities. China isn’t in the business of invading and annexing other countries, or even sending troops abroad. It’s only now tentatively setting up a military base in Djibouti in East Africa. But it has realised that its security lies in controlling the sea near its shores, and it intends to control it. And for this, and to enforce Chinese territorial claims in the islands of the South China Sea, a strong Marine Corps is essential.

    Therefore, if the Taiwanese rump declares independence, China will not just have the compulsion to invade it, it will, for the first time ever, have the ability to do so. This will act as a deterrent against any secessionist attempts by the Taiwanese rump, and help maintain the status quo, which is certainly what China would also prefer. Beijing does not want a war; it will want to wait for the return of Taiwan to China by peaceful means.

    But if it does go to war over Taiwan, it is almost certain that America can be counted on to only respond with bluster and raving – not even the (fairly ineffective) “economic sanctions” it imposed on Russia. Ask yourself this – would the average American Wall Street powermonger (the only creatures who matter in the American political structure) be willing to risk his or her sire, dam, mate, litter-mates and spawn being reduced to nuclear ash over the rump Taiwan regime? Yes or no? The answer is obvious. Look how even North Korea, with its obsolete armed forces, has successfully deterred America with a handful of missiles and nuclear warheads. China can wreak far more destruction on America than North Korea ever could, not to mention American vassals like Japan and South Korea.

    Therefore, the chances of actual American help to the rump (as opposed to screaming about going to war, and chest thumping) are minimal. And China will undoubtedly be aware of that.

    So let’s imagine a situation arises where China has to invade Taiwan. The Taiwan Strait, while fairly narrow, has strong winds and high seas, so that the window for a successful amphibious invasion is allegedly only a couple of months a year. I say allegedly, because there are few natural barriers that cannot be overcome when the need is there. I strongly suspect that China will be looking to invade not during the “windows of opportunity”, when the invasion is to be expected, but during the period when it is not. Hovercrafts, especially, will play a part.

    However, what will not happen is that an invasion will start with a missile barrage, or a blockade, let alone an amphibious landing. What will happen first (and has already started) is normalisation of Chinese troops in close proximity to Taiwan, with regular movement of forces in the locality, movement of ships and aircraft round its perimeter, and increasing presence of marine forces in the mainland within striking distance of Taiwan. The rump regime in Taipei will never be certain when these forces might invade, and, therefore, cannot be tipped off by a slow and visible troop build up.

    The second phase will comprise a landing of commando forces in small numbers to set up bases, reconnaissance teams, and assassination squads. This could take place over several months, with the commandos being landed by submarines or small boats, to spread out in those famous jungles and mountains in Taiwan which are supposed to “help” the rump regime, not the invaders. Instead, the bases would be used to pin down the locations of those equally famous missiles, to be ready to cut off communication links, to guide in air and missile strikes, and, very importantly, to take out rump regime politicians and military officials as soon as the war starts, while the element of surprise is still on the Chinese side.

    Once these troops are in place, but before they begin overt hostilities, China can turn on the blockade. Despite all the big talk, the Taiwanese rump is unlikely to be able to fight hard, no matter how “determined” in public relations tub-thumping. Effete capitalist societies grown fat on the profit motive, with the youth obsessed with video games, are not the best material for resistance, no matter how “motivated”. China’s blockade, when it becomes obvious that Warshington’s response will be limited to hooting and howling but no more, will, more likely than not, cause the rump to surrender in a month or less.

    But suppose it does not. What then? Then the PRC will launch the commando raids first, followed by the famous missile barrages afterwards. Even assuming that the commandos fail to eliminate the rump military and civilian leadership and it continues to function at full capacity (extremely unlikely), they will still be enormously important. The location of the rump defences will be clear from satellite pictures as well as the commando team information, and they can be taken out by missile and stand-off air strikes with little trouble. Apart from targeting information, the commandos will aid by blowing up bridges, taking out telephone services, and attacking air defence and missile bases. This phase should not take longer than 48-72 hours before rump defences are paralysed. Remember that the Taiwanese will not attempt to defend their entire island, which is impossible; their forces will be gathered on the west coast, especially around Taipei, which means that they are much more concentrated and more easily wiped out by massive missile barrages. Also remember that the total destruction of rump forces is not necessary at this stage; all China needs is to degrade rump capabilities to stop an amphibious invasion. This can be achieved by concentrating on three things: rump missile bases, airports, and naval bases, none of which can be easily concealed. Once these are effectively knocked out, if the rump regime has not already seen the hopelessness of its position and surrendered – and the Chinese will almost certainly offer surrender terms including some degree of face saving autonomy at this stage – then, and only then, will the invasion start.

    And by now the military position of the rump will be extremely dire, with its ability to stop an invasion further degraded. To flush out further missile defences, the PRC could well send disposable remote controlled empty “invasion ships” in the first wave, and then eliminate all missile positions that fire on these ships. The actual invasion forces will land in a second wave, accompanied by heliborne landings which will use dropping zones cleared by the commando teams to attack rump regime remnants in the flanks and rear. Once they are ashore, their qualitative superiority over the rump forces –who by now will be undoubtedly degraded, disorganised, and demoralised – will ensure rapid battlefield dominance. I expect this phase to take no more than three to four days at the most.

    At this stage, it is likely that attempts will be made to flee Taiwan en masse by ship by surviving rump politicians, military brass, capitalist fatcats, and sundry civilians, like the “bug out” from Vietnam in 1975. This will fail for two reasons: America will not be able to approach close enough to help without being embroiled in the conflict, and Chinese aircraft carriers, submarines and other ships will have cordoned off the island from the Pacific side. Unless China decides that letting these defeated enemies go would be politically more expedient, they will mostly be sunk or rounded up and brought back.

    So, the entire major campaign will be over, from first shot to last, in a week. The question is whether America is then going to attempt to pay for a guerrilla campaign in Taiwan. Such a campaign is most unlikely to succeed just like American-instigated guerrilla campaigns in the 1950s and 60s failed in Tibet. Besides, Taiwan is not Syria, the PRC can lock down the towns without too much trouble, and the effete capitalists I mentioned would not be particularly effective guerrilla fighters anyway.

    Again, this is only what would happen if Taiwan upsets the status quo. If it does not upset the status quo, Chinese domination and American decline will mean that Taiwan, in any case, will ultimately be taken over without a shot.

    1. David Chu says

      Interesting analysis. Couple of points from my end.

      China does NOT need to invade Taiwan to completely neutralize it and have the Taiwanese give up. All China needs to do is send missiles to destroy ALL electricity power plants and any other power generation sources. Without electricity, Taiwan will become inhabitable in 1 week. Why? All modern societies need electricity to pump water, to purify water, etc. Without water, and the ability to desalination seawater, Taiwan will be dead in 1 week.

      (Czechoslovakia is often held up as an example of how two ethnicitiescan secede without harming each other. False analogy. The country only had two main ethnic groups, and though they separated into two nations,
      both of them merely traded their Czechoslovak citizenship for the status of slaves of the European Union and cannon fodder for NATO.)

      Czechoslovakia wasn’t even a nation until AFTER WW1. It was created out of whole clothe by the All-Lies at the Versailles Treaty to punish the “defeated” Germany. If you look at the shape of this Czechoslovakia, it looks like a dagger aiming at the heart of Germany. Another one of these dummy nations created by the Axis of Evil, mainly the US/UK, to suit their geopolitical needs. Like Iraq.

    2. cechas vodobenikov says

      Some of your analysis is shared by Zygmunt Bauman. Chian is not required to invade Taiwan—eventually they will unify w China–they r not recognized as a nation by most countries—Chinese… r not barbaric people–they recognize the suffering that would ensue
      indeed a recent study conducted by US researchers examined Chinese immigrants, 1,2nd generation. they concluded that the immigrant considered happiness to be harmony, while the 2nd generation considered happiness to be the same as ordinary amerikans—money and success

  7. Jihadi Colin says

    “…the U.S. Navy remains…..the power that keeps the peace and maintains freedom of navigation on the high seas.”


  8. David Chu says

    This is GREAT NEWS!

  9. CHUCKMAN says

    Quite an interesting assessment.

  10. Undecider says

    History repeats itself, almost. Chinese is being built up and steered the same as the Japanese were prior to WW2. The only difference, back then America had actual men who could volunteer to fight a war.

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