How Real is this Taiwan Thing?

According to a report by the nonpartisan (and quite respected) Congressional Research Service, China doesn't have the logistical chops to pull off an invasion.

They could do something unexpected, like pressing a bunch of fishing ships into service. But that has its limitations, and even once you move the army, you've got to keep it supplied.


Anonymous said...

Well that or the US is underestimating the Chinese capacity. Though honestly I am not sure why China would want to other than internal purposes of making their citizens feel like winners.

Grim said...

There are reasons to question US intelligence (see just below re: fake diplomacy in Africa). Still, judging how much air lift and sea lift capacity China has is a relatively simple pull for the kind of intelligence services we have. Counting ships and aircrafts, and whether orders for new ones are getting filled, isn't that hard.

They might do something unexpected -- a fishing fleet, or seizing freighters with prize crews to ferry troops, or something like that. But even if you get the army moved, as I said, you have to keep pulling the lift to move the supplies. Those ad hoc options are really vulnerable to things like submarine warfare.

Getting your expeditionary force stranded, cut off, and forced to surrender en masse is a great way to suffer a national humiliation on the level that could bring down a government like the PRC's.

E Hines said...

I'm not sure they don't have the chops. There are a lot of variables. If it's a question of getting, by surprises, a blitz force across the strait and over the beaches by air or sea, maybe, maybe not. If it's a question of then supporting the landed force once ashore and blitzing, that's a different question.

Assuming once ashore with an adequate force, a couple more questions come up: are the RoC's forces in being adequate to the task, are they as good relative to today's PLA combat (eliding logistic) capability as the Vietnamese army was in 1979? And: what reinforcements and other support could the RoC count on, assuming its forces could hold long enough for those reinforcements and that support to arrive?

And: what does the US do when the PRC, frustrated, says, "Surrender, or we'll nuke you?"

I can envision a sufficiently rapid strike that the conquering of the RoC becomes a fait accompli: a lot of a blitz' success comes from the psychological blow, it's not only a physical one.

Eric Hines

MikeD said...

Re: a fishing fleet (ala Dunkirk). It's not feasible. A fishing boat, or captured freighter is NOT a landing craft. And jamming it full of troops simply makes it elementary for the Taiwanese coastal defenses to slaughter the PLA. Dunkirk worked because the British held a port where ships could be loaded with men. A naval invasion of Taiwan would look VERY different. Without some kind of port to disembark troops, a freighter loaded with men would be nothing more than a method to concentrate the men into a big helpless target. Now, if the fear is that the Chinese could mount a special operations strike to capture a commercial port in Taiwan and ferry troops into the beachhead, that might be a different discussion. But even then, I am unaware of any special operations force in the world that could hold an army out of a city for any length of time. It would be one thing to destroy or disrupt a Taiwanese port. It would be another thing entirely to hold it against a counterattack by the Taiwanese army long enough to disembark a significant force.

And as for nuking Taiwan, why on earth would the Chinese do that? They WANT the island, its industry, and it's population. If they simply wanted to destroy it, they could have done so a very long time ago. But they don't. Such a threat would ring very hollow.

Grim said...

China might have the lift capacity to seize a port, though. Still, that would definitely slow the capacity to move troops. And that means you need to move more supplies: you've got to feed the troops you've moved, and supply them with ammo and guns and such, so they can continue to hold the port while you continue ferrying the troops.

My guess is that the CRS report is fairly accurate on the point. I mean, China might shut down PuDong airport and seize every aircraft there for a sudden movement of troops -- but again, you've got very similar concerns. You'd need to seize and hold at least one airstrip in Taiwan while you move the troops, and you'll need to provide them with supplies to hold what they've got while you stage up. That gives defenders a lot of time, and the planes are unarmed targets for any air defense.

It may be time to back China down off its lingering threat to destroy a free republic that has been independent for 70 years. The loss of Taiwanese ambitions would be instructive, and not just to the PRC.

E Hines said...

My own pet peeve: the nation is the Republic of China. Taiwan is the island on which the nation sits.

It matters not a whit what the UN thinks, or that Carter abjectly, shamefully went along with it all those years ago. Or that subsequent administrations have meekly acquiesced in that shame.

Eric Hines

E Hines said...

Such a threat [of nuclear attack] would ring very hollow.

Maybe not. Depends on the psychology extant in the moment. A frustrated PRC with its PLA bogged down, the RoC's forces similarly bogged down--which itself evidences the American administration's timidity in the matter.

Then there's the destruction of the material value of the RoC from that bogged down conflict, with the still extant--now expanded--political value of the conquering.

Ring hollow to whom?

Eric Hines

Ymar Sakar said...

China, like Clinton 1, needs a Short Victorious war to improve nationalistic jingoism at home and fear of foreigners abroad.

Grim said...

Well, it better pick a different one.

Ymar Sakar said...

China's options are pretty limited. If they had nuked the mountains to create a tunnel or pass to Afghanistan, the US could have invited them over there to fight with the Muslims, but that didn't seem to happen.