War gaming China-Taiwan conflict Featured

THESE last few months, two American think tanks conducted war games on China's Taiwan invasion and published their findings. Both the Center for New American Security (CNAS) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) arrived at analogous conclusions. CSIS, running 24 iterations, published its report in January 2023, while CNAS did its war game in May 2022 with 26 iterations. These two war games are augmented by other hypotheses proliferating online by less stellar think tanks and this columnist's own research. In most scenarios, Taiwan, the US and Japan defeated China's amphibious invasion. But it came at a great cost. Taiwan saw its economy devastated.

The US and Japan lost ships, aircraft and soldiers; America's world standing suffering perhaps for years. China lost heavily but its failure to occupy Taiwan could destabilize the Chinese Communist Party and bring about the downfall of Xi Jinping. In essence, all sides were lost in this conflict. No victors. Only victims.

Deterrent fails

The CNAS saw the hypothetical invasion occurring in 2027, while CSIS set the conflict in 2026 and others next year. It starts with the assumption that deterrence has failed. American policy for decades depended on its superior military forces and its economic might as a deterrent to China. America's policy of deliberate uncertainty known as "strategic ambiguity" depended on the US taking advantage of China's risk aversion abetting a deterrence strategy.

Although in 1955 the US Congress passed the "Formosa Resolution" giving President Eisenhower total authority to defend Taiwan and off-shore islands, it was never unequivocal whether America was going to defend Taiwan with "boots on the ground," considering that America had recognized the One China policy in 1972. To complicate matters, the US in 1979 transferred recognition from Taiwan (PROC) to the People's Republic of China (PRC). Yet the Taiwan-US relationship became "unofficial and informal" with various consular agreements signed — elevating the relationship to "official and high-level," resulting eventually in the US removing its self-imposed restrictions on executive branch contact with Taiwan in 2021.

It was never a secret that Beijing was mobilizing a large concentration of its forces in the Fujian province fronting Taiwan. When the time comes, its ports will be the embarkation points, roughly 130 kilometers to Taiwan's beachheads. Beijing's forces, therefore, had the advantages of proximity while Taiwan had the forces of its allies along the First Island Chain. Since US Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Taiwan visit in August 2022, Beijing retaliated by ignoring the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) of Taiwan, its aircraft flying sorties through Taiwan's airspace. Since then, 1,700 incidents have been tracked — more than those of the previous three years combined, as assertive violations, meant to keep a constant level of pressure on Taiwan's armed forces, obscuring over time its intentions: harassment, military exercise or actual invasion.


Which is exactly what was conjectured in the war games. The first option for China was to do a pre-emptive strike going for an early knock-out with its warplanes and missiles on Taiwan's small air force and weak navy, a surgical strike with all its resources going for a quick decapitation of Taiwan's defenses, communications and leadership. This massive bombardment will precede the amphibious invasion forces of hundreds of thousands of the PLA aboard ships and civilian boats and secure a foothold on the beaches. All were designed to destroy Taiwan's capacity to fight, resulting in its virtual surrender — allowing Beijing to present allied forces a fait accompli, within 24 to 48 hours. This conflict is thus confined to Taiwan — China's renegade province. Restraint was applied to keep Japan and US forces from the war zone. It is estimated that at worst, 70 percent to 80 percent of Taiwan's air forces are destroyed on the ground. At this point, US forces have not yet been committed.

But the war game scenario hypothesized that Taiwan's determined ground forces, augmented by its battle-ready civilian conscripts, can hold the PLA to the beaches, allowing the polarized US Congress a democratic debate. Some quarters (not the CNAS/CSIS) suggest the military-industrial-congress-complex (MICC) will win the argument. So off to another war, we go!

China is ahead of the curve here. Long-range bombers and hyper missiles will attack US bases in Guam, Japan and the Northern Marianas, and Darwin and Tyndall air bases in Australia, rendering US forces less effective to intervene. Missiles will be employed to attack EDCA bases in the Philippines degrading US capability.

US response

China anticipates the US 7th Fleet to wreak havoc on the cross-strait invasion forces with its submarines, carrier planes and bombers from Hickam Airbase in Hawaii and those still intact from Japan hitting Fujian ports and Chinese supply lines. The meager forces of Australia will be in play and its surface ships used for blockading the strait. The remnants of EDCA and the Filipinos will have to do the Oratio Imperata. This segment of the war can take from a few days to a few weeks.

At this point, China's advantage of its proximity to the war zone allows its forces a lodgment in the beaches at a very steep price, estimated at 100 warships sunk by US submarines and the US Navy, and "thousands of soldiers killed, wounded or captured." But with Chinese advances in rocket and missile technology and quantity, they will sink 30 US warships, including two carriers. But the US Air Force will destroy 13 Chinese warcraft for each US loss.

But it is expected that US air superiority will not be total as Chinese planes are just across the strait while US air forces, bombers and fighters are based in "operationally unpredictable" places, far from the war zone; the reason why they have the EDCA bases in the Philippines.

But the CNAS war game scenario has one scary moment. To avoid annihilation and the fall of the CCP and Xi government, they may throw a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP shot) nuclear explosion above the US forces as a signal that China is serious about the use of nuclear weapon. This could be the game changer!

Lessons learned/alternative strategies

1. The greatest lesson learned is that avoiding war altogether may be in China and America's best interest.

2. The invasion turning into a war of attrition may change the character of the conflict. And the political profile of each country over time will drastically change. America will need the continued support of its polarized people as its batting average is questionable. America has suffered defeat in long wars — Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. Totalitarian China, if Xi survives, has the edge.

3. The ultimate question of Taiwan's status as a province of China, the middle kingdom's desire for reunification, and America's overall role are actually just put in a hiatus. Nothing has been permanently resolved. China will eventually reach parity with America. What then?

Perhaps, Dr. Geoff Babb, professor of the Department of Military History, US Army Command and General Staff College admonishing his students, is appropriate: "Do you really wanna go to war with one-fifth of mankind with nuclear weapons in their home court? You need to think through that."

In the long term, America's decline as a world hegemon is a necessary condition for China to take over that role.


Read 401 times Last modified on Sunday, 30 April 2023 12:54
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