Earlier this week, the Chinese Communists sent 150 fighter aircraft and bombers into Taiwan’s air space, an unprecedented provocation. The London Times considers the reality of a possible Chinese attack on Taiwan. First, what about those fighter and bomber missions?
The incursion of 150 Chinese fighter aircraft and bombers inside Taiwan’s air defence identification zone over four days this week was a test of Beijing’s war plan for invading the island, one of America’s authorities on Chinese and Taiwanese security said. “This wasn’t about China retaliating for something the West had done, such as the exercise involving American and British aircraft carriers off the Philippines. It’s more likely to have been a dry run for testing their ability to execute their war plans,” said Ian Easton….
As you would expect, those war plans are high tech:
The first physical sign of an invasion would be the lights going out. A cyberattack, hitting every power station to cripple Taiwan’s ability to defend itself, would lead the way to a full-scale Chinese air, airborne, amphibious and ballistic missile assault that would include “decapitation” missions to neutralise leadership figures.
“The [People’s Liberation Army’s] doctrine calls for emphasising operations in the speed domains — space, cyberspace, the air and the electromagnetic — and quick victory,” Andrew Krepinevich, an American defence policy analyst and former Pentagon official, said. “If the PLA acts according to its doctrine, we would likely see a massive cyberattack supported by large-scale jamming and other forms of electronic warfare on the island to disable its critical infrastructure and military command links.
Taiwan’s beaches are easily defensible, so there probably wouldn’t be a D-Day style assault. Rather, the Chinese Communists would capture airfields and bring in large numbers of troops by air.
Taiwan has a pretty formidable military force, but not formidable enough:
[T]here would be several complicating factors, not least what response the US would make.
“In the end Taiwan wouldn’t be able to defend itself without massive US support.”
The issues here are both logistical and political. At the moment, the U.S. is not well positioned to provide substantial assistance:
Would there be time for the US to intervene before it was too late? “Currently the US has few forces based forward and so could not strongly contest a PLA attack unless it had months of prior warning,” Krepinevich said.
I don’t suppose the Chinese military has top officers like the repellent General Milley who would do us the courtesy of an advance warning.
The US’s Andersen air base on Guam, 1,700 miles from Taiwan, would be a vital staging area, as would aircraft carrier strike groups in the region. Would Beijing risk pre-empting an American rescue attempt by launching ballistic missile or bomber attacks on the Guam base?
“My guess, and it’s only a guess, is no,” Krepinevich said. “Beijing would rather put the onus on Washington to shoot first and bet that President Biden will not.”
That is the political factor. The idea that President Biden would mount a strong response to a lightning attack on Taiwan by the ChiComs is far-fetched. Generally, I assume that the CCP plays a long game and is in no hurry to achieve its goal of global dominance, especially given that the West is so patently on a path to cultural suicide. But the other side of the coin is that they may view Joe Biden as a once in a millennium opportunity to achieve one of their most cherished goals–the annexation of Taiwan–without serious risk of a competent American response. So I don’t think the possibility of a devastating attack by the Chinese is by any means remote.