Taiwan: Are Chinese invasion plans viable?
What would it take for China to invade Taiwan in terms of materiel, logistics, firepower and men?
Finally, one new study extracts Chinese-language government papers, many written by members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), on how to finally unify, under violence, the ‘renegade province’ of Taiwan into China.
The new study, entitled ‘The Chinese Invasion Threat’ and written by Ian Easton, a research fellow at Project 2049 Institute in Arlington, Virginia, was released to the public on 3 October.
An advanced copy of the 400-page report was made available to Shephard in September.
According to the paper, the main problem facing the Chinese military is not material and manpower, but Mother Nature, a situation not that different from the 1944 invasion in Normandy by the Allied powers.
Easton tells the reader why the Taiwan Strait is dubbed the ‘Black Ditch’ and, according to local legend, haunted. ‘Superstitious believers claim that local currents are not currents at all, but rather the hands of sea demons, who malevolently drag their victims down into the afterlife.’
Strategists and tacticians might ignore such ghost stories, but they cannot flout the weather, Easton said. There are only two months during the year that China could successfully invade the self-ruled island of 23 million – in both spring and autumn – for a period of roughly 30 days each even thought they are still prone to freak waves.
Though the Taiwan Strait is only 130km across at its narrowest point and 400km at its widest, Taiwan’s 258 mountain peaks of over 3,000m in elevation so close to a large body of water creates a wind tunnel through the Taiwan Strait that ‘exacerbates other weather effects’.
The strait has militarily significant waves 97% of the year, with average sea states between level four and seven, which equates to 1.2-2.4m high and 7-9m respectively.
In any invasion China would be expected to ferry around one million combat troops across the strait, but it could opt to send as few as 300,000 to 400,000 depending on the circumstances.
Easton provides numerous invasion scenarios and what units might be committed to each beach, but according to both Chinese and Taiwanese military writings, Taoyuan is where they would be expected to establish the primary landing zone.
Located 50km northwest of the capital Taipei, Taoyuan hosts Taiwan’s largest international airport, plus its flatlands and landing beaches appeal to Chinese generals because they are the only workable locations so close to the capital with the needed trinity of beaches, airfields and ports.
‘A notional landing zone here could stretch from the mouth of the Tamsui River and the Port of Taipei in the north down to the Yong’an Fishing Harbour,’ the report said. From there, Chinese forces could push south to capture Taipei, which would already be under attack by airborne and special operation forces.
This is not to suggest Taiwan would not know China was planning to invade. Easton indicates that both Taipei and Washington would have ‘around 60 days ambiguous warning, followed by 30 days unambiguous warning’.
Taiwan military officers predict China would begin a bombing campaign, first with missiles and then aircraft, four to eight days prior to the amphibious invasion. Air bases and hardened command nodes such as the Hengshan Command Centre inside a mountain north of Taipei would be pounded by a full range of air munitions.
Attacks would also take place by air and sea against Taiwan’s navy. The bombing wave would include special operation units inserted into Taiwan for assassination and sabotage missions.
After the invasion was complete, Chinese military writings anticipate that Taiwan would be turned into a garrison state. After Taipei and other major cities had fallen, Chinese officers would quickly make the transition to post-conflict stability operations.
First they would declare martial law to institutionalise military control over Taiwan’s largest cities, which are described as key centres of power, and then by implementing purges.
According to Easton, ‘to dampen hostile public sentiment, which is expected to be deeply embittered, PLA writings state that military authorities would run a campaign of post-war radio programmes, television shows, the internet, print media and the postal services. The theme of social stability and a new social order would be pervasive’.
Easton’s paper is also unique in that it provides a rare collection of accurate orders of battle for both China and Taiwan, broken down by units and locations, potential beaches, units responsible for both defending and attacking various locations, and weather and tidal information.
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