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  1. #1
    Thailand Expat tomcat's Avatar
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    Is Taiwan Worth It?

    Does the U.S. Need to Fear That China Might Invade Taiwan?

    The grim calculus behind any American decision to defend a small, faraway democracy.

    By Hal Brands
    August 20, 2020, 8:00 PM GMT+7


    Practicing to turn back an invasion. Photographer: MANDY CHENG/AFP via Getty Images

    No scenario worries American strategists like a possible war with China over Taiwan. Recent months have brought a stream of reports making two things uncomfortably clear: The danger of a Chinese assault on Taiwan is growing. And the U.S., which has an ambiguous security commitment to Taipei, might well lose if it joined such a war on Taiwan’s behalf.

    Given this grim forecast, many Americans might fairly ask why the U.S. would even try to defend an island thousands of miles away — a country that wasn’t supposed to have survived this long in the first place. The answer is that the fate of Taiwan may determine the fate of the Western Pacific. But in addressing the possibility, Americans have to understand just how difficult and dangerous it could be to preserve a free Taiwan.

    There’s no question that the Chinese military threat to Taiwan is greater than it’s been in decades. From probing Taiwanese air and naval defenses, to posturing forces that could be used in an invasion, to dropping the word “peaceful” from its calls for reunification, Xi Jinping’s government is advertising its determination to bring Taiwan back under its control — perhaps not today or tomorrow, but at some point in the coming years. And whereas China long had more ambition than capability, the military balance has now moved sharply in its favor.

    According to press reports, Pentagon-sponsored war games consistently show that the U.S. military would struggle to act quickly and decisively enough to prevent the People’s Liberation Army from overrunning Taiwan. A former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Michael Morell, and a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, James Winnefeld, recently argued that a Chinese assault would present Washington with the agonizing choice of either intervening — and suffering catastrophic losses, possibly in a losing cause — or standing aside and seeing the island subdued.

    This changing condition of forces, in turn, could also shift Beijing’s calculus. As a successful invasion, or the use of a “surrender or die” ultimatum, becomes more achievable, it will also become more attractive.

    Why would any of this matter for America? After all, when Richard Nixon made his opening to China in the early 1970s, he expected a then-authoritarian Taiwan to one day fall back into the mainland’s grasp. More broadly, it might seem absurd that the U.S. would risk war with a nuclear power over an island on China’s doorstep. But there is a three-fold rationale for helping Taiwan defend itself.

    First, Taiwan is key to the military balance in the entire Western Pacific. Taiwan anchors the first island chain, which runs from Japan down to the Philippines. In friendly hands, it constitutes a natural barrier to the projection of Chinese air and sea power into the open ocean. In Beijing’s hands, Taiwan would be a stepping stone to regional hegemony.

    Control of Taiwan would allow Beijing to extend the reach of its anti-ship missiles, air defenses, fighter and bomber aircraft, and other weapons hundreds of additional miles from its shores. It would let Beijing menace Japan’s energy supplies, sea lines of communication, and even its control of the southern Ryukyu Islands. By complicating American operations in support of remaining regional allies — especially Japan and the Philippines — the loss of Taiwan might well make these countries wonder if opposing Chinese hegemony is even possible.

    Second, the loss of Taiwan would shatter U.S. credibility. Credibility is a controversial concept, but America’s alliances in the Pacific rest on the belief that Washington is able and willing to protect them from harm. Once it is revealed that America cannot or will not defend Taiwan, it would be foolish for Tokyo, Manila or Seoul not to wonder whether alignment with the U.S. is still worth incurring China’s wrath. As Taiwan goes, so may go the region.

    Finally, Taiwan is a small country with outsized ideological significance. The Chinese Communist Party has long argued that democracy and Chinese culture are incompatible. That’s nonsense, of course, as the mere existence of Taiwan demonstrates. In difficult circumstances, Taipei has done almost everything the world could have asked of it: It has built a strong market economy and made the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Taiwan is a living reminder that the Chinese regime has brought its citizens prosperity but not freedom.

    The trouble is that the U.S. is only starting to realize how much it would actually take to deter China from attacking Taiwan, or defeat any assault. As former Pentagon officials have explained, a war in the Taiwan Strait would be a deadly race against the clock. In the opening days of a conflict, to prevent the PLA from getting a critical mass of troops ashore, U.S. and Taiwanese forces would have to sink hundreds of Chinese transports. Taiwan would need to be resilient enough to withstand subversion, bombardment and assault from air and sea; the U.S. might have to absorb heavy casualties among forces trying to fight their way into the theater. That task could be so daunting, a future president might simply decline to fight.

    There is an alternative, but not an attractive one. Taiwan would need to invest drastically more in its own defense — probably twice the 2.3% of GDP it currently spends — and stud itself with mines, anti-ship missiles, mobile air defenses and other cheap but lethal capabilities. The Pentagon would have to procure vastly more long-range strike capabilities, as well as additional submarines, unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned underwater vehicles, and other assets that could be used to weaken an invasion force from the outset. Nor would there be any end in sight — Washington and Taipei would have to reconcile themselves to a long, dynamic competition with Beijing for military advantage, and to the high tensions and recurring crises that could mark the years to come. Recall that, in the first 15 years of the Cold War, there were multiple Berlin crises. The Taiwan Strait could be just as volatile.

    We sometimes think of the U.S.-China competition as a fundamentally different kind of great-power contest, one whose outcome will be determined more by control of data than by control of strategic terrain. Yet it is also an old-fashioned military rivalry, with all the perils that entails. It would be catastrophic if the free world were to lose Taiwan. It might also be hard, costly and dangerous to keep it.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/ar...&sref=eqvgPRs0
    Majestically enthroned amid the vulgar herd

  2. #2
    Thailand Expat TheRealKW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomcat View Post
    Taiwan anchors the first island chain,
    Isn't this the domino theory that led to the Vietnam mess?

  3. #3
    Alpha Monger
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    Worth what ? The US could never win a war for Taiwan. It would be a Crimea situation. The US would sit their and watch as China takes the island in a few days

  4. #4
    Days Work Done! Norton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomcat View Post
    No scenario worries American strategists like a possible war with China over Taiwan. Recent months have brought a stream of reports making two things uncomfortably clear: The danger of a Chinese assault on Taiwan is growing
    Growing? Not if one considers a shooting war in the Taiwan straits in the 1950s that continued thru the 1970s. The ROC is still there and still controlling Taiwan, Penghu, Quemoy and Lienchiang.

    Daily flights between the ROC and PRC are full of business people doing cross straits business.

    Sure PRC is making noise these days about bringing Taiwan officially into the PRC but they have been for years. Taiwan is not Hong Kong and China trying to take it not at all as easy as taking control of a city. Taiwan has teeth and the will to bite if attacked.

    Of course the PRC has the capability to successfully invade the island but is it worth it?

    Doubt it is. Not much to gain and much to lose.
    Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

  5. #5
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    The US may have the power when it comes to weaponry but that power is only marginal these days.

    What I do believe is they don't have the global support that they once had especially with a loose cannon of a president that they have today.

    The last thing our planet needs is a major war and with this in mind I guess my answer to the OP is no.

  6. #6
    Alpha Monger
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    ^The Chinese Mainland are adults about it. They've been making win win deals with Taiwan for 30 years. Their only concern is that they can't accept it becoming a US possession.

  7. #7
    Your local I.Q. Monitor
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    The answer to a more friendly China was supposed to be more liberal trade etc. That has failed. Restricting China's economic growth is the only available measure at the moment although greed will probably prevent it.

  8. #8
    Thailand Expat TheRealKW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Backspin View Post
    Their only concern is that they can't accept it becoming a US possession.
    Say what?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norton View Post
    Of course the PRC has the capability to successfully invade the island but is it worth it?

    Doubt it is. Not much to gain and much to lose.
    This recent thread raised some good points about why China might give it a go.

    https://teakdoor.com/speakers-corner...ghlight=Taiwan (Is China Preparing to Invade Taiwan?)

    This thread is what will the US and others do about it?

    I have no answers. I lived for a year in Taiwan, my daughter was born there and I have a deep affection for the place. I nearly moved there 5 years ago instead of coming back to Thailand, but it didn't fit together at that time.

    I have a very close friend in Taiwan. Her family go way back there. She did her Ph.D. in Chinese Philosophy at Peking U. I only mention this because it suggests she has the ability to think and has some life experience outside Taiwan. She married a Dutch chap and has two very young children. Taiwan is very much her home. She recently confided that she is considering a move to Holland because of her uncertainty about Taiwan's future. That made me wonder.

    There are some good reasons why Xi might not make a lunge for Taiwan, but that logic might not persuade a man who sees his chance to cement his legacy as the great unifier of all China. My view is that the risks of military invasion are higher now than they were ten years ago.

    If that invasion is launched, how could a western military response prevail? What achievable objectives could be classed as a win?

    China has over 2 million active service personnel and more in reserve. On paper they are an inferior force to the US but it is not a straight fight, it is on China's doorstep. There is next to no chance that US forces would engage on the ground in another 'Asian war'. In fact a longer conflict would see many more civilians killed. That thought alone suggests to me that the US will not try to fight it out.

  10. #10
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    China has no successful combat operations outside its boarder in its history. In 1979 China attempted to attack Vietnam and was badly bloodied by the Viets forcing them to retreat in defeat. China is still fuming over that humiliation decades later.

    Attacking Taiwan will not be an easy task for any country let alone one with absolutely no experience in amphibious warfare. The factor that is getting overlooked here is that the Chinese are afraid of being humiliated again as they were in '79.

    The won't be attacking Taiwan anytime in the near future it is all empty bluster.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shutree View Post
    If that invasion is launched, how could a western military response prevail? What achievable objectives could be classed as a win?
    A bombing from 10km height, flat the island down...

  12. #12
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    Lets just say that I will be happier when there is a more sane and rational person ensconsed in the White house.

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    The Bestest Expat Plan B's Avatar
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    First, Taiwan is key to the military balance in the entire Western Pacific. Taiwan anchors the first island chain, which runs from Japan down to the Philippines. In friendly hands, it constitutes a natural barrier to the projection of Chinese air and sea power into the open ocean. In Beijing’s hands, Taiwan would be a stepping stone to regional hegemony.

    Control of Taiwan would allow Beijing to extend the reach of its anti-ship missiles, air defenses, fighter and bomber aircraft, and other weapons hundreds of additional miles from its shores. It would let Beijing menace Japan’s energy supplies, sea lines of communication, and even its control of the southern Ryukyu Islands. By complicating American operations in support of remaining regional allies — especially Japan and the Philippines — the loss of Taiwan might well make these countries wonder if opposing Chinese hegemony is even possible.

    If Japan & PI were concerned about it they'd be more willing to have American bases in their countries.

  14. #14
    Days Work Done! Norton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Plan B View Post
    If Japan & PI were concerned about it they'd be more willing to have American bases in their countries.
    Several in Japan and a few in PI atm.

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    The Bestest Expat Plan B's Avatar
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    ^
    But are they happy about it?

  16. #16
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    Taiwan would need to invest drastically more in its own defense
    Yes, needs to. Come on, if modern history shows us anything, it is that an 'agreement' with the US these days is not worth the paper it's written on.
    Personally, i wouldn't mind Taiwan becoming a nuclear power. Or Iran. But it should certainly become a Fortress.

    The US may have the power when it comes to weaponry but that power is only marginal these days.
    Thing is, it's China's backyard. You would need an overwhelming military superiority to be able to assert it there.

  17. #17
    Thailand Expat tomcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Plan B View Post
    But are they happy about it?
    ...if you mean the prostitutes and other local service personnel, I'd say yes...if you mean the folks who sleep well at night because someone else's soldiers will die first in the event of conflict, I'd say yes again...ultra-nationalists, those easily persuaded by Chinese propaganda and members of the fifth column would probably prefer that these expensive bases be shut down...

  18. #18
    ความรู้ลึกลับ HuangLao's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nidhogg View Post
    Lets just say that I will be happier when there is a more sane and rational person ensconsed in the White house.
    That'll be awhile, if it ever manifest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HuangLao View Post
    That'll be awhile, if it ever manifest.
    Fuck off Jeff

  20. #20
    Thailand Expat tomcat's Avatar
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    ...^555...been a while since I've seen the Jeff salute...

  21. #21
    Thailand Expat harrybarracuda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nidhogg View Post
    Lets just say that I will be happier when there is a more sane and rational person ensconsed in the White house.
    I suspect most of the world feels that way, bar Putin, Fat Boy and Mr. Shithole.

  22. #22
    Thailand Expat Latindancer's Avatar
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    Is Taiwan Worth It?-alien-jpg

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomcat View Post
    the folks who sleep well at night because someone else's soldiers will die first in the event of conflict
    Provided, that a smart missile will eradicate only on the soldiers and not the peaceful population around...

  24. #24
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    As I understand it, there is a massive disparity between China and US in the ability to put ordinance where it counts. While China has been upgrading its military technology, it is still "wind up" compared to USA. Taiwan (and China) are in range of US planes from Japan. Chinese aircraft carriers (there are two) have no catapult technology, which means that their planes lift off extremely light compared to the US planes. The technology behind the US fighter planes is decades ahead of the Chinese ones. Submarines are a joke betwen the two countries. US long range bombers, with stealth technology would cause havoc.

    The US could destroy a cross straights invasion - BUT- would there be the political will? Worryingly, if China does decide to give it a go - their best chance would be in the next 90 or so days.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by nidhogg View Post
    As I understand it, there is a massive disparity between China and US in the ability to put ordinance where it counts. While China has been upgrading its military technology, it is still "wind up" compared to USA. Taiwan (and China) are in range of US planes from Japan. Chinese aircraft carriers (there are two) have no catapult technology, which means that their planes lift off extremely light compared to the US planes. The technology behind the US fighter planes is decades ahead of the Chinese ones. Submarines are a joke betwen the two countries. US long range bombers, with stealth technology would cause havoc.

    The US could destroy a cross straights invasion - BUT- would there be the political will? Worryingly, if China does decide to give it a go - their best chance would be in the next 90 or so days.

    Yes, and no. Only my opinion.

    For China kicking it off: If this starts, Xi will not stop, failure is not an option. The US cannot kill 2M soldiers with bombs alone. China now has 'silent' submarines that will discourage any US strategist. It can be won by China and the US shamed.

    Against: Xi has the political will although some elder statesmen will be reminding him that his 'wolf warrior' strategy conflicts with Deng Xiaoping's ideas of (1) don't upset America and (2) keep your strengths hidden. The PLA is not just a title, In there the "People's" has a meaning in Chinese. It was what shocked so many at Tiananmen, the army killing the people. Xi's problem is that these Taiwanese are, by his definition, Chinese.

    Many, many details to consider and I am not the man ultimately chosen to lead 1.3 billion people. So my opinion means nothing at all.

    Broadly I agree that the near future is the highest risk. Is it 'winnable' for the US? I think not. Could China take Taiwan and Xi nonetheless lose some prestige in the process? Possibly. That will make him think carefully.

    I hope he thinks very, very carefully.

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