Taiwan case right now / the US – China relations

Short background

In early 2010s, China began to realize that being capable to create something new and magnificent in the world, the greatness of China has returned. Since the presidency of incumbent Xi Jinping (2012- ), China’s political focus has moved and changed in concrete way to underlining the sovereignty, territorial integrity and great power position of China, along the cooperation and peaceful policy, in its foreign and military political doctrine.

In 2017, Xi cemented his power as a lifelong president, enshrining his political views in the constitution. In Asia, the concept of sovereignty has an absolute character and is considered paramount. Noninterference in domestic affairs is taken as a fundamental principle of interstate relations.

China is the main geopolitical competitor to the US. This fact is shared by overwhelming majority of Western researchers and experts as well as Chinese researchers like professor Liu Mingfu. An interesting book “The China Dream; Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-American Era” by Liu Mingfu, a Chinese colonel and professor was published originally 2010 and in English 2015.

In his book, professor Mingfu states that “no matter how much China commits itself to a peaceful rise, conflict is inherent in US-China relations. The relationship between China and the US will be “marathon contest” and “duel of century”. Moreover, the competition is essentially zero-sum game; the only alternative to total success of one side is humiliating failure of other side.”

Key “hot spots” of Chinese foreign policy are Taiwan, North Korea, Japan and today also region of South China Sea.

Chain of events

China’s conceptions of sovereignty and territorial integrity, covering Taiwan and South China Sea, have been on the collision course with the US concept of “Taiwan political position” as well as “freedom of navigation” principle, although the US has publicly pledged its commitment to “One China policy”. During last five years various incidents and military maneuvers have frequently taken place, by sea and air.

The latest incident right now, Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, is the most serious one. Nancy Pelosi landed in Taipei on Tuesday, marking a significant show of support for Taiwan despite China’s threats of retaliation over the visit. Pelosi’s stop in Taipei is the first time that a US House speaker has visited Taiwan in 25 years. Her trip comes at a low point in US-China relations and despite warnings from the Biden administration against a stop in Taiwan. A Taiwanese official said that Pelosi is expected to stay in Taipei overnight.

According to Pelosi the visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.” The White House said Tuesday that Pelosi’s trip was consistent with US policy on Taiwan, and that the US would be watching China’s actions closely after Pelosi leaves.

China on Monday once again warned the United States that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will not sit idly by if US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian made the warning at a daily news briefing.

China has repeatedly stated to the United States its grave concern over the issue and the solemn position of resolutely opposing Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and stressed the severe consequences, if Pelosi visits Taiwan.

Possible outcome

Some Chinese and Taiwan base researchers have formulated certain scenarios of possible outcomes of this incidence.                                                        

Scenario 1: The minimalist approach. The PLA occupies minor near-located islands, as well as Taiwan’s islands in the South China Sea. They also declare part or all of the Taiwan Strait a “no go” zone to foreign military shipping.

Scenario 2: Hybrid warfare. Some sort of partial naval and aerial blockade of Taiwan intended to interfere with the economy, combined with stepped-up harassment, such as direct flyovers of Taiwan’s territory by PLA Air Force (PLAAF) jets or incursions into Taiwan’s maritime space by China’s naval militia, protected by PLAN warships. This might also be accompanied by cyberattacks designed to shut down the internet and other infrastructure for days at a time.

Scenario 3: A serious attack but no invasion. This would involve air and sea warfare only, no boots on the ground. A full aerial and naval blockade, a protracted set of naval and aerial battles designed to degrade Taiwan’s military, combined with ballistic missile attacks on military targets. Aggressive cyberattacks turning off the internet and shutting down critical infrastructure for days or weeks.

Scenario 4: The proper invasion. Total air and sea blockade, massive ballistic missile attacks on military targets, massive cyberattacks to paralyze virtually all military, governmental, and civilian communication and shut down critical infrastructure. Aggressive naval and aerial engagements to degrade Taiwan’s forces and achieve battlespace superiority, followed by sustained aerial assaults by fighters and bombers on military targets. A decapitation strike at Taipei by special forces units to try to seize key leadership personnel. An amphibious assault with close air support from fighters, helicopters, and battle drones at one or more locations in Taiwan, and very possibly a move to seize a major port, such as Keelung, Taipei Port, Taichung, or Kaohsiung.

Scenario 5: Worst Case (short of nuclear) scenario. Full air and sea blockade, massive ballistic missile attacks on military targets, massive cyberattack, aggressive naval and aerial attacks to degrade Taiwan’s forces and achieve battlefield superiority, followed by aerial assaults by fighters and bomber on military targets and area bombing of civilian targets. There are massive casualties, and Taiwan is crushed by brute force, surrenders, and then the occupiers enter the country and take it over.

What really will happen?

That remains to be seen but if China is not reacting in determined and extreme way, as they have vowed and threatened time and again, the Chinese political leadership loses their face and their credibility. True leadership is now weighed at the highest international level and this credibility check will have far-reaching consequences.