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A U.S. Navy Admirals Nightmare: If China Decided to Blockade Taiwan

China Blockade Taiwan
CF-01 | Flt 227 | LCDR Michael "Sniff" Burks | 10SEP13 Sniff piloting CF-01 during the first night KC-10 Strat Tanker Test over the Eastern Shore of MD.

Perhaps no where in the world are geopolitical tensions higher today than the Taiwan Strait.

In the past year, China has toughened its rhetoric toward the self-governing island, which Beijing considers a breakaway province.

Chinese forces have conducted a number of live-fire drills that appear directed at Taiwan, and Chinese military flights across the median line in the Taiwan Strait and into Taipei’s air-defense identification zone have hit record levels.

The US has sailed warships through the strait at least five times since President Joe Biden took office in January, drawing protests from Beijing. Japan, alongside the US, has expressed support for Taiwan, and Australia is reportedly considering how to help if there is an invasion.

Much of the focus has been on military preparations for deterring or fighting off a Chinese invasion. While essential, that focus misses an important threat short of a full-scale invasion: a blockade.

‘Joint Blockade Campaign’

While it’s not known what an invasion of Taiwan could look like, such an action would almost certainly be extremely difficult and costly for all involved. Whether China actually has the capability to invade is also heavily debated.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense concluded last year that China was not yet able to launch a full-scale invasion. The Pentagon’s most recent report on the Chinese military said such an invasion “would likely strain China’s armed forces” and create “a significant political and military risk” for Beijing.

But both reports acknowledge that China is capable of blockading Taiwan. This blockade, identified by the Pentagon as the “Joint Blockade Campaign,” would cut off Taiwan’s air and naval traffic and its information networks.

“Such a blockade could be the main effort, eschewing an attempted landing altogether, or it could be part of a larger invasion campaign,” Lonnie Henley, a retired US intelligence officer who twice served as Defense Intelligence Officer for East Asia, told the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission in February.

The Joint Blockade Campaign could also include “large-scale missile strikes and possible seizures of Taiwan’s offshore islands,” like the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea, according to the Pentagon.

Invasions of Taiwan’s Kinmen and Matsu islands, both populated, are also “within China’s capabilities,” the Pentagon said.

A tough blockade

The effects of a blockade could be disastrous, in large part because no one knows how long Taiwan could hold out.

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  1. Jacksonian Libertarian

    June 20, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    98% of China’s foreign trade, ships from ports on the China Sea. A strategic blockade of Taiwan would blowback on China with a strategic blockade of China. Any blockade of China would result in a permanent loss of trade partners, as less risky sources for their products quickly developed. China’s fortified islands in the China sea would be bombed down beneath the waves, and the vulnerability of surface ships to modern missiles would see China’s fleet sunk. China’s neighbors on the China Sea, would enthusiastically join in on the beatdown.

  2. Robert Anthony

    June 22, 2021 at 3:43 am

    The U.S. Navy is capable of conducting a successful naval blockade of China’s eastern shoreline, with disastrous consequences for China’s Communist Party and China’s 1.45 billion people.

    But, the probability of the Chinese Communist Party successfully carrying out a naval blockade of Taiwan long enough to seriously degrade Taiwan’s defensive capabilities, seems highly doubtful.

    Also, even if America’s current feeble commander-in-chief remains in his basement, sitting this one out, Taiwan, even if they are alone, is not impotent. And, China placing an invasion force large enough to win a land battle on the island of Taiwan would put at risk a significant portion of China’s million man army, a very risky strategy at best. And China a can’t defeat Taiwan without putting at risk a large ground force that would not be certain to survive the dash across the Taiwan Strait. Aerial bombardment, missile strikes and airborne operations alone would prove ineffective.

    And America keeps ten nuclear attack submarines on permanent patrol duty assignments in the South China Sea, a large enough submarine force to send China’s entire army and navy to the bottom of the South China Sea, making an invasion of the Chinese mainland by the armed forces of Taiwan a plausible post blockade possibility..

    And, China’s greatest fear has to be that America might have a president with the cojones to join other allied forces supporting the defense of Taiwan.

    A U.S. naval blockade of China’s eastern coastline alone, even if not a single shot was ever fired in anger, would quickly bring the Peoples’ Republic to their proverbial knees, rapidly destabilizing the Communist regime, so that their days of remaining in power would become numbered. And, the U.S. Navy is capable of continuing a naval blockade for as long as it takes to bring the Chinese communists down, or into submission, our choice thanks to the power of the U.S. Navy, not China’s choice.

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