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Is China Preparing to Invade Taiwan?

F-35
An F-35B Lightning II with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California, conducts an aerial demonstration during the 2022 MCAS Air Show at MCAS Miramar, Sept. 24, 2022. The F-35B Lightning II, flown by aviators with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 502, is equipped with short takeoff and vertical landing capability that expands its range by allowing it to operate from naval vessels and in austere, expeditionary environments. The theme for the 2022 MCAS Miramar Air Show, “Marines Fight, Evolve and Win,” reflects the Marine Corps’ ongoing modernization efforts to prepare for future conflicts. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose S. GuerreroDeLeon)

During his speech at the Chinese Communist Party’s National Congress on Sunday, President Xi Jinping stressed the continued importance of China’s efforts to become more self-reliant. He has already been seen as largely successful in fulfilling the vow made just seven years ago – when he assumed the top leadership role – that he would transform the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a “world-class fighting force.”

As it edges ever closer to being a peer to the U.S. military, there are concerns that China could launch an invasion of Taiwan, which Beijing has long maintained is a breakaway province that will be returned to mainland control by force if necessary.

Many of the United States military’s top leaders have issued warnings as to when such an invasion by China of the self-ruling island could occur – and different timelines have been suggested.

It was in June 2021 that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Congress that China was working towards reaching the ability to invade and hold Taiwan within the next six years. However, this week Admiral Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, warned that the American military should be prepared for the possibility of a Chinese invasion of the island nation – which has never been ruled by the CCP – before 2024. The debate intensified after Admiral Philip Davidson, then-head of Indo-Pacific Command, told Congress in March of last year that the Chinese military could take action against Taiwan before 2027.

“When we talk about the 2027 window, in my mind that has to be a 2022 window or potentially a 2023 window,” Gilday told the Atlantic Council on Wednesday, the Financial Times reported. “I don’t mean at all to be alarmist . . . it’s just that we can’t wish that away.”

It Won’t be a Surprise

Even as recent reports from the United States intelligence community (IC) suggest that an attack on Taiwan could occur as soon as the island’s January 2024 elections, there would likely be ample warning. China would need to fully mobilize its forces, and in the 21st century, that is something that couldn’t be easily hidden from outside observers.

There is speculation as to whether the PLA is up for such a fight. China last fought a war against Vietnam in 1979, and while it may have involved upwards of 600,000 men and 550 tanks, it lasted less than four weeks. An invasion of Taiwan could require as many troops, and it is unclear if the island could be genuinely brought under mainland rule in a month.

It is doubtful most Taiwanese people would welcome the invaders – and a full-scale invasion has been seen as a risky endeavor as it would likely kill tens of thousands, devastate both the mainland’s and Taiwan’s economies, and would almost certainly result in worldwide condemnation. Instead of a unifier, Xi could also become a “sinner” of all Chinese people, suggested Chen Ming-tong, head of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, on Thursday.

“Xi would forfeit the so-called great rejuvenation of the Chinese people, and become a sinner of the Chinese people,” Chen said, referring to those who are ethnically Chinese rather than of Chinese nationality.

Another consideration is that Xi would only launch such an attack if quick success were guaranteed. Even a specter of defeat could have grave consequences for Xi and perhaps the whole of the CCP. The Chinese president may saber rattle, but given how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stalled, it is unlikely China will want to undertake such a similar adventure.

F-22 Raptor

Image: Creative Commons.

“I really don’t think that the Chinese are very eager to start something to reunify Taiwan by force … because if you start that you must win,” Bilahari Kausikan, former permanent secretary at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told CNBC following Xi’s speech on Sunday. “I don’t think any Chinese leader can survive a bungled attempt on Taiwan as Putin bungled Ukraine. And I don’t believe they have the capability yet.”

A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Dr. Scooter Van Neuter

    October 20, 2022 at 5:15 pm

    Of course, China has been preparing to invade Taiwan for years. The only thing holding them back has been Western military power – something rapidly being matched and in some areas overtaken by the Chi-coms.

  2. pagar

    October 20, 2022 at 6:10 pm

    China invading taiwan, invading tonight, invading next week, invading next year,Taiwan to be invaded very soon…heh,heh,…a bit like Gordon chang’s forever ‘its economy going to collapse this year, next year, two years from now’ mantra.

    Jokes aside, IT’S A HARSH FACT OF LIFE that DoD & state dept and MSM and VOA and venerable online media and also head-talking personalities interviewing old joe enjoy hyperventilating about the invasion when over the last thirty years someone has been invading a string of countries and territories, mostly the ones with oil, vast natural resources or strategically located ports and facilities like natural harbors and geopolitically important airfields.

    Only a fool like Biden or xi would want to invade Taiwan.

    Before invading anybody, ya need to do some HOMEWORK.

    Never invade a place which has a back support mountain.

    Remember Hitler’s error attacking Soviet union, US attacking nam & Afghanistan, and other examples.

    When Stalin learned from sorge spy ring that there was no chance of danger from Japs, he rushed 18 – 20 divisions from the far far far end of the country to the west along with thousands of planes and ranks and whipped onrushing Germans well and good in the behind.

    Same with nam and Afghanistan.

    Taiwan has similar back support mountain in the form of the Pacific forces which I believe is easily 10,000x more powerful than japs’ kido butai of 1941.

    To fight such horrible menace, a hard brain wringing homework will reveal one has to first possess a nuclear strike capability second to none.

    Even with such fearsome nuclear power hammer or power tool, strangling through peaceful (nonviolent) means is very most preferable.

    Not the kind preferred by uncle Sam – kicking down doors with carriers and stealth bombers.hitler-style or Genghis style.

    If push were to be resolved into shove, just explode a neutron bomb as a signal or direct show of intent.

    Would Pacific forces intervene? Would they dare sacrifice Washington DC which is babylon on the Potomac for crappy Taipei? I gather not.

  3. T. C.

    October 20, 2022 at 6:33 pm

    The Senkaku islands will be China’s initial target. Uninhabited but disputed, claimed by China, Taiwan and Japan. Seizing them could be accomplished by simply routing Ro/Ro (roll on roll off cargo ships) configured for both civilian and military use that can carry dozens of tanks, vehicles as well as troops. Taking the islands allows for blockading the Taiwan Strait from the north to compliment the man-made islands that allow blocking the from the south.

  4. Jacksonian Libertarian

    October 20, 2022 at 8:28 pm

    Everyone always talks about Western support when talking about a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. But, Taiwan has been preparing to repel China since the beginning.

    Taiwan is not like Ukraine, which is the poorest nation in Europe. Taiwan is 1st World affluent, arguably the most high tech nation on Earth (making 3nm computer chips), and makes most of their own smart weapons. They have 1,200+ anti-ship smart weapons that can reach the entire China sea, and all of China ports. They also have thousands of additional smart weapons that can deal with any amphibious force that makes it past the anti-ship missiles (unlikely).

    Finally, Taiwan has spent decades digging into the mountains to fortify, and disperse itself against Chinese long range missile attacks. The failure of Russian long range missile attacks, and defense of its ships (13,000ton Moskva sunk) in Ukraine, illustrates the problems a Chinese attack on Taiwan would face.

  5. Sun Tzu

    October 21, 2022 at 7:38 pm

    5 to 1 odds that the PRC will not invade in the next five years. One tires of the endless badlerdash. The PRC lacks all the essentials required to invade except gall.

    Look at what the allies had to overwhelm the Germans at Normandy and now compare the odds. Remember the Atlantic Wall only went into construction in the year prior to DDay. Taiwan has had fifty years to fortify the 17 possible invasion beaches.

    One tires of the “experts.” They never seem to get anything right.

  6. Ross

    October 21, 2022 at 7:48 pm

    D Day worked because the Germans couldn’t see us coming. China would have to load up hundreds of thousands of troops into carriers with the entire world watching. How many of those ships and troops would Taiwan take out while they are still boading at the dock? The idea that China could get enough troops across the straight to invade is crazy or that they would be willing to take the tens of thousands of losses while trying to sail there.

  7. Roger Wilco

    October 21, 2022 at 8:43 pm

    Not sure how the photos of F-35s were relevant to this article.

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