Saturday, March 2, 2024

Offensive against Taiwan: When and how will China take action?

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For several years, tensions between Washington and Beijing, such as the fear of seeing Beijing launch an offensive against Taiwan, have continued to grow. They now represent a subject flirting with the casus belli permanently , between the incursions of the American and allied navy and air forces in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait, the interceptions and the naval and aerial incursions of the People's Liberation Army around the island, and the successive and reciprocal responses as soon as Washington sends a new shipment of weapons, parliamentarians or members of the government to Taipei .

The war dynamic is such that now the armed forces of both countries are engaged in an arms race to outdo the adversary in what increasingly seems like an inevitable confrontation.

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However, no one currently foresees an outbreak of hostilities in the months or years to come, with the Pentagon estimating for its part that the period of danger will begin in 2027.

In view of the industrial programs underway in Beijing, Taipei and Washington, geopolitical developments and the ambitions of the leaders of the great world powers, what would be the most likely date for a Chinese offensive to regain possession of Taiwan, and what would then be the strategy chosen by Beijing to achieve this?

Towards a blockade rather than a massive aero-amphibious assault

Often, when the scenario of a Chinese offensive on Taiwan is studied, it is based on a vast aero-amphibious assault against the island , preceded by an intense bombardment using ballistic and cruise missiles, or even drones , to overcome the island's defensive infrastructures.

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However, such a hypothesis would be, whatever the level of preparation and the means deployed by Beijing, an extremely risky strategy for the People's Liberation Army.

Indeed, the rare major aero-amphibious operations having been carried out successfully in history were against weakly defended coasts (Operation Torch in 1942, Operation Musketeer in 1956), or when the attacker had indisputable air and naval superiority, and significant means to weaken the adversary's defenses and logistical lines, such as operations Overlord and Dragoon in 1944, the landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945, Operation Chromite (Incheon landing ) in 1950, or San Carlos in 1982).

Operation Musketeer 1st REP Tensions China vs Taiwan | Defense Analysis | Amphibious assault
The landing of French and British forces in Egypt in 1956 was one of the turning points of the Cold War. Despite the military success of European forces, they had to withdraw in the face of the Soviet threat to use nuclear weapons and Washington's condemnation of this operation.

However, as the setbacks of the Russian navy and air forces in Ukraine have perfectly shown, it is very risky to want to deprive an adversary of its air, anti-air and anti-ship defensive capabilities, even with intensive use. pre-emptive cruise and ballistic missile strikes.

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In fact, the mobilization of a large naval and air fleet to carry out an assault against Taiwan could only take place after the air forces, anti-aircraft defenses, coastal defenses and the Taiwanese Navy have been completely neutralized. It will only intervene after a first combat phase of relatively long duration.

The risk will then be high that such an air, ballistic and cyber war will provoke the intervention of the United States and its allies, but also, as is the case in Ukraine, the radicalization of the Taiwanese civilian population, making of the most difficult the possible administration of the island once the Taiwanese forces are defeated.

Another possibility, however, exists for Beijing, that of relying not on an aero-amphibious assault, but on an impermeable naval and air blockade of the island, so as to weaken the determination of the Taiwanese themselves over time. themselves, while limiting confrontations between the PLA and Taiwanese forces, at least while preventing them from excessively affecting civilian populations and infrastructure.

Like the naval and air blockade implemented by J. F. Kennedy in 1962 around Cuba following the delivery of Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles to the island, the objective of such a blockade would be to keep distances American and Western military and technological support towards the island, while putting the US Navy and the US Air Force in a complex situation to conduct in terms of international relations.

In the long term, the blockade would also undermine the entire economy of the island, but also of the entire planet, which is very dependent on semiconductors produced in the country.

In fact, and even if clashes will be inevitable between Taiwanese and Chinese forces in such a scenario, the confrontation will remain below a threshold likely to not mobilize public opinion and Western political leaders, unlike the situation that Russia faces. today, after the numerous strikes and abuses against Ukrainian civilians by the Russian armies.

An offensive against Taiwan would require a vast amphibious fleet
Even though the Chinese Navy will soon have a dozen large Type 072 and Type 075 amphibious ships, an amphibious assault against Taiwan would be a very risky military operation without the assurance of absolute air and naval superiority for the forces. Chinese.

Provided that the blockade is sufficiently justified on the public and international scene, and that the means to ensure its effectiveness are actually implemented over a sufficient period of several months, it is very likely that it would then be a matter of the best strategy for Beijing to regain control of the 23rd province, while keeping under control the civil resistance of the Taiwanese themselves, and by presenting on the international scene a narrative likely to demobilize many potential allies of the island.

What are the means to maintain a naval blockade against the US Navy?

LOGO meta defense 70 Tensions China vs Taiwan | Defense Analysis | Amphibious assault

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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