Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Will China Invade Taiwan?

George Friedman is one of the most interesting strategic thinkers working today, writing normally at Geopolitical Futures. Today he considers what would be involved in China attacking Taiwan, something he makes clear he doesn't think will happen.
The problem that China has with an invasion of Taiwan is that too many things have to must (sic) go right. China must keep its intentions secret in spite of a prolonged buildup of forces in multiple ports. It must strike multiple heavily defended targets with aircraft and missiles, simultaneously and without being detected. It must execute an amphibious assault against a superior force and hold the landing area until reinforcements arrive. It must control the sea lanes across the strait in the face of submarine attacks, potential air attacks and mine laying. Finally, it has to complete the operation before the U.S. commits significant reserves to the battle. If any of these strategic components fails, the invasion fails.

Obviously, this is barely a sketch of the battle problem. Nevertheless, the strategic point is valid. The Chinese cannot take Taiwan without a Pearl Harbor scenario several orders more ambitious than the Japanese operation in 1941. The Japanese had a reason to risk Pearl Harbor. Their oil was running out and their supplies were running low due to U.S. embargoes and interference. They had to act. China is not in that position. Therefore, risking such a complex operation is not a rational option.
Of course, nations do not always act rationally. On the plus side, the window of opportunity created by Obama's flaccid foreign policy will be closed in roughly two weeks.