Asia Times has a bleak report about the ability of Taiwan to fight off an attack from China – the bottom line of it being that by 2020 China may have the capability to force a Taiwanese surrender.
The growth of Chinese military sophistication and China’s continual build up of weapons systems designed to counter American power is increasingly leaving Taiwan in a strategically untenable position. If Taiwan cannot count on rapid and powerful American support, then resistance to any Chinese attack would be exceptionally difficult, and very likely doomed if China deployed all its power. In the end, all a really firm resistance by the Taiwanese can accomplish – absent US support – is to make a graveyard of Taiwan (while also killing some hundreds of thousands of Chinese in payment). So, what does Taiwan do? And what does America do about it?
It is still some years before China can feel certain that a sea-borne invasion of Taiwan could be carried out in the face of US naval intervention – both in the air and undersea, the Chinese military is not even close to being able to stop us from blocking a move to Taiwan. They can rain down death and destruction, but that is not what China would prefer to do. Taiwan is very wealthy and China would like to capture it intact (Taiwan’s 23 million people produce $35,700.00 in GDP per person, China’s 1.3 billion produce $7,300.00 in GDP per person). Raining down death and destruction (or threatening to) can get Taiwan to make a huge amount of concessions…but only a credible threat to leap across the sea and invade would convince Taiwan’s government to surrender. That, as I said, is some years away…so Taiwan and the United States have a window of opportunity to make plans to deal with this.
The best way to deal with it, in my view, is to make Taiwan a nuclear-armed power. Taiwan, un-aided, will forever lack the ability to defend itself in conventional war against China – the population disparities are so great that if China attacks, then Taiwan is ultimately doomed, even if they do put up a spirited fight and make the Chinese pay a usurious blood price for conquest (and, of course, the Chinese government is never chary with the blood of the Chinese people…sacrificing a million of them to gain prestige may be seen as all in a day’s work by the Chinese leadership). Taiwan, aided by us, wins the war against China. But can Taiwan really count on US aid? Suppose we have a flabby President at the time? Suppose our military has been hollowed out by budget cuts to preserve free birth control? Suppose China’s cat’s paw in North Korea is ordered to engage us in war there just before China attacks Taiwan? Counting on us is not something Taiwan can do. So, self defense – but that is only possible for a small State like Taiwan via nuclear weapons.
Taiwan has the wealth and the technical capacity to build nuclear weapons, install them on missiles and deploy those missiles on submarines. A force of four or five “Dolphin” class submarines, like those Israel has, armed with nuclear-tipped missiles would be sufficient for Taiwan to retain at sea a credible nuclear deterrent (you need four or five so that you can always have two or three deployed). Israel would probably even be willing to help out, and we can provide clandestine assistance as well, though Taiwan would have to be on its own as far as nuclear weapons development due to our treaty obligations on non-proliferation. Taiwan, right now, has just enough time to do this before China becomes powerful enough to enforce a surrender. Faced with the prospect of a dozen or so nuclear weapons being detonated over Shanghai, Hong Kong and other major Chinese cities, the Chinese government simply would not attack – not ever: it would never repay the cost (monetary, I mean, not blood…as I said, I doubt much that the Chinese government cares how many people die).
The choice is ultimately Taiwan’s – do they wish to be free? I, for one, will always back coming to Taiwan’s aid because my view is that the United States can never afford having a free people be conquered by external tyranny. Even at the cost of World War Three, we should fight China if China ever attacks Taiwan. But Taiwan simply cannot count on my view holding majority support in the United States…or, even if it does, count on the American government at the time being able and willing to assist. If Taiwan’s people wish to remain in freedom, then their choice is clear…build nuclear weapons and count on the ability to destroy China as their assurance against Chinese attack.