[Hermit: I see the above scenario as possible but unlikely. Russian analysis is that the PRC just does not have the competent air capacity to move one division, let alone three, so they would be forced to depend on sea transport. All vessels in littoral waters are vunerable to a vast range of threats, particularly where air superiority is not available (The ROC has a widely disperced air force, deployed in well hardened (nuclear grade) shelters, and short of massive treachery or sabotage, this is not an option for the PRC (infra)). Given the fact that the PRC would have to rely on unhardened vessels for the bulk of carriage, I doubt that they would take this gamble. In the envisaged scenario, the PRC's losses would likely be enormous.]
With the end of the Cold War both China and Taiwan embarked upon far-reaching upgrades to their naval and air forces. China returned to Mosow for assistance denied since the Sino-Soviet rift of the Khruschev era, while Taiwan turned to France and America. Although this fact seems largely un-noticed, Taiwan's military buildup has succeeded and is now largely complete, while China's rearmament effort has faltered and is many years away from completion. The present military balance across the Taiwan Strait is more favorable for Taiwan than at any point in recent history, and Taiwan's relative strength will inexorably decline over the coming decade as China's rearmament effort slowly catches up.
Both China and Taiwan have rid themselves of elderly aircraft, and acquired more modern units. The total number of Chinese fighter aircraft has apparently decreased by one-third over the past five years, from about 4,000 to about 2,500. Force improvements have been limited almost exclusively to the addition of a few dozen first-rate Su-27s purchased from Russia, with the remaining inventory consisting of obsolete designs which dated from the 1960s. [Hermit: In my opinion the PRC pilots are also vastly inferior to those of the ROC. The PRC maintains extremely centralized control over flight operations and fuel and spares availability seriously constrains their ability to yield competent aircrews and airframes.] In contrast, Taiwan's fighter force has increased by one-third, with the bulk of the force consisting of nearly 300 modern first-class aircraft. With deliveries to be completed in early 2000, Taiwan's air force will enjoy its greatest advantage relative to China in recent memory, though this advantage
will erode over the next decade as Chinese modernization plans are eventually fullfilled.
Both China and Taiwan have rid themselves of elderly ships and acquired more modern major surface combatants. Ambitious Chinese plans to acquire at least a pair of Russian Sovremenny-class guided missile destroyers, as well as to construct a number of other modern ships, remain future ambitions rather than present achievements. Currently, only seven Chinese ships, of the Luhai, Luhu, and Jiangwei classes, approach world standards for modern major surface combatants. [Hermit:]The PRCs shipboard systems are antiquated and their staff ill-trained in contrast to the ROC] In contrast, Taiwan's navy has recently completed the acquisition of a total of 21 Perry, Knox and La Fayette class frigates equiped with modern shipboard combat systems. [Hermit: An additional factor is that the US typically has at least two Aegis equipped vessels "visiting" the ROC and while they cannot deploy their full radar capabilities while in port (they would cause massive EMD if they did), their Aegis systems would provide both advan
ced warning and a causus belli if the PRC attacked in their presence. One threat posed by the almost inevitable US vs Iraq/Iran war is that these vessels may be withdrawn, which would undoubtedly increase the probability of a rapid deteriation in the security situation in the straits. It is a pity that the US did not take the opportunity afforded by the reconnaissance plane arrest debacle to approve transfers of Aegis systems and possibly submarines to the ROC.]
According to the estimates of the Taiwan Ministry of Defense, the forces available to the PLA for the invasion of Taiwan include about 80,000 troops of the 31st Army Group deployed in Fujian region. The PLA could reshuffle in a short period some of the“Rapid Reaction Force” of other military regions, which along with strategic reserves would bring perhaps another 250,000 troops to the area, according to estimates of the Taiwan Ministry of Defense. Naval forces, including submarines and motorized fishing vessels, could establish a sea blockade. Naval units could lay mines over the peripheral waters of Taiwan proper and the offshore islands, while concentrating amphibious landing craft transporting one reinforced division to conduct a regular landing operation. Or motorized fishing vessels could carry up to 350,000 light infantry to undertake an irregular landing operation. At the 13 military-civilian airports within 250 NM from the Taiwan proper, the PRC's Air Force could station up to 1,200 combat aircraft a
nd maneuver five dozen air transports to carry two airborne regiments for operational mission. The DF-15 (M-9) and DF-21 could directly attack key political, economical, and military targets. [Hermit: The PRCs continuing and accelerating schedule of Yuting-class amphibious landing ships indicates that they are aware of this shortfall, and forms an ongoing concern, particularly in the light of the PRCs overwhelming dominance in submarines and S2S missile volumes(infra).]
The military balance is of course more complex than can be depicted by considering only a few indicators. There are certainly areas, such as anti-shipping cruise missiles, in which China fields a formidable force. Taiwan has not been entirely successful in bringing its new hardware up to combat full readiness, and such defficiencies surely compromise other evident advantages in command and control. But in terms of gross overall capabilities, over the next few years Taiwan will enjoy the greatest margin of military advantage relative to China in recent history, and the greatest margin that it will enjoy for the ponderable future. This observation does not go to the question of the overall military balance between the two countries, which is difficult to gauge in the absence of considering specific scenarios. But it does suggest that whatever that overall balance might currently be, it is almost certainly significantly more favorable to Taiwan than it has been in recent years, and surely more favorable than it
will be in coming years.
[Hermit: Threat scenarios Analysed by the FAS]
[*] Nuclear Attack on Taiwan -- China would almost certainly not contemplate a nuclear strike against Taiwan, nor would Beijing embark on a course of action that posed significant risks of the use of nuclear weapons. The mainland's long term goal is to liberate Taiwan, not to obliterate it, and any use of nuclear weapons by China would run a substantial risk of the use of nuclear weapons by the United States. An inability to control escalation beyond "demonstrative" detonations would cause utterly disproportionate destruction.
[*] Full-Scale Invasion -- A main force attack to "Liberate Taiwan" would be an extremely high risk undertaking with uncertain prospects for success. Invasion is unlikely, since the PLA cannot yet transport a credible invasion force to Taiwan. Amphibious forces are capable of transporting no more than a single division [15,000 troops], and military air transports could add no more than a few thousand additional soldiers. Taipei would have significant warning time if Beijing were to prepare for an invasion, and could mobilize significant reserves that would outnumber the invading force by a wide margin. Taiwan retains significant qualitative advantages against the numerically superior PLA in fighter aircraft, surface warships, air defenses, and many ground force capabilities. Although it is unlikely that China would initiate the use of weapons of mass destruction in the context of a conventional invasion of Taiwan, it is quite possible that Taiwan would initiate the use of chemical weapons in respose to such
an invasion in the event that a purely conventional military response appeared inadequate. In any event, if Beijing's amphibious assault did not spontaneously collapse, such an invasion would almost certainly provoke an American intervention sufficient to terminate hostilities on terms unfavorable to Beijing.
[*] Air Operations -- Air operations could be conducted in concert with a naval blockade, amphibious operations, missile strikes against Taiwan-held islands, or missile strikes against Taiwan. Taipei's qualitative advantages would help offset the PLA's numerical superiority. But air operations could cause great damage that might eventually enable China to achieve air superiority, and could force Taipei into a political settlement on China's terms unless Taiwan were to receive external assistance. The United States would almost certainly be prepared to provide aircraft and ordnance to replace combat losses, though it is rather difficult to imagine modern counterparts to the "Flying Tigers." It is unclear how or whether American carrier-based aviation would be used to enforce a no-fly zone in the Taiwan Strait. Such enforcement would probably come towards the end of a military crisis to either administer a cease fire or revser the declining fortunes of Taiwan. American carrier aviation combat operations at the
outset of a Chinese air campaign against Taiwan would appear unlikely under current US declaratory policy, although there could be substantial Congressional pressure for such a committment.
[*] Naval Blockade -- The PLA Navy would face serious difficulties in coordinating an effective naval blockade enforced through the combined efforts of air, surface, and submarine forces. But the reaction by Taiwan and the international community to the PLA's March 1996 exercises and missile tests suggests that less comprehensive measures could substantially disrupt Taiwan's economic life, potentially creating pressure over time for a political settlement. Depending on the modalities of such an embargo, the United States might have difficulty in identifying politically appropriate or militarily effective means of countering Beijing's interdiction of international commerce with Taiwan. Mine-sweeping operations might not be sufficiently effective to restore the confidence of commercial shippers, and the US Navy might be loath to proactively sink Chinese submarines that were not immediately attacking friendly shipping. Consequently, a partially effective Chinese blockade of Taiwan would appear to be an attactiv
e option for concretely demonstrating China's ultimate authority over Taiwan without prokoking an American military challenge to this assertion.
[*] Peripheral Assaults -- Taiwan occupies one island in the disputed Spratly chain, and the handful of small islands occupied by Taiwan near the mainland coast are far less heavily fortified than Quemoy and Matsu. Chinese seizure of these otherwise insiginificant specks of real estate could be accomplished with relative ease, and as with a partial naval blockade would concrete demonstrate Beijing's dispositive influence over territory claimed by Taipei. The United States is extremely unlikely to assist Taiwan in the recovery of the legally disputed Spratly, and would be only somewhat less unlikely to directly participate in the recovery by Taiwan of minor specks of territory in the Taiwan Strait.
[*] Unconventional Warfare -- Chinese attacks on critical infrastructure could unsettle Taiwan's economy without provoking American military involvement, and perhaps without even being directly attributable to the Chinese government. Although apparently coincidental, the island-wide blackout of late July 1999 is illustrative of such possibilities, and subsequently reported attacks on government computer systems may forshadow more ambitious attacks. It is rather difficult to envision effective modalities for American enhancements to Taiwans physical or technical security to counter such infrastructure attacks beyond modest technical assistance efforts. Although the potentially unattributable character of infrastructure attacks would deny Beijing the pleasure of explicit mastery over Taiwan, the absence of attribution would not diminish the impact on Taiwan's economy nor would it diminish from the depiction of Taipei as lacking effective control over its nominal territory.
[*] Military Exercises -- At a minimum, the PLA may repeat the military posturing of March 1996, and indeed it is difficult to imagine how a response of at least this intensity can be avoided. It is predictable, however, that the United States will respond by the deployment of military forces to some carefully calibrated locale, and that these manuevers alone will do little to resolve the present political crisis. To the extent that Taiwan's present political challenge is viewed as being more substantial than that of 1995-96, a simple repetition of the firepower displays of that crisis could demonstrate a lack of credibility and resolve on the part of Beijing, and could be readily characterized as inadequate.
[Hermit: Naturally the reliance on the US, ever a fickle partner, should (and does) have the ROC concerned. Against that, the ever increasing economic ties to the PRC may eventually result in a diplomatic solution acceptable to both sides. Let us all hope so.]
---- This message was posted by Hermit to the Virus 2002 board on Church of Virus BBS. <http://virus.lucifer.com/bbs/index.php?board=51;action=display;threadid=25860>
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sun Sep 22 2002 - 05:06:17 MDT