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How will Taiwan defend itself in case of a Chinese attack?


This is first of the four articles on Taiwan scheduled to be published by Ytharth. The mini project is aimed at furthering our understanding of the geostrategic environment and its possible implications across the Taiwan strait, to be completed by a Young Scholar.

Chinese military exercises have been aggressively approaching Taiwan borders, and with each passing day, China's hostility has gotten worse. With two of the world's most powerful armies (the U.S and China) squabbling in this battle of Taiwan, the stakes are so high that even the tiniest mistake might tip the conflict into a Third World War, with catastrophic repercussions that could take a century to undo. While the entire world is jittery, trying to figure out who will attack and what the prospects of battle are, Reuters, a news agency, published an in-depth piece on the war tactics of Taiwan, U.S, and China,as well as how the battle of Taiwan may play out in reality. With the help of Reuter's discussion of the "T-Day," a quick examination of the predicted plans of both China and Taiwan will be discussed in this article.

Source: BBC

EXPECTED CHINESE STRATEGY China views US operations in the Indo-Pacific as a threat to the region's tranquillity and peace. Because of Taiwan's strategic importance, China wishes for its inclusion in the mainland. If China grants Taiwan its desired independence, as the US would want, the US would soon establish military bases and a naval presence in Taiwan. Under such conditions, China's security would be jeopardized. It cannot afford to lose Taiwan because doing so would imperil China's position as a superpower in the twenty-first century great power struggle and effectively hinder China from extending the sphere of influence in the Asia-Pacific.

According to military specialists, China has a multitude of methods at its disposal to prevent this from happening. Among these, Xi's options are the takeover of Taiwan's outlying islands, blockades, or an all-out invasion. According to some Taiwanesemilitary strategists, the Pratas Islands, which are remote and poorly fortified in the north of the South China Sea, might be Beijing's next target.

If the 'Hypothetical Reports' are right, China may initially target and focus on the Matsu islands, which have a population of 13,500 people, and the Kinmen Islands, which have a population of 140,000people. The Matsu islands are only nine kilometres from the Chinese mainland, and Kinmen is only six kilometres. Since China is already in the thick of Covid-19, they would plan to take Taiwan as quickly and with as little damage as possible. Therefore, the safest way to get Taiwan would be to intimidate them so much that they by default surrender without any bloodshed. China is well aware that if they directly attack Taiwan, they would be subject to sanctions or they might face an attack from the American military itself. In this situation, imposing a blockade on the Matsu and Kinmen Islands would be the least hazardous method for China to put pressure on Taiwan. As a result of being cut off from their families on the targeted two islands, Taiwan would face pressure from its own people to comply.

If the aforementioned scenario does not pan out, China is expected to execute a "Customs Quarantine Strategy." China will use its enormous naval fleet in this situation to encircle Taiwan and assume complete control of the nearby seas and airspace. In this way, Taiwan is kept in a state of complete quarantine, where no ships or aircraft may enter or leave and is unable to communicate with its allies. This is to make sure that the American and Japanese forces are prevented from approaching Taiwan.

TAIWAN’S WAY FORWARD Taiwan currently has a functioning example of a large state entering a relatively weak neighbouring country (Ukraine) while claiming that Ukraine is not a real nation. China makes similar accusations regarding Taiwan. Taiwan has the benefit of being able to observe and learn from Ukraine's pluses and minuses while also strategizing in case China becomes offensive. Though it is commonly recognised that China has greater military strength than Taiwan, doubts have been raised about Taipei's probable approach if Beijing seeks to seize it by force. This is where Taiwan’s well-known a comes into the picture. Taiwan's most powerful approach is an asymmetrical warfare concept known as the "Porcupine Strategy," which tries to make the enemy's invasion difficult and costly. In 2008, US Naval War College research professor William S Murray proposed it for the first time. The "porcupine" strategy is also known as the "Overall DefenceConcept" (ODC), which was initiated in 2017 by Lee Hsi-Ming, then-chief of Taiwanese military forces. This tactic entails making the enemy's attack more difficult by employing an asymmetric military strategy defence in. Rather than taking on the enemy's strengths, this approach focuses on fortifying a state's defencesin order to exploit the enemy's vulnerabilities.

The porcupine strategy includes two levels of defence. The outer layer is concerned with intelligence and reconnaissance in order to guarantee that defence troops are adequately equipped. Behind this are preparations for guerrilla warfare at sea, aided by sophisticated aircraft given by the US.

A "porcupine" strategic leader would put more emphasis on adaptable and easily concealed weapons like the portable Javelin and Stinger missile systems, which have been demonstrated to be successful in Ukraine, instead of spending money on expensive traditional equipment like tanks, warships, and naval vessels, which are challenging to conceal and easy to target with a warhead. Taiwan has amassed substantial stockpiles of anti-air, anti-tank, and anti-ship weaponry and ammunition as part of this plan. That includes unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)and inexpensive weapons like mobile coastal defence cruise missiles (CDCMs), which have the power to obliterate China's pricey navy ships and other military hardware.

The porcupine strategy includes two levels of defence. The outer layer is concerned with intelligence and reconnaissance in order to guarantee that defence troops are adequately equipped. Behind this are preparations for guerrilla warfare at sea, aided by sophisticated aircraft given by the US. The deepest stratum is determined by the island's topography and demographics. While the first layer would serve to prevent a surprise attack, the second would make it impossible for China to put soldiers on the island in the face of a guerrilla battle at sea. According to experts, this may not halt a war, but it may assist to slow it down, giving countries like Taiwan time to forecast attacking locations and fortify its defensive system in a much more intelligent manner, thereby delaying the onslaught.

Regardless of all the hypotheses, if China chooses to go forward with the invasion, Taiwan's effective approach would be to fight it. However, if Taiwan maintains a consistent and successive defensive position, there would be many casualties on both sides. Any of these moves might lead to a confrontation between China and the US over Taiwan.

If Taiwan decides not to participate in the struggle, China's invasion will go far more easily, even if China incurs significant material, human, and reputational losses. The possibility of a bloodless conflict and reconciliation may be intriguing, but it is improbable.

About the author: Amala is pursuing her MA in International Relations at the University of Madras. She is a Research Intern at Ytharth India. Her academic interests lie in the geopolitics of East Asia and South Asia, Gender Rights and Inclusivity in an international setting and, Human Rights and Refugee Crisis. Views expressed are personal.

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