Is China preparing to attack Taiwan?

No, but they do have a very different worldview than you do. They’re perfectly well aware that much of the rest of the world regards Taiwan as a separate, sovereign state. They think much of the rest of the world is wrong.

The operative question right now is what costs Xi Jingping and the PRC leadership are willing to incur to enforce their view of Taiwan’s status, and what costs much of the rest of the world are willing to incur to enforce their view of Taiwan’s status, and how accurate their perceptions of each others’ cost-benefit analyses are.

This is just my opinion…I am not asserting fact:

It seems the PRC leadership is clinging to a 75 year old casus belli.

If this was 1950 maybe I could see it. But it is 2021 and some 75 years(ish) since this all went down.

The ship has sailed on “who is China.” The whole world knows it. The leaders of the PRC and ROC know it. Most of them (all of them?) weren’t even born when that happened.

If the PRC is going after ROC 75 years later it is pure empire building at the end of a gun.

Yeah, Russia got away with it in Crimea. Consider who was president when that happened. It should not have been allowed to go unpunished. If China nabs Taiwan and nothing happens what world are we living in? It would suggest all bets are off. Capture what you can because clearly the global community can’t/won’t stop it.

Here’s the thing. I genuinely hope you’re right, and Xi Jinping and the current PRC leadership are engaging in empty posturing, and they all know Taiwan is effectively a separate sovereign state already, and has been for decades, and are willing to let it go. But I’m afraid that they’ve got so much so very publicly invested in maintaining the exact opposite of that, that they think they can’t afford to let Taiwan go, even if they wanted to.

point out again that the saber rattling always peaks around now with the Founding of the PRC (1 Oct) and Founding of the ROC (10 Oct) happening almost simultaneously.

I still maintain the conspiracy theory that Taiwan has the bomb, and long ago 'splained in no uncertain terms that should China try to invade Taiwan, then Shenzhen, Xiamen and Shanghai would become radioactive dust. Pyrrhic Victory.

I’ve not heard that one before. I would tend to have the opposite view. Taiwan doesn’t have the capacity to create a weapon itself, and would have to buy one. Only Israel, Pakistan or India would be possible vendors, and I would guess India, the only country with any political skin in the game, an even vaguely credible source. But efforts to purchase a weapon in secret would really be difficult to keep secret enough. About the one thing that would be guaranteed to trigger immediate military action would be imminent acquisition of a nuclear weapon, and if China could demonstrate credible evidence that this was happening, very very difficult for the major powers to complain.

The whole question of nukes always lurks in the background. The modern world is a very different place because of this. China has a very modest nuclear arsenal, but has announced plans to roughly double its holdings. That is still quite modest in comparison to the US, but in reality they don’t need all that many. Actual use of nuclear weapons takes us into totally uncharted territory, and almost certainly territory China’s leaders don’t want to venture into. Any use of weapons risks retaliation that will be guaranteed to leave China a totally vulnerable nation with very little military capability and slam it back economically so far that any idea of being a major player in the world will be a dream for their grandchildren, at best. China doesn’t have any actively belligerent neighbours that would invade tomorrow (Japan isn’t the threat it traditionally was) but China would be weak militarily for long enough that opportunistic incursion could not be ruled out. Any idea that Taiwan was anything other than an independent nation would vanish. Use of a nuclear weapon by Xi risks him going down in history as the man that destroyed modern China and brought a generation of humiliation upon the nation. But maybe he has enough ego to roll the dice. Whether the PLA obey rather than summarily executing him is another matter. I suspect that another issue for Xi is that if he initiated military action, and it started to go wrong, he would be ousted by the PLA, and China come under military rule, long before he got the chance to roll the nuke dice.

If Taiwan had highly-enriched uranium, it could make a gun-type assembly bomb quickly, the Hiroshima type - it is the simplest type of nuke to make and needs only a reinforced steel tube and two pieces of U-235, one to be smashed into each other by a high-explosive charge at one end and there’s your boom. But such a nuke is extremely dangerous due to its ability to go off accidentally.

@China_Guy If Taiwan did have the bomb - which I don’t think so, but let’s just say if - it would be much more useful for it to only use it in a tactical sense, not strategic sense - it could wipe out an entire Chinese invasion fleet in the Strait with tactical nukes, or vaporize a Chinese army on the beach - but it would be suicidal to use nukes against Chinese cities. Doing so could only get Taiwan nuked in response and everyone loses.

Whereas if Taiwan restrains itself to tactical usage only, there’s still some possibility China wouldn’t retaliate with nukes against Taiwanese cities.

Indeed. Creating a physical weapon isn’t the hard part. It is getting the enriched uranium. In most ways obtaining the material is pretty much considered the same as getting the weapon. The current problems with Iran are all about the enrichment process. Nobody really cares about the rest.

Plutonium is a significantly different problem, as implosion devices are a great deal harder, but with modern compute power and manufacturing systems the barrier is likely a great deal smaller.

Taiwan has nuclear reactors, and thus does possess the raw capability to either divert uranium to create enriched uranium or the ability to clandestinely manufacture plutonium. Both of these efforts would require additional significant industrial sized capability, something that would be near impossible to hide.

All of this is why I would say that purchasing either a weapon or the enriched uranium and plans from another power is by far and away the most likely way any country would attempt to obtain a weapon. That gets you a known working weapon. As we see from North Korea’s efforts, success is not guaranteed without testing. For Taiwan, the first test would be the last test. Unless it worked perfectly the first time, they would be toast.

Really!? They’ve been under threat of invasion by their much-larger neighbor for over 70 years; I’d expect them to be armed to the teeth.

Apparently the Taiwan military is weak, disorganized and de-moralized.

And there doesn’t seem to be any society-wide concern, or sense of obligation to defend themselves.
They used to have universal conscription, but it was minimal training and many people proudly tried to weasel out of it. They don’t even have enough rifles to give one to every soldier.

Taiwan ain’t like Israel :slight_smile:

Well, it’s kind of complicated. Part of the reason they aren’t armed to the teeth is that their best ally (the US) goes through periods where it is trying to get in good with the country purportedly trying to invade them. At those times we don’t sell them weapons, share advisors and training, or interact with them (officially) at even the mid-level.

Taiwan also has a rather complex relationship with the mainland and has for much of that 70 years you are talking about. At the same time that the CCP is threatening them, the mainland is also Taiwan’s largest trading partner, exporting to the mainland everything from agricultural products to computer chips. And there are large periods during that 70 years where the CCP only makes a token of a threat towards Taiwan and doesn’t make a big deal about reunification.

In the last few years (this wasn’t just on ‘the Founding of the PRC (1 Oct)’ as China Guy seems to be implying) the CCP has ramped up the pressure all around. They have increased military pressure by flying multiple sorties a day into Taiwan air space. They have also had naval incursions in their waters. They have had stand-up drills at the forward logistics bases that would be used if they were to invade. They have even drafted and I think at least generally tested their civilian watercraft plan (I forget what they call it) to essentially commandeer civilian large watercraft to help transport material and heavy equipment to Taiwan as part of an invasion. They have flown nuclear-capable bombers towards Taiwan, and done rocket drills that were clearly directed at Taiwan in the event of a war. Etc etc. On the political side, they have really started to hammer countries and companies that give even a hint that they sympathize with Taiwan…hell, even using the name Taiwan has been hammered, as is putting it on any sort of list that implies it’s a nation or not calling it a province of China. Hell, China recalled their ambassador to Lithuania and China cut a bunch of trade deals because Lithuania allowed Taiwan to open an official office in their own name (Taiwan) instead of the accepted Taipei province of China.

Long story short (again), that’s why they had let their defenses slide. Combination of appeasement and not trying to rile their large neighbor coupled with their main ally not selling them weapons or assisting them with training…and many other countries also being afraid to rock the CCP boat and also not selling them what they need. They have tried to do some homegrown weapons, but it’s a mixed bag. Recently, as the pressure has been applied, they HAVE been buying weapons and have been receiving more training from their partner the US, and I think it’s taken on a new sense of urgency as they are coming to the realization that this is probably going to happen and that they need to be prepared…and may need to do it all without any help depending on what mood the US is in at any given time.

I know this has been answered, but Taiwan isn’t asserting its independence…and it doesn’t claim to control the Mainland. In fact, in recent (last few years) most Taiwanese don’t even consider themselves to be Chinese anymore.

Basically, the current government’s position is they don’t have to assert what is obvious wrt independence. What they have been doing is trying to get other countries to allow for more formal relations, allow them into international organizations (as they were allowed in the past…before the CCP used its power to have them removed), and forge new trade and other relations with Taiwan.

The trouble is that the CCP does not accept this. To them, Taiwan is a breakaway province (despite the fact that the CCP never controlled the island…the ROC did, and this was because the US handed the island to them after the defeat of Japan. China hadn’t had possession of Taiwan since the late 1800’s, before either the ROC (1912) or the CCP (1921) were formed) and in rebellion. And the thing with what ‘everyone knows’ is that, even if this were true (which it isn’t), perception can be changed with enough pressure…and the CCP has been applying that pressure for quite a while. And that pressure has been increasing. One has but to look at the pressure the CCP has applied to nation-states and foreign companies alike, using the carrot or the stick to get them to compile with THEIR worldview.

The latest:

Yes, they are armed to…I dunno, half-teeth, but Taiwan’s defense spending is just under 3 percent of GDP (when various special budgets and whatnot are included) when something like 4 or 5 percent would be more appropriate. Being “under threat” of something tends to still breed complacency as long as that threat isn’t actually actively and frequently manifesting itself. Using Israel as the comparison (I actually wrote my undergrad capstone paper on this,) Israel and Taiwan are both small nations facing pretty large-sized threats, but the difference is that Israel tastes real-life combat and attack pretty much every year or few years, so Israelis have no complacency, whereas Taiwan hasn’t had real combat since the 1950s.

Using climate change as an analogy, the threat is there but it’s hard to get people to really take it seriously until the day its effects are truly felt - we as a planet are just sleepwalking towards climate change disaster because the urgency isn’t sensed.

But all that said though - it is still pretty armed by any definition of the term, just not as much as it should be. It does have 380 fighters, a lot of antiship missiles, rocket artillery, tanks, tube artillery, SAMs, and a pretty high ratio of all military stuff for any nation by any per capita definition. It’s just that it could use…more. Also, Taiwan’s military establishment is still stuck in a Cold War mindset and is slow to shift to a more asymmetric approach that Taiwan needs.

The Trump presidency, too, really hammered home the point that you can’t assume that the U.S. will or won’t do anything anymore; any and all crazy possibilities are possible. Granted, that reflected more on one individual than the nation as a whole, but it was pretty eye-opening to the rest of the world to have a superpower being led by a man who, as the New York Times put it, had a thinking process in his head that was “just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.”

They have a weird mix of modern (though not the top of the line) systems along with pretty old stuff. Their main issue, though, has been training…they have gone through periods of heightened training and periods where training really slips. As I said, it has a lot to do with the US’s attitude and actions with respect to the mainland verse Taiwan. For a long time, we weren’t selling them much, if anything in the form of advanced systems or even ammunition. We weren’t providing assistance with training either. And many other countries were pressured not to sell Taiwan arms either, especially advanced arms. So, it’s been rough on them.

That said, the US IS now selling them fairly advanced systems. The real issue is, Taiwan needs to be really choosy in what they purchase. What they need is systems and doctrine that allow them to fight asymmetrically and play to their strengths, not flashy things like advanced fighters (necessarily). They could use a ton of (cheap…ish) cruise and ballistic missiles, missile defense systems, especially mobile ones (huge numbers of MANPADS, for instance, would be great)…basically, anything that will make the cost of taking them not worth any sort of payoff for the CCP.

Essentially, they need to do what the mainland does to counter the US…build to their strengths and not try and fight their enemy head-on conventionally. And they seem to be doing that now, and certainly seem to be taking this much more seriously.

One thing I haven’t seen brought up so far is how stretched all these incursions have made the Taiwanese air forces and missile defense forces. They are bring brought to the brink by these constant incursions into their air space, which they have to honor the threat, so to speak. They have a smaller air force, and consummate smaller maintenance and parts logistical situation, and the CCP is pushing them to the limit. I think that if the US (and Japan…and maybe Australia) doesn’t either get the Chinese to stop these flights (or at least scale them back) or start helping out by using this as a ‘training opportunity’ (military-speak for something that sucks to do :stuck_out_tongue: ) and maybe put up aircraft to say hello to our PLAAF friends for the Taiwanese, well…the CCP could basically grind the Taiwanese forces to becoming combat ineffective without firing a shot if they keep this up.

MANPADS, unfortunately, are only useful against slow and low-flying things like helicopters or low-level drones, not against the high-speed high-altitude fighters and bombers. Anti-helicopter defense is still important of course, but the MANPADS wouldn’t do much good against other things.

The other problem facing Taiwan is that it, like India, tends to have “a little bit of everything.” This makes maintenance, training and logistics a big headache. It’s better to buy or acquire a lot of a few things, than to acquire a few each of many things.

One thing I would like to see Taiwan do is drastically increase its number of snipers. Snipers have a disproportionate effect on the enemy, they can sow great fear and hesitancy and also really bog down an advancing infantry force, especially in an urban environment like Taipei and its surrounding suburbs.

Yes, I know what a MANPAD is and what it’s used for. :stuck_out_tongue: First, the Chinese have been developing a pretty respectable helicopter attack force, and they will almost certainly be using them in large numbers, especially after they think things have settled down. Also, as Taiwan is heavily mountainous and especially in the later stages of the preparatory phase of a potential invasion, attack aircraft will be flying missions in a MANPADS envelop. These would give the Taiwanese a flexible capability in this phase of the operation, as, presumably, they won’t have been destroyed by a large number of ICBM and cruise missiles the Chinese will be tossing at Taiwanese defenses in the first stage. Also, this was just one system I mentioned. :slight_smile:

The biggest thing Taiwan can do is to beef up their anti-ship and anti-air defenses, but do so in a survivable way and to basically increase training and how seriously they take the threat. They also need to get other allies on board with assisting them. The Japanese, for instance, are putting in modern anti-air and anti-shipping, and are planning to expand that in the Senkaku Islands, the southernmost of which is pretty close to Taiwan. That’s the sort of thing Taiwan needs its neighbors and allies to do, especially if there is an understanding that IF the CCP attacks those facilities will be part of the fight…which I think the Japanese are making clear they would be. The US also needs to clarify its position so there is no question what we will do. Strategic ambiguity was always silly, IMHO, but certainly right now we need to be clear so that no miscalculation is made.

People think I’m joking every time I mention it, but Taiwan doesn’t have to declare independence from China; it only has to grant independence to China.

I doubt Taiwan has the bomb, except and only under the protection of the US umbrella. Taiwan probably doesn’t have indigenous capabilities, and I don’t see why Taiwan and/or the US would keep it a secret if they did have nukes. The best way to avert a disastrous war is through deterrence, to make their capabilities known - keeping them a secret makes war more tempting to a predator like China, not less.

I don’t think China wants a hot war with China because they don’t know how the US and the world would react. It would be incredibly destabilizing, as other powers in Asia would react and probably work with the US to form an anti-China alliance. But there’s value in testing the US response once in a while.

Lessee, have a very large belligerent neighbor, have a really large proportion of PhD level foreign educated scientists, have IIRC 6 nuclear power plants, for decades was a pariah state along with S Africa (who has uranium), etc. You don’t think they have the wherewithall to set up a MAD defense versus China? Lacks the knowledge or ability to create the bomb?

I don’t have proof, and I’m not definitively saying this is the case, but if you were sitting in Taipei, what would you do?