Is China preparing to attack Taiwan?

Australia’s mooted nuclear powered subs wont start arriving for 20 years, if then, and will certainly be based in Australia - our closest port Darwin is over 4,000 km from Taiwan (AND by the way is leased out to a Chinese corporation for 99 years!).

They would have to get through or around Indonesia to get there (Guam is less than 3,000km away with no intervening nations, no idea if US subs could be based there). So I’m really not sure they are going to be any deterrent to China attacking Taiwan.

That’s really what counts here; forcibly invading Taiwan would be DIFFICULT. Like @Velocity says, it would have to be an operation that would dwarf D-Day in a lot of respects. Taiwan is 100 miles from mainland China. They’d have to ship all their forces, supplies, reinforcements, etc… 100 miles across potentially hostile waters, and hope they could get enough across to get a beachhead, and hope they could resupply/reinforce them adequately over that distance to prevail.

That’s a humongously tall order, especially for a nation whose military doesn’t have any institutional experience with amphibious landings or that sort of logistical challenge, or even recent enough combat experience.

Let’s hope it isn’t quite that bad. But it will be long enough that it won’t have any bearing on the current question.
We do of course have an existing conventional submarine fleet, the Collins Class, which is quite capable anyway. But being conventional it is harder to hide its whereabouts for any length of time. The AUKUS deal really signals a clear shift in how Oz is aligning itself in the geopolitical arena. China can only blame itself for making the choice easier.

The likelihood of an Oz sub engaging a Chinese invasion fleet sailing to Taiwan by itself is vanishingly small. But if things escalate there will become very tightly drawn boundaries over behaviour, and one might imagine that Taiwan becomes the modern equivalent of Poland. But it isn’t yet. And I think most players are hoping it doesn’t. The world becomes brittle when lines are drawn in the sand. We set ourselves up for an uncontrolled journey as the dominoes fall. Perhaps the worry is that some elements of the Chinese power blocks either don’t understand that, or worse, do understand it, and are deliberately going down that path. A doctrine of inevitable war is little short of a doomsday cult.

This is the ROC, right? These were the people that the US refused to provide real help after WWII because of the incompetence of their army and the corruption of the government.

China hasn’t been a threat to Taiwan for all of these 70 years, because of the straits. It really helps to be an island!

There was the previous weakness of the PLA Navy, especially with regards to limitations in amphibious capacity and the inability to prevent the USN carriers from approaching and dominating the battlefield; and a lackluster military in general.

Historically, the US response to the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1995 was a wakeup call for the Chinese. (I can’t believe that 1995 is “historical.”)

The massive buildup by the PLAN has been since then, and in the 25 years since then they have developed the capacity to challenge the USN in this part of their world and has been increasing their amphibious capacity.

As long as Taiwan wasn’t completely unarmed and there was an unspoken understanding that the cavalry would ride to the rescue, they didn’t need to have an outstanding defense.

A timely article in CNN today discusses that.

It should be noted that as much as Taiwan is criticized for not spending more than 3 percent of GDP on defense, there are real reasons for that. From a budget standpoint, Taiwan is a highly stressed nation. It currently needs a reliable water supply (just emerged from its severest drought in half a century,) its universal single-payer healthcare system is going to be in serious trouble if there isn’t an influx of money soon, its pension system was on the path to going broke until it was recently reformed, it has little fossil fuel and therefore has to expensively import lots of coal, oil and gas every year, it needs a lot more renewable energy urgently, its doctors, cops and nurses are low-paid, wages are low, its reservoirs need dredging of silt and its semiconductor industry is now facing extreme competition from China and South Korea.

Taiwan definitely should spend a lot more on its military. But there are simply no good budget cuts to be made elsewhere. Cutting the water-resources or energy or fuel or healthcare budget would lead to real harm. It’s between a rock and a hard place.

It’s not an ignorant question (I actually don’t think there are any ‘ignorant questions’)…it’s a debate itself and you’ll see various arguments on both sides that are valid. Myself, FWIW, I’d say it’s not overwhelmingly likely that Taiwan would fall to an invasion, but it is probable that they would. I wouldn’t being to give odds, but I’d say better than 50/50…with caveats.

First caveat…would the Taiwanese fight all the way, go all in? If so, then it makes a successful Chinese invasion less likely. Second caveat…how badly does the CCP want it? If they are also all in, win at any cost, that makes it nearly inevitable they will win…eventually. It’s a near certainty in this case in fact. Simply, China has an overwhelming numerical advantage in all categories. They have more ships, more planes, more missiles, and more warm bodies to throw at Taiwan, and if they were willing to pay any price they would do it.

But…I doubt the CCP IS willing to pay those sorts of costs, and I really doubt the Chinese people would be. The main issue I see is, China and the PLA don’t have a very deep bench so to speak. The number of highly trained and highly motivated troops in the more technical MOS categories (pilots, Naval officers, etc) are fairly thin…and a lot of folks in these classes come from the Chinese elites.

It would be a nasty fight, with China hammering Taiwan in the early phases with missile strikes from air to ground and short and medium-range ICBMs and other ground-based attacks. But when it moves into the actual invasion, the casualties on the PLA(whatever) side would be brutal, especially the actual landings, and especially since while the PLA does some actual military training, they actually have very little experience with real fighting at any level. So IF Taiwan is actually willing to fight as a nation, if the people are behind the government and will fight to the death, I think that the mainland Chinese casualties would be tremendous.

Hopefully, we will never find out either how Taiwan would fare alone or what the result of any war will be. I think to ensure that, all that needs to happen is the US just comes off the fence and states clearly what our intentions are. Japan doing so would just add icing to the cake.

My bolding

It should be noted that Japan is looking at defending these disputed islands by increasing the Japanese naval capacity and also stationing missiles in the Nansei island chain, part of Okinawa, the western most island of which is closer to the east coast of Taiwan than it is to Senkaku. Militarizing Sekaku itself would really increase the tensions and possible even trigger an armed confrontation with China. The US has pledged to help Japan defend these islands.

Japan has become more vocal about seeing China as a threat and seeing Taiwan as important to Japan’s security and oil from Japan goes right past us.

Strategic ambiguity is like kicking the can down the street, but the situation is changing. Before China had the capacity to actually invade then it was convenient for everyone, but the situation has gotten more more dangerous.

While the PLA doesn’t have any real experience of actual fighting, the ROC military doesn’t, either. I wonder how well they will fight.

On paper, the defenders have advantages, but there are so many real unknowns.

Hopefully, we won’t have to find out.

Perhaps an even bigger deterrent isn’t the human casualties, but damage to Taiwanese infrastructure and economy. Taiwan trades with and invests in China to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

China wants Taiwan’s chip fabs and expertise badly. An invasion that destroys the infrastructure and causes the best and brightest to flee would be very damaging to China’s economy, as would the inevitable boycotts and sanctions the rest of the world would likely impose.

Interesting stuff - a lot of moving parts. Thanks.

I think by the time a sniper team start to become effective, you’ve already lost the air war, the landing craft have reached the landing sites, and the enemy has established a beachhead and is starting to advance out from there. At this point, you’ve likely already failed, and your only hope is some sort of protracted guerilla campaign until the enemy loses the political will to carry forward or the international community comes to your rescue.

It’s likely far, far more effective to invest in SAMs, anti-shipping missiles, artillery and mortars (and hardening or hiding/dispersing these assets) to repel a massed amphibious assault. Amphibious landing craft are essentially sitting ducks, miles from reaching shore. Best target them there.

Well, yes - the two aren’t exclusive. Lots of SAMs, antiship missiles, etc. as the first line of defense. Artillery and close air support (i.e., Apaches and Cobras) as the second line. Snipers, designated marksmen and infantry as the third line.

That’s true, but the ROC military has a much simpler problem set than the PLA(whatever) does. Defending a fixed island, even the mobilization part, while not exactly easy, is a MUCH easier problem than coordinating multiple branches and attacks and logistics culminating in one of the most difficult military activities there is, namely a forced entry landing against a hostile, defended beach. This would be much more involved and difficult than the D-Day landings were, and those were the most difficult military operation ever planned and carried out. All this by a military organization that isn’t known for its inter-agency coordination between the various PLA(something) branches, with almost no actual combat experience, and a military that is trained as a percentage of their overall training at least 30% in CCP doctrine, not in combat operations. Even their elite forces aren’t very well trained by western standards. Add to that the CCP corruption in procurement and all up and down the line and this would be really difficult.

That said…that doesn’t mean the CCP leadership sees it this way, or that any of the above (assuming you believe it’s true) would deter them from launching an invasion anyway. The exact opposite in fact is probably closer to the truth.

Totally agree.

Again, agreed. But a lot of people don’t really seem to be paying attention to China’s pressure on Japan and Japan’s response by building up in these islands. And with Japan, we have a formal treaty that we WILL defend Japan from any attack…and I think that will include if Japan feels the need to defend Taiwan because they rightfully see the fall of Taiwan as an existential threat to Japan itself.

I agree.

It wouldn’t be anything like the fall of Kabul, or Russia invading Ukraine, in terms of the affect on psychology in the U.S. While we can’t be sure in advance, I think it would be a 9/11 event in the sense that the day after the fall of Taipei, America would be a different, militarily determined, and at least temporarily more unified, country.

Now, if, God-forbid, Donald Trump is President at the time, my last sentence would be wrong.

It’s a wake-up call that maybe, just maybe, the US, Japan, and Europe need to start re-thinking what they outsource, and to whom. For sure, if China were to invade Taiwan and takeover their chip making centers, that would be a shock, but we’re already dealing with shocks as it is. But over time, we could move some of that capacity back home or spread it to other countries out of China’s orbit.

A wake-up call if China invades, or are you saying the wake-up call is what we are hearing right now?

I hope you aren’t suggesting that we respond to PRC threats by cutting trade with Taiwan.

No, not cutting trade with Taiwan but let’s be proactive and be less dependent on foreign countries for crucial industrial capacity.

The U.S. has already lured TSMC into building a 5-nm fab in Arizona, and also gotten Samsung to build a big foundry in Texas (which will be about half an hour from where I live)

I agree with this. I am a free trader, but I make an exception for strategically important goods. Putting most of our computing and semiconductor tech in the hands of our chief rival and a country that could be controlled or taken over by that rival is very dangerous.

I wouldn’t have posted what I posted 10 years ago - not sure I would have even 5 years ago. But Xi Jinping’s faction has left us no choice. Like you, I am a free trader. I don’t mean we should bring it all back home but shit, my old man, who served in WWII and Korea, pointed out decades ago that the US would be fucked in a major war with a global power that had domestic production and he proved to be prescient. He said this back when China was a backwater.

And we should keep doing more.