China is preparing to use military force to take Taiwan and has resigned to the eventuality of possibly clashing with the United States military in the western Pacific.
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Based on specific military exercises and a particular pattern of the types and frequency of the aircraft it sends into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), it can be estimated that China’s military action in Taiwan could be near.
However, whether it translates that military encirclement into a full-scale war, a limited strike on the Taiwanese military to coerce it into surrendering, or; a prolonged blockade to force Taipei to buckle by presenting a fait accompli remains to be seen.
This depends upon the scale and extent of the perceived provocation from Taiwan or the United States.
Chinese actions could be stimulated with the declaration of independence by separatists, the US recognizing the island as a country and renouncing its own One China policy, or another visit by a top-most representative from the US.
The aftermath of the visit of former US Speaker Nancy Pelosi has permanently changed Cross-Strait relations. China has calculated that the US will continue to push Beijing’s red lines.
China has been trying to find gaps in its attack and integral defense plans in the Taiwan Strait and northern SCS. While the unprecedented nature of the live-fire exercises around Taiwan after the Pelosi visit in early August was one indication, regular tent military exercises and rapid induction of military platforms since September is another.
Military Exercises Growing More Specific
The live-fire drills were mainly at a strategic logistical level, where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) undertook “multi-directional” “high intensity” “close-in deterrence joint sea and air assaults.”
Indeed, firsts like firing missiles over Taiwan or using the J-20 stealth fighter in the live-fire drills gave China the confidence to enforce a blockade of Taiwan from all directions and sustain for a prolonged time.
The minor tactical, operational, and technical plans for each aerial, naval, and ground role; identifying, recording, and analyzing Taiwanese targets; drawing up fire plans; preparing countermeasures for possible Taiwanese resistance and; refining the logistics-combined arms-fire-reinforcements chain could not have been possibly done in a 10-12 day time frame.
If anything, the drills served to identify issues with the very micro-level roles like amphibious landings; aerial and sea-borne air defense; airborne early warning; electronics, signals, and communications intelligence (ELINT, SIGINT, COMINT); long-range stand-off missile fires from bombers and fighters; and air dominance; and lastly intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance roles as a part of a larger sensor-to-shooter kill chain.
The last bit is a military practice China is believed to share with Russia, where there is a preference to lead military operations with accurate long-range missile fires and restrained ground offensives.
Moreover, one of the locations in the north of Taiwan and two in the south during the live-fire exercises were within the island’s territorial waters. This served as a significant political statement: China disregards the maritime boundary to uphold its claim over the island, and it is not a violation of international law for a country’s military to operate within its territory.
A brief look at the People’s Liberation Army Force’s (PLAAF) recent flights into Taiwan’s ADIZ gives an idea.
On November 21, PLAAF sent twelve aircraft and four ships to Taiwan, including five H-6K bombers. This was “to work out the issue of breaking through the Taiwanese air defense system in the southern part of the strait,” according to a comment on a leading online Chinese defense issues forum.
The next day (November 22) saw five aircraft, including a BZK-005 drone, 4 J-10 fighters, and an anti-submarine warfare Y-8Q (or KQ-200), entering the southern part of Taiwan’s ADIZ. The Southern Theatre Command has emerged as central to China’s potential Taiwan operation since China assumed the US to try and break its blockade from that direction.
On a different note, on Thursday, the PLA’s 75th Brigade in Yunnan under the STC accepted the delivery of several military equipments. These included seven Type 624 anti-aircraft missile and gun systems, eight 122mm multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), eight transport-loading vehicles, and five other trucks for transporting personnel and command and control roles.
On the same day, the Eastern Fleet of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) tested the third ship of the Type 075 amphibious landing helicopter dock (LHD) with weapons trials in the East China Sea. Besides the fleet of hundreds of civilian fishing vessels and maritime militia and some roll-on roll-over (RoRo) to transport tanks and troops, the Type 075s, too, will contribute in an amphibious landing role.
Thursday also saw the PLA Marine Corps “sharpening its amphibious combat skills” in combined arms battalions in a new “flatter command method” to prepare for a “Taiwan attack,” according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP). The land, sea, and air drills combined multiple tasks like “obstacle removal, reconnaissance, and firing while functioning as a single battalion.”
These were supported by “dozens of amphibious armored vehicles and assault boats carrying marines, while helicopters carrying the reconnaissance and attack unit (conducted) infiltration and attack maneuvers to the enemy’s rear.”
The latest flights into Taiwan’s ADIZ on December 8 saw nine aircraft and four UAVs crossing and returning from the median line. These were four J-10s and one CH-4 reconnaissance UAV in the northern part of the median line; four J-16s in the central region; one Y-8 ASW aircraft, and one BZK-005 reconnaissance UAV in the southern part.
J-16s and Y-8s have extensively been used under the STC’s area of responsibility in the northern South China Sea (SCS), where China believes the US will try to break its blockade of Taiwan.
China Is Nearly Prepared; US Is Not!
Senior Director of the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum, Dr. John Hemmings, said in an online Hudson Institute talk how Beijing is “no longer following its hiding and biding doctrine” and that President Xi Jinping has a “very deliberate timeline” to annex Taiwan “by force or by diplomacy.”
China officially advocates “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan but has not ruled out military force if the mentioned scenarios happen. Hemmings seems to attribute China’s military drills as a reaction to this eventuality when he says Xi Jinping is “quite prepared, quite willing and seems to be even further preparing to do it by force.”
He further pointed to the US’ slow pace of military preparations, which have not been happening “quickly enough” to thwart a Chinese attack on Taiwan. Wargames by the RAND Corporation and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) have shown either devastating US and Taiwanese defeats or horrible losses that would take “years to rebuild.”
The wargames saw China swarming them with thousands of boats, military vessels, UAVs, missiles, and planes. The EurAsian Times had reported in multiple previous analyses of Chinese lead in doctrinal, logistical, and technological systems and US military leaders admitting their lagging in the very areas.
Pelosi Wouldn’t Be The Last
US House Minority Leader, China-hawk, and possibly the future US Speaker Representative Kevin McCarthy pledged to arm Taiwan and visit the island if he is elected to office in 2023.
China is therefore prepared for another set of military and diplomatic hostilities in the western Pacific with the US. The sentiment that the US will continue to provoke China in Taiwan regardless of Democratic or Republican persuasion has firmly gained hold in Beijing.
The American political landscape remains divided on Russia, with Republicans, especially former President Donald Trump’s camp, opposing arming Ukraine and reconciling with Russia and Democrats following a hardline.
But both parties share a mutual interest in a Great Power Contest with China.
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