Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Formosa Straits

Hi Everyone,

With all the plugging and unplugging going on in Florida, we may have missed an important episode in the continuing drama that is Taiwan's modern history. Last week the Chinese "legislature" (read Communist Party) declared that the People's Republic China would use military force to take control of Taiwan should the government in Taipei declare independence. Yesterday (Today?), the Taiwanese people responded with mass demonstrations protesting the PRC declaration. If self-determination means anything, Taiwan would be officially independent now. They are independent in every meaningful sense of the word. But the PRC, like most dictatorships, is far more concerned about appearance than substance.

If you are interested in a review of past troubles in this region, check out this little website.

If you would like to review the PRC's ability to successfully invade Taiwan with military force review these websites:
P.L.A.N Report By US Naval Expert

Report about the Chinese Airforce

Taiwanese Navy

Taiwanese Airforce

Taiwanese Airdefense

US 7th Fleet

When considering the credibility of China's threat to invade Taiwan consider that in June, 1944 the combined naval, air and land forces of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada (with help from small units from France, Poland, and the rest of Europe) invaded the coast of France across the English channel (a body of water similar in size to the Straits of Formosa). This attempt was made with years of preparation (including years of strategic bombing of German military production), under conditions of total air and naval supremacy, a civilian population that actively assisted the allies in the planning phase, during the invasion itself, and by disrupting counter attacks. The German army defending against the invasion was technologically spotty, a minority of units were top shelf, but most relied on horses for transport. The German army could not move during the day because of air attacks. German ammunition had a high rate of failure because of inferior production and forced labor ... and it was not an easy success.


Dr. Strangelove said...

I agree with RxR. The Formosa straits may be the world's most dangerous flashpoint. PRC's defensive nuclear posture complicates US military planning; shooting down PRC planes or missiles headed for Taiwan might not initiate WWIII, but destoying those same assets on the ground (e.g. bombing Chinese airbases) likely would.

The battle for Taiwan is being fought right now as a chess game of development and deployment of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms, and Army, Navy, and Air Force units. In this game, North Korea is an oddly stabilizing influence. So long as North Korea remains a very significant threat, it not only provides us the opportunity to make common cause with PRC, but it also provides a very useful pretext for US activity in theater.

The recent PRC actions RxR mentioned may be a positive sign. Quashing formal Taiwanese independence means that PRC can get away with calling an invasion of Taiwan an "internal" affair--and should this occur, Russia and Japan might well scramble to get hold of this tiny olive twig. But more important, the fact that China wants so badly to make this distinction should reassure China's other neighbors, and may suggest a growing respect for international law... or at least the recognition that flagrant violations can have consequences bad enough that PRC really wants to avoid them.

The question remains: if the invasion of Taiwan should begin, what will the US do? Would we really risk WWIII? I don't know for sure. And so long as PRC doesn't know either, Taiwan will probably live another day.

Raised By Republicans said...

The PRC has engaged in actual shooting wars with every country with which it shares a land border. If China had a navy, Taiwan would have been invaded back in 1949 or 1950.

I don't see how the periodic nationalist belicosity from the PRC leadership is anything that could regarded as a peace offering. At best it is business as usual. At worst, it indicates a shift in ideology in the PRC away from self-destructive Maoism to omni-destructive Nationalism (with increasing racial overtones as China is becoming increasingly aware of Han vs Non-Han Chinese distinctions).

The irony is that the PRC today has something similar to the ideology espoused by the KMT leaders that fled to Taiwan in the 1940s and 50s. Now, the KMT is well on its way to being a normal democratic party.

I guess the good news is that if the world can keep the PRC from riding the nationalism tiger to war, the differences between Taiwan and the mainland will dwindle to triviality some day in the future. They are far from there now.

Rolleroid said...

I have to say that for as long as I can remember - debating in the late eighties up through the mid nineties - we have always been at a flashpoint re: China and Taiwan. At any one time you could find numerous people fretting over developments there and quickly create some sort of argument (DisAds for you debaters out there) that would result in Chinese agression.
Whether it was Chinese movements in the South China Sea or their attempt to have a "blue water navy" there are always analysts and experts that predict a hot war within a short period of time.
My gut feeling is that this too will blow over, and there will be no need for any US involvement.

Raised By Republicans said...

Rolleroid has a good point about people tending to alarmism about China. That's why I pointed out that an invasion by China of Taiwan would be very unlikely to be succesful (implying that it would be very unlikely to be attempted in the first place).

That said, China is a large, increasing powerful and increasingly agressive power. China is also ruled by a dictatorial party apparatus trying to maintain total political control while allowing economic diversification.

I've posted before that I think economic diversification leads to increased demands for democracy. The Communist Party will have to face increasing demands on this score. So far, the Communists have tried to keep a tight lid on things allowing only marginal changes. When demands exceeded the Communist's willingness to yield, blood has been spilled. In the future the Communists may try to use the increasing nationalism among the Han Chinese as a crutch (much as other dictatorships have in the past). If that happens at a time of domestic unrest, the PRC may lash out as the Communist Party goes through its death throws.

Dr. Strangelove said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dr. Strangelove said...

RxR says a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is unlikely to succeed. Depends on what you mean. In terms of the initial military campaign, I don't think RxR's analogy to the invasion of Normandy works very well. A much better analogy would be the Cuban missile crisis, with PRC, Taiwan, and the US now playing the roles of the US, Cuba, and USSR respectively. The main differences are that the people of Taiwan would probably not oppose a union with China as completely as the Cubans would have opposed US occupation, but the US can defend Taiwan by conventional means much better than the USSR could have done for Cuba.

If China were to invade Taiwan, I believe military success would be swift and certain unless the US were to intervene massively in a matter of hours. Our pledge to do so--and our ongoing deployment of resources appropriate to that task--might well be what has kept Taiwan independent (de facto) for the past few decades However, our ability to intervene is diminished by our desire to avoid provoking a wider war.

Regardless of initial military success, the consequences of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could very well be horrendous for China. At worst, of course, it could lead to World War III. Or perhaps a coalition force would eventually liberate Taiwan again (RxR's D-Day analogy works better here), as Kuwait was retaken in 1990. Or at least the international sanctions might cause economic devastation and political upheaval in China. It is only in the context of this wider view that I can agree with RxR that a "successful" invasion of Taiwan is unlikely.

But if there is one thing China has learned from Tibet, it is that possession is 9/10 of international law. If China could swarm over Taiwan before we have a chance to react, how would the US and the world react to this fait accompli? Would even W. start World War III to liberate an island that we've already lost, and which was in truth an economic competitor anyhow? Is that really credible? So if we want to defend Taiwan, it is critical that we convince China that US intervention would be swift and has at least a reasonable chance of thwarting their ambitions.

But I wonder... might we trade Taiwan away for North Korea? Think about it: Korea reunites with the blessing of PRC, and China reunites wuth the blessing of America--one nation, two systems. We get to bring tens of thousands of troops home, hundreds of planes and dozens of naval vessels. We get rid of a dangerous rogue state. And we get to stand down from the world's most dangerous flashpoint. Could North Korea be PRC's ultimate bargaining chip? Is that why the Chinese have been so strangely reluctant to clamp down on North Korea?

Raised By Republicans said...

Dr. Strangelove is right to point out the flaws in reasoning by analogy. And correct to point out similarities with Cuba in the 1960s.

My point in bring up Normandy was to underscore the total irrelevance of China's massive numerical superiority in infantry and 50 year old aircraft. China's millions of soldiers cannot swim from the mainland to the beaches of Taiwan. And China's pitiful air-lift and sea-lift capacity cannot transport enough troops across the straits without lots of time (days) with total air supremacy. PRC's airforce, while rapidly modernizing, is not yet up to the task of establishing such sumpremacy quickly. If one does not count obsolete planes, PRC's airforce is not much past parity with Taiwan's and experience has shown that Western/US aircraft consistantly out fight Soviet designs of similar age. Add to that the deployment of sophistocated anti-aircraft missiles on Taiwan itself and on its Naval vessels. All that gives the US fleet time to ract with its forces that are capable to wiping out any invasion fleet the PRC may put to sea.

Deterance is the bottom line.