Manual If China Attacks Taiwan: Military Strategy, Politics and Economics (Asian Security Studies)

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Qian reaffirmed China's commitment to peaceful reunification, along with the standard proviso about not renouncing the use of force. Christopher stated that the US side now clearly understood that Taiwan was a question of 'utmost concern for the Chinese government'. The most important lesson learned by the US and China over the period was that both sides understood that conflict resolution, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region were contingent on a cooperative Sino-US relationship. Both sides were forced to clarify their common interests and the risks and the gains to be made from what is likely to be the most important strategic relationship in the Asia-Pacific region in the 21st century.

Both sides understood the need for some minimum level of transparency and trust. They agreed to regularise the habit of holding high-level bilateral strategic talks on Taiwan. That is, that China will not resort to force against Taiwan provided Taipei eschews independence; the US will only intervene if China does threaten to use force against Taiwan; and within those strict bounds, mutually profitable Sino-US and China-Taiwan relationships can continue to develop. Developments in The next crisis involving Taiwan, China and the US occurred earlier this year. It followed a combination of events that seriously damaged Sino-US relations.

The Cox Report, although subsequently discredited 51 , was added to a list of US Congressional complaints about China, along with human rights, Tibet, weapons sales and religious freedom. Cumulatively, these complaints were used to try and bolster demands for increased US support for Taiwan, 'a friend and a good ally'. Against this background, President Lee Teng-hui stated in an interview on 9 July that China and Taiwan had 'a special state-to-state relationship'.

Mainland analysts overlooked the word 'special' and focussed on the term 'state-to-state'. They interpreted Lee's remarks as tantamount to a declaration of statehood and independence.

According to the PLA newspaper, anybody who split Taiwan from China would become 'the scum of the nation' 56 although equally, this message may have been intended to apply to anyone within China who suggested compromising on Taiwan. The elections boiled down to a race between the Kuomintang or affiliated political movements representing the status quo in Taiwanese politics, and on the other hand, the pro-independence DPP which represented the aspirations of a growing number of young people who identified themselves as Taiwanese, not Chinese.

On 21 February , China issued a White Paper warning that it might resort to drastic measures in certain circumstances, 'including the use of force' if Taiwan 'refused, sine die indefinitely the peaceful settlement of cross-Straits reunification through negotiations'. As a foundation member of the pro-independence DPP, his election seemed to pose a direct and provocative challenge to Beijing.

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Some in Beijing proposed that China should use force against Taiwan sooner rather than later, on the rationale that a short sharp pain now was preferable to a long drawn out ache that culminated in Taiwan's independence. China's Taiwan Focus. The reasons why China sees reunification with Taiwan as a matter of 'supreme national interest' for which it claims it is prepared to fight 'at any cost' are as follows:.

First, there is a firm belief in Beijing that Taiwan has been Chinese territory 'from time immemorial', and that, despite a Japanese colonial interlude in , it would have returned to China if the US had not intervened. For China, Taiwan is the last vestige of a century of Chinese humiliation at the hands of strong colonial powers.

Beijing's most recent and authoritative statement on the subject declared that China might have experienced invasions, disunity and dynastic change during the last years but it always reverted to a unified state. This is especially so after the return of Hong Kong in and Macao in and well-publicised support in the US Congress for an independent Taiwan. Second , most mainland leaders are convinced that allowing Taiwan leeway to become independent sets a precedent for potentially rebellious parts of China such as Tibet, Xinjiang, perhaps Inner Mongolia and even Hong Kong.

In other words, Taiwan's future as a part of China is perceived to be inseparable from the integrity of a unified Chinese state. Third , there are strategic factors stemming from Taiwan's central location next to China's richest provinces. In the s and s, it was a key link in the US strategy of containing China. Taiwan retains strong commercial ties with Japan and has established close economic and security links with the US. China fears that if it surrenders on Taiwan, it will cede strategic advantage to the US and Japan, its chief competitors in a triangular great power game in Northeast Asia.

Furthermore, from Beijing's viewpoint, if Taiwan is included in the proposed US-Japan theatre missile defence system TMD , it would be a case of using 'part of China against the rest of China'. Fourth , the development of Taiwan as a successful Chinese democracy contrasts with the mainland's authoritarian politics.

Mainland knowledge of the Taiwanese modernisation experience has been spread by tourism, trade exchanges and the information revolution, including television. These considerations have sustained mainland possessiveness about Taiwan and make it difficult for Beijing to be publicly flexible on practical options for a future Taiwan-China relationship.

This inflexibility leads many in China to argue, rather fatalistically, that the PLA has no choice other than to attack Taiwan-even if it loses the ensuing war-because the alternative is the collapse of the CCP's domestic legitimacy, credibility and self-esteem. Thus, instead of marketing the advantages that might accrue to Taiwan if it were to rejoin the mainland, China has-until recently-relied mostly on threat diplomacy.

The mainland threat has deterred the Taiwanese from seeking independence and to that extent, Beijing can claim its Taiwan policy has been very successful. But such a policy is outmoded and increasingly counterproductive. No Taiwanese President can accept reunification with China at the point of a gun. While mainland threats make the Taiwanese fear the consequences of supporting independence, they also engender deep Taiwanese distrust of the mainland and its reunification plans.

If China wants to win over the Taiwanese, it will have to develop a much more sophisticated approach that moves beyond threats and offers more in the way of inducements for rapprochement and reunification. The Constraints on China.

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China might reserve the right to use force against Taiwan but several factors make that option impractical and, on balance, unlikely although the author does not rule out the possibility. A war with Taiwan would dislocate China's economy and divert scarce resources away from more pressing nation-building priorities. Reform of China's state-owned enterprises and its banking and financial sectors have become a matter of urgency because inefficiencies, corruption and the lack of regulation threaten to drag down the nation's entire economy, despite the impressive expansion of China's non-state sector.

China also faces the contradiction of scarce and diminishing resources and demands of a huge and expanding population.

China's per capita average of forest, grassland and freshwater resources amount to one ninth, one third and one quarter of the respective world averages. It is plagued by chronic water shortages, especially in the north. With 1. Although it ranks first in terms of grain output, population size means China's per capita share of grain is less than a quarter of America's. The ratio will remain low because of net population growth averaging 14 million per annum. The precarious balance between China's population and resources is under increasing threat from the loss of arable land to urbanisation, soil erosion, salinity and desertification.

China, a net importer of petroleum since , faces growing energy shortages that translate into oil import requirements of million tons per annum by Another looming crisis stems from a lack of social welfare and a rapidly aging population accelerated by family planning policies and increased life expectancy. By , there will be an elderly population of million. By then, the ratio of workers to pensioners will be compared to in China's economic growth is stable but uneven, ranging from about 12 per cent per annum in prosperous cities like Shanghai to negative growth in poor rural provinces.

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Worrying signs of fragility persist, including weak private investment, the widening of an urban-rural income gap and generally sluggish consumption levels. The World Bank estimates that about A growth rate of 8 per cent per annum is regarded as the minimum required if China hopes to reduce unemployment 10 per cent of the workforce or about million people , provide jobs for young people reaching working age estimated at 20 million per annum , open up new opportunities for surplus rural labor estimated at about million and improve overall living standards.

Of China's present annual economic growth of around 7. Since most 75 per cent of China's foreign trade is conducted with the Asia-Pacific region, China's domestic social and economic prospects depend very much on the continued support and cooperation of the countries in its neighbourhood. That neighbourhood includes Taiwan, perhaps the largest source of foreign investment in China. The economic integration of Taiwan and the mainland will speed up when China and Taiwan join the WTO, possibly early in After entry, they must abide by the principles of a free market economy with minimum restrictions on access.

This will force both sides to develop practical mechanisms to interact with each other, with positive benefits for cross-Strait relations. Rationally, therefore, China can ill-afford a war with Taiwan. It would jeopardise the delicate balance China has struggled to maintain between mere survival and development. The reality for Beijing is that its long-term modernisation strategy requires a peaceful environment and thus low defence expenditure; secure access to global markets, technology, capital and raw materials; a good international credit rating and a predictable rules-based regional and global trading system.

China's acceptance of this reality is reflected in its track record in global and regional organisations, its behaviour in the recent Asian financial crisis, its support for UN activities including peacekeeping, and its compliance with arms control treaties. It would see China defined more sharply as a threat to regional peace and stability.

US alliance arrangements in the Asia-Pacific region would take on a more overtly anti-China orientation. Australia, for instance, currently well-disposed towards Beijing, would perceive China in a negative light. Japan might seek to re-arm or at least strengthen its alliance with the US. Other countries might not openly protest, but their distrust of China would significantly increase. Beijing would likely lose the international goodwill it needs to successfully host the Olympic Games. Militarily, a no-Win Situation for China.

If the adage that 'the PLA never fights a battle unprepared, nor one that it is not sure of winning' 76 carries any weight in China's war-planning bureaucracy, the use of force against Taiwan by the PLA is an unlikely option for the foreseeable future. China is not prepared for the fray. It does not have the means to quickly overwhelm Taiwan's defences. At its narrowest, the Taiwan Strait is about km wide or five times the width of the English Channel and, in terms of the weather, a cross-Strait invasion would be confined to the period April-July.

As the landings in Normandy in demonstrated, a successful invasion across open water requires enormous logistical preparations, a huge naval fleet and control of the airspace.

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These requirements are beyond China's capabilities while the cost of acquiring them would cripple China economically. According to recent satellite photography, China does not have the airfield capacity adjacent to the Strait to accommodate the number of fighter aircraft it would need to take on Taiwan's airforce.

So far, there is no evidence that China is trying to build up such a capability. For example, it does not have and is not constructing the amphibious lift capability necessary to cross the Taiwan Strait. It does not have and is not building the airfields in Fujian province that would be needed to base military aircraft in the numbers necessary to win air superiority over the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan's ace in hand for dealing with a military threat from the PLA is its modern airforce, including Fs and Mirage s.