The China Syndrome

Steven Den Beste has another great piece exploring why an attack on Taiwan by the People’s Republic of China would be a horrendously stupid idea. It seems that people who bring up the spectre of such an event are those whose sole understanding of military strategy and tactics comes from reading Tom Clancy novels and occasional viewings of the Discovery Channel.

Like many things Chinese, the People’s Liberation Army consists of Soviet-era equipment and tactics. In other words, the Chinese have some advanced weapons, but most of the arsenal is 30-year old Soviet surplus that would be worthless in a fight against Taiwan’s mainly American-made technology. The Taiwanese also managed to create the Ching-kuo fighter aircraft with the help of US companies. While it’s underpowered due to US export restrictions on the powerplant, it has an avonics and weapons system that is just as good as many US weapons, and certainly better than almost anything the PRC could throw at it. Between Taiwan’s Patriot anti-missile batteries, advanced air superiority aircraft, and submarines, an invasion of Taiwan would leave China militarily spend and economically isolated.

As Mr. Den Beste notes, the saber-rattling that emanates from Beijing every few years over Taiwan is largely ceremonial. The Chinese have far more interest in maining their lucrative trade ties to the rest of the world than they do in instigating a war that they have no ability to win.

5 thoughts on “The China Syndrome

  1. Hmm… I’m not sure about that. While the high-end MiG and Su knockoffs that the Chinese are producing aren’t as advanced as our latest fighters, they’re about a match for the aircraft of the late 70’s, plus they’re equipped with modern computers and guidance systems. With they’re position in the world, China doesn’t really need a navy (or carrier groups) to project power throughout the asian continent- all they really need is an air-power strategy, which is my guess as to what they’re working on.

    Anyway, why else would the DoD be so convinced about our need to make sure our interests in Asia are secured by 2020? They’ve said as much- China is a growing millitary power. The CIA (even though I trust they’re data about as far as I can throw it) estimates that China’s 43 Billion dollar millitary budget is only a third of their actual spending… which wouldn’t suprise me one bit.

  2. Oh, they could win. There’s no reason for them to try, really, but they could win. In the words of Lenin: “Quantity has a certain quality all its own.”

  3. They might be able to win, if the US didn’t step in and help. However, China’s military spending goes mainly into missile technology like their space program rather than conventional forces, and they’ve already cut their military by 500,000 troops in recent years, and most of their military can hardly fight.

    The Cold War taught one lesson – the Soviet emphasis on masses of troops and vehicles is suicidal in an age of precision weaponry.

    They would be able to hurt Taiwan, but they’d never hold it. The idea of reunification from force isn’t something the PRC could seriously consider.

  4. “The Cold War taught one lesson – the Soviet emphasis on masses of troops and vehicles is suicidal in an age of precision weaponry.”

    And what did Vietnam teach us about the American emphasis on sophisticated weapons with fewer troops? Plus, let’s not forget that China has some pretty good weapons systems of its own.

  5. And when Taiwan’s defense is guaranteed by the US, what could possess a President to go on television and argue against free elections in Taiwan and declare that the US sees “one China”?

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