U.S. report lays out possible Chinese military strategies against Taiwan

11/30/2022 12:28 PM
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Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning. Photo: China News Service
Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning. Photo: China News Service

Washington, Nov. 29 (CNA) The United States Department of Defense (DoD) has identified four possible military courses of action that China could take against Taiwan, but did not offer any guess on when Beijing might be ready to act.

In an annual report to Congress released Tuesday, titled "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2022," the DoD provided a broad overview of China's military capabilities, strategy, ambitions and intentions.

The report devoted significant space to developments related to Taiwan, against which it said China had intensified diplomatic, economic, political and military pressure in 2021.

It noted, for example, that China's military conducted 20 naval exercises simulating the capture of Taiwan last year, up from 13 a year earlier.

At the same time, Chinese warplanes, including advanced J-16 fighters, entered Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on 240 days in 2021, the report said.

According to the report, China now has a range of military courses of action it can take against Taiwan, which vary in feasibility and risk and can be divided into four general categories.

First, it said, China could attempt to impose an air and maritime blockade to cut off Taiwan's vital imports, possibly accompanied by missile attacks or the seizure of Taiwan's outlying islands, in an effort to force its capitulation.

This would also likely be complemented by electronic warfare, network attacks and information operations "to further isolate Taiwan's authorities and populace and control the international narrative of the conflict," the report said.

Alternately, the PRC could conduct "limited force or coercive operations." In this scenario, it said, Beijing would use "computer network or limited kinetic attacks" against Taiwan's political, military or economic infrastructure to induce fear and degrade the Taiwanese people's confidence in their leaders.

In such an operation, PLA special operations forces could also "infiltrate Taiwan and conduct attacks against infrastructure or leadership targets," it said.

A third military option would be an air and missile campaign, involving precision strikes against key government and military targets, in order to degrade Taiwan's defenses, "neutralize" its leadership, or undermine the public's resolve to resist.

The final option would be an actual invasion of Taiwan.

The invasion approach China would most likely adopt would be a Joint Island Landing Campaign, the report said. That concept envisions a complex, coordinated campaign to establish a beachhead, build up combat power on Taiwan's western coast, and then seize key targets across the island.

While the PRC is continuing to build and rehearse these capabilities, a large-scale amphibious invasion is "one of the most complicated and difficult military operations" and would likely strain China's armed forces and invite international intervention, according to the report.

"Combined with inevitable force attrition, complexity of urban warfare, and potential insurgency, these factors make an amphibious invasion of Taiwan a significant political risk for Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party, even assuming a successful landing and breakout."

Despite this, the Pentagon believes that the PRC is already capable of amphibious operations short of a full-scale invasion, such as an invasion of the small Taiwan-held Pratas or Itu Aba islands, or of medium-sized and better-defended islands like Kinmen or Matsu.

This kind of operation, however, would also involve significant "and possibly prohibitive" political risk because it could galvanize pro-independence sentiment on Taiwan and generate powerful international opposition, the report concluded.

The DoD report did not set out a timeline on when China might take such actions. It speculated, however, that the PRC's goal of accelerating the integrated development of its military by 2027 could give it "a more credible military tool...to wield as it pursues Taiwan unification."

(By Stacy Hsu and Matthew Mazzetta)


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