Friday, December 8, 2006

Taiwan Endgame

Taiwan is a little island of the coast of China which a population of about 23 million. China is a large country of roughly the same size as the US with a population of 1.2 billion. We all like to make these kinds of comparisons. They give us perspective.

Also, Taiwan is fairly democratic while China is fairly not. It’s this clash of systems and history that has been brewing war clouds on the horizon for years. In this atmosphere of clear differences, Taiwan, seemingly, has been edging close and closer to declaring independence…

And now we’re approaching crunch time. The playing field is set. China will pass Taiwan in military strength sometime in this decade. And China keeps getting more and more powerful by the moment. Will there be peace or war is the question on a lot of people’s minds.

There is a window that is now open. Just take a look at the timeline of events.

2004 Taiwanese Presidential Election – DPP President (somewhat separatist) elected
2008 Proposed Taiwan constitutional changes
2008 Taiwanese Presidential Election – incumbent President cannot run again
2008 Beijing, China Olympics
2010 Shanghai, China World Fair

But will Beijing risk a war with a few opportunities to shine on the world stage coming so soon?
There are lots of good books and articles about scenarios of how cross-straight relations could play out. In this blog I’m going to take a look at two articles about military confrontations.

The first suggests that the strategy of China would be to decapitate the leadership in Taiwan. It proposes that China special forces, in place in advance of an invasion, would be able to wreak havoc in Taipei. Here’s a thought:
“Many could use taxis to move about the cityunnoticed. Mainland Chinese prostitutes, already in abundance in Taiwan,could be recruited by Chinese intelligence to serve as femme fatales,supplying critical intelligence on the locations of key government andmilitary leaders at odd hours of the night; death is the ultimateaphrodisiac.”

Also accentuated is the soldier apathy problem. Anyone living here who knows a soldier doing military service can understand:
“Taiwan's military is rife with lethargic and ineffectual troops just begging for their 20-month tour of duty to end so they can go back to their girlfriends and jobs. Many call Taiwan's youth, including its young soldiers, the 'strawberry generation' because they are soft and spoiled by the good life. US military officials visiting Taiwan often complain that the military's boot camps are too lax. The military appears more afraid of angering the parents of the conscripts than confronting a Chinese invasion, say visiting US soldiers.”

The second article focuses more on the American reaction to such an invasion. How would the Chinese prevent American intervention?:
“The Chinese might employ nuclear-armed anti-ship missiles and torpedoes, fired from submarines or surface ships, but I think her little surprise for us may be nastier. […] China 'may eventually be able to lob missiles accurately at moving ships in the Pacific' from deep in Chinese territory. […] [W]hat if a Chinese ballistic missile popped a nuke say, 100 miles from an advancing U.S. carrier battle group? No one gets hurt, but the message would be loud and clear: keep coming and you're toast.”

Read these sobering articles here:

Of course this is all speculation but it does make you wonder…
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