Friday, March 19, 2010

Naval Gazing

The Jamestown Brief, consistently useful on China, offers a piece on Taiwan's navy this week:
The outlook for ROCN sea control is worsening by the day. For one thing, in the event of an imminent conflict, Taipei must contend with the likelihood of a preemptive attack from China’s growing force of short-range ballistic missiles, which can strike at targets like ports and airfields [3]. With the ROCN fleet concentrated in a few ports like Tsoying, Suao and Keelung, this constitutes a critical vulnerability in the island’s defenses ( In a much-discussed 2008 article, William Murray of U.S. Naval War College opines that China “has shifted its anti-Taiwan military strategy away from coercion by punishment toward denying Taiwan the use of its air force and navy.” Neither the ROCN nor the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF), says Murray, “is likely to survive such an attack” [4].
The meat of the piece: what do Chinese observers of the ROC Navy think?
Chinese observers by and large agree that, for a variety of reasons, the Taiwan Navy is not up to par regarding the sea-control functions outlined in the ROCN Vision. Condescension pervades Chinese analyses of the ROCN. Writing in Modern Navy, Yang Peng notes that Taiwan’s surface fleet is acutely vulnerable to guided missile-strikes. The fleet’s AAW pickets are particularly susceptible to saturation missile attacks (baohe daodan gongji) and rely excessively on the protective umbrella hoisted by tactical air power [8]. Yang forecasts that Taiwanese ships will hesitate to venture beyond the range of land-based air cover. This reticence severely constricts the Taiwanese Navy’s tactical radius. Wu Letian not only questions the Taiwan Navy’s ability to prosecute anti-submarine and minesweeping operations, but also deprecates its capacity to fight at sea for very long [9].
We're wholly reliant on the US here in Taiwan. FAS has a complete list of ROC navy ships. Note that the Taiwan navy possesses many fast attack craft which are not covered in the Jamestown brief discussion. This force could probably do useful damage and deterrence in any cross-strait invasion scenario, and should probably be expanded. There is a useful description of them at
Daily Links
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Thomas said...

I am currently reading A History of Modern Tibet Part I by Mervyn Goldstein. The number of parallels between Tibet of the early 20th century and modern Taiwan in terms of contact with China and military and internal challenges is uncanny. This post makes me think of just one more. Taiwan has an aging military force that cannot match the bully next door. Of course, Taiwan's recruits are decently trained, but this trend is not a good one.

I am beginning to think that the only thing that will save Taiwan is luck. Tibet was saved twice by major distractions to the Chinese (the Xinhai Revolution and the start of the Sino-Japanese War).

And the role of the US in all of this is eerily similar to the role of Britain with Tibet. When the time comes to defend Taiwan, I am hoping the Americans don't sell out like the British did. The situation is becoming such that the US will have to make a stronger commitment or else just push Taiwan to surrender gracefully... unless Barack Obama will grow the balls to sell real arms to Taiwan in the next few years... hahahahahahahaha. :-P

Dixteel said...

yes, I also notice the similarity of Tibet and Taiwan before, although my understanding of Tibet is not great.

I knew the ex-Lama (the one before Dalai Lama) was attempting to create a credible defense force due to uncertainties and conflicts in the rest of Asia. But I guess it's too late, or the Tibetan government were not pro-active enough to do so. When the Chinese took over Tibet was virtually defenseless.

Also worth noting is Dalai Lama signed a peace treaty with China. But look how Tibet and Dalai Lama end up. It's a good lesson for Taiwan and the rest of the world as well.

One advantages of Taiwan is that it's not as isolated as Tibet. However, without vigilance all advantages will eventually fade away.

As for aging forces...I think 4 possible policies need to be done:
1. Support for raising 2 or more babies.
2. Proper immigration law
4. Better "automation" (robotics, better information systems...etc).
3. Better incentive for young people to join (financial and non-financial reasons. The difficulty in recruiting and the low morale is not recent events. For too long the military uses illusive objective like "take back China" or "Fight the communists" etc, instead of simpler, more straight forward and inspiring reason such as "Defend your Homeland" or even the Hollywood style dumb down message such as "Fight for Freedom" will inspire more people than those old stupid slogans.)