Sunday, April 12, 2015

Retired PLA General responds to J Michael Cole

J Michael Cole's recent essay on Taiwan defense brought out the worst in a retired PRC general who, irate, called Cole elementary school playground names and then outlined how the PRC would assault Taiwan. Missile strikes on the west coast, subs blockading its ports, missile attacks from ships on the big air force base in Hualien (Google satellite image)(h/t to Solidaritytw).

UPDATE: The awesome Michal Thim observed that this general also went ballistic over a piece last year. He's their designated shitter?

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44 comments:

Mike Fagan said...

A few Taiwanese subs in position to hit Shanghai and even Beijing with cruise missiles might have a calming effect. Sadly we don't have any.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind seeing a comparable collateral destruction map of China courtesy of the US and Japan.

Anonymous said...

Typical idiotic mainlander response. They have zero tact and not much more intelligence.

Brian Castle said...

For Taiwan's sake I hope that General is telling the truth and just spilled the beans on PRC strategic thinking so Taiwan can recognize where and how to focus defenses.

Brian Castle said...

@Anon
Why would America and Japan have a similar map? At this point Taiwan seems apathetic about its own defense (getting rid of the draft, continued low defense spending, voting for Pro-China parties twice, etc.). Why would America and Japan be willing to take more risks defending Taiwan than Taiwan is willing to?

The Taiwanese idea that America boys should be the ones dying for Taiwan rather than Taiwanese boys is pretty galling. I don't think it goes over well in Washington.

Brian Castle said...

I did quite a bit of scrolling at the Solidaritytw site but wasn't able to find the story. Did it get removed?

Brian Castle said...

@Mike I don't think a few Taiwanese subs positioned to hit China would make much difference. Taiwan will never have more than a few, and China can time the attack to be at a moment when they've located all of Taiwan's subs and can sink them before they can retaliate. I may be wrong but I think a sub doesn't get much warning before being sunk - at least not enough to launch missiles.

On the other hand land based missiles in Taiwan would might have enough advance warning to launch. And they could have a direct line to decision makers in the government to get confirmation for launch. Of course launching missiles that far might be a challenge, but isn't launching missiles from a submarine a challenge too?

I've often thought that Taiwan should rig up the little piece of China that exists in Taiwan. If China wants to destroy Taiwan, the least Taiwan can do is destroy a piece of Chinese culture. Rig the National Palace Museum to destroy all the artwork if there is an invasion and let the Chinese know (or at least suspect) that you have a hostage.

TaiwanJunkie said...

@ Anon, that's why the Chinese are often the best advocate for Taiwanese independence.

I personally am delighted when I see unruly pro-China PRC flag wavers in front of Taipei 101. Every time I see that I just wonder how many moderate pan Blue "Taiwanese-Chinese" were converted to pan Green Taiwanese that particular day.

Is it any wonder that sole Taiwanese identity went up an additional 20% in Ma's 6 years in office?!!

:-)

Michael Turton said...

Brian, no story, just an image from his twitter feed @jmstwn. Should have been clearer. Sorry!

Mike Fagan said...

@Brian

The whole point of submarines, I mean the diesel electric ones, is that you can't locate them, especially in noisy littoral waters. The two advantages are uncertainty (surprise!), and closing the distance for any missiles launched.

Michael Turton said...

A few Taiwanese subs in position to hit Shanghai and even Beijing with cruise missiles might have a calming effect

Why? Hitting cities has little to no effect on warmaking capacity. It will only harden Beijing's will to win, while making Taiwan look cruel. Better to hit things that really matter, powerplants, dams, bases, military formations. Besides, knock out powerplants and the city is useless. :)

Michael

les said...

Zhongnanhai would be a great start.

Brian Castle said...

@Mike
It may be hard to locate diesel electric subs if you don't know where in a large area they are. But if you know where their base is and can station plenty of ships and other subs nearby to pick them up as they leave port, and you don't mind using active ping on them the whole time (you've got them outnumbered so bad that they can't shoot everyone tailing them) and you follow them wherever they go...

How many ports does Taiwan have capable of hiding submarines? How far away from those ports can Taiwan force Chinese ships to stay?

Brian Castle said...

@Michael
I agree with you about the futility of hitting Chinese cities. Historically China has never shown much concern about casualties.

On the other hand if you could make credible threats against the decision makers in China...

Or, since conquering Taiwan is primarily a matter of ego, if you could make credible threats against Chinese pride. I'm not sure if being able to wipe out the forbidden city would be a deterrence or not.

Of course it has to be a deterence because you're right that once it happens it will merely inflame Chinese opinion and stiffen their resolve to re-colonize Taiwan.

Mike Fagan said...

First let's be clear about the hypothetical situation: we are talking about a possible Taiwanese retaliation to Chinese military aggression, yes? OK then - we are not talking about a Taiwanese first strike scenario.

In that case, our first assumption should be that we cannot win a war of attrition against China by ourselves*. Given that assumption, it follows that there is less value for us in striking military targets than in striking civilian ones. The costs to the Chinese of losing a dam, or a powerplant or a military base are very much less than losing parts of Shanghai or Beijing. By ourselves* we cannot win in a straight fight with the PLA, so calculations as to warmaking capacity are off the mark to begin with. All we can hope to do is raise the costs of them attacking us as high as we possibly can. Striking their two most important cities, again and again, if need be, does just that. Moreover, if it is clear to the international community that any such Taiwanese strikes occur in retaliation to Chinese strikes on Taiwan, then it will be more difficult for foreign governments to support China against Taiwan.

"Hitting cities has little to no effect on warmaking capacity."

Simply not true, on at least two counts. First major cities typically have both ports and large surrounding industrial areas. Shanghai has both, Beijing has only the industry. However, southeast of Beijing lies the port through which most of China's imported coal arrives. The destruction of ports and industrial areas has obvious strategic value. Second, the major cities are where the political leadership (and their families) live. They may not value the lives of the ordinary Chinese, but they sure as hell will value the lives of their own children and their extended families and friends, who by the way, will almost certainly not see any military action themselves (unless they are on the receiving end). Deaths among the political leadership would have greater impact on morale than deaths among soldiers or ordinary civilians.

"It will only harden Beijing's will to win, while making Taiwan look cruel."

Not if it is understood that Taiwan is both (a) comparatively weak and (b) acting in retaliation.

*And that is the assumption military planners must use, i.e. it is unwise to rely on American and Japanese support.

Michael Turton said...

Given that assumption, it follows that there is less value for us in striking military targets than in striking civilian ones. The costs to the Chinese of losing a dam, or a powerplant or a military base are very much less than losing parts of Shanghai or Beijing

Mike, we can't put enough hits on a city as large as Shanghai or Beijing to cause them to "lose it." Won't happen. Hitting industry might affect a war that lasted two years, but not six weeks.

You hit targets of military value because then the enemy has to expend resources to defend them. In a short war Beijing won't spend the resources to defend Shanghai because Taiwan can do nothing to Shanghai that can affect the course of the war.

That is why smart planners no longer bomb cities, but hit specific targets, such as power plants, dams, airfields, ports, etc.

Michael

R said...

For all you commenters interesting in military analysis on Taiwan, I found articles from both Michael Thim & Michael Cole very helpful.

A thing I have been wondering is why all the awesome English writers of things Taiwanese are Michaels lol

solidarity.tw said...

In the medium term, successful defense of Taiwan requires its maintaining the sympathy and support of the international community. Threatening to kill innocent people in cities would jeopardize that. It'd even hurt Taiwan's argument for divine intervention.

Mike Fagan said...

"... we can't put enough hits on a city as large as Shanghai or Beijing..."

My contention is not whether we can or can't but that we should try to develop that option, whether it be from subs or some other means of delivery.

You seem to assume a short conflict swiftly followed by U.S. intervention on Taiwan's behalf. In that case, weakening military targets as a delaying tactic makes more sense but what if you are wrong? What if the U.S. just cuts Taiwan loose?

It is in case that happens that Taiwan needs a serious deterrent in addition to, not as replacement for, a strategy of delay. You cannot deter an enemy by hitting their military targets, but you might be able to deter them by the capability of striking civilian targets.

Michael Turton said...

You cannot deter an enemy by hitting their military targets, but you might be able to deter them by the capability of striking civilian targets.

LOL. The only deterrent in that case is nukes.

Michael

Raj said...

In that case, weakening military targets as a delaying tactic makes more sense but what if you are wrong? What if the U.S. just cuts Taiwan loose?

Then, if China really wants to conquer Taiwan, there's nothing you can do to stop it. It has the manpower and ship/aircraft numbers to defeat Taiwan through attrition. Of course it might partially bleed itself dry doing so, but if China decides to go for it, it's game over.

Mike Fagan said...

Well sure, but I believe I have already made that point.

On nukes: not necessarily.

Mike Fagan said...

@Brian

If what I have read elsewhere is correct, the PLA's current anti-submarine capabilities are poor. And locating boats is famously difficult.

That's not an argument clincher of course, but it is something to consider.

taiwan-in-perspective.com said...

My 50 cents if I may

The idea that Taiwan might have strategic deterrence by conducting strikes against Chinese cities is futile and waste of resources. Michael is right, unless we talk nuclear (and that is very very very bad idea) then strategic bombing takes too long to have an effect (if any). Submarine blockades are even more difficult (maritime blockades in general - someone give me example of successful one). The only option is 'tactical' deterrence. To make sure that every ship that will cross the median line with hostile intention will become target. As some other author noted elsewhere, 2000 dead marines are 4000 childless parents. China cannot afford to waste human resources the way they did in Korea, not anymore. Soldiers today are not poor peasants who were given rifle and told to run and shoot in certain direction. And while China can in theory afford to fight attrition war, it is really undesirable option. They will try to get quick victory. Taiwan's defense imperative is to make sure that when it comes to fighting, it will take long. Taiwan cannot win war of attrition, China does not want to fight one.

Besides, Taiwan has long(er) range missile program with range around 2000km, there is just very little info about it and it has been reported as cancelled few times and then re-appeared again. So there actually might be some long-range capability. Still better use it against behind the lines communication nodes etc., imo.

Also, Taiwan has two submarines at the moment, both capable launching cruise missiles, so it is not that the count is zero. Whether it will have more, let's see. I have hopes that the sub program will be eventually successful. Michael T. thinks subs are wasting resources, but it is brilliant platform for layered asymmetrical deterrence. And before someone tells me that China has 60+ submarines, I say it is not relevant. Submarines are not good for hunting other submarines. It used to be when Soviet SSBNs were really noisy. But modern subs are so quiet, so unless one sub does not want to compromise its position by using active sonar, then there is no chance it could hit other sub.

@Brian: afaik, Taiwanese subs are based in Zuoying, how do you suggest to just park there enough ships and ping them. In a peacetime it would be terribly suspicious, in wartime, it is not like those ships could just park there and pinging the hell out of submarine. And i really doubt that those subs are sitting in port all the time.

Mike Fagan said...

@solidarity.tw

"Threatening to kill innocent people in cities would jeopardize that. It'd even hurt Taiwan's argument for divine intervention."

Nobody is talking about threatening to do that. The suggestion is to develop the capability of doing that. Subtle difference.

Brian Castle said...

Taiwanese subs are based in Zuoying, how do you suggest to just park there enough ships and ping them. In a peacetime it would be terribly suspicious, in wartime, it is not like those ships could just park there and pinging the hell out of submarine. And i really doubt that those subs are sitting in port all the time
Yes, I suggest China could just park ships a few miles out and wait. Suspicious? No more suspicious than repeatedly threatening to invade, passing laws to legalize and invasion, placing missiles across from Taiwan, dredging sand to make disputed reefs bigger, etc. etc..

And how do you propose that Taiwan prevent the Chinese navy from hanging out just outside Zuoying, continuosly pinging to it can pick up every submarine as it leaves port and then following each submarine, again continuously pinging, so the submarine never gets a chance to hide?

And even if the Chinese navy doesn't catch them every single time, the Chinese get to choose the time of the invasion so they can always wait until they do know the location of all the Taiwanese subs.

Brian Castle said...

@Mike
I guess it depends then on whether the cost of developing the submarine capabilities will hurt Taiwan more than the cost of developing the anti-submarine capabilities will hurt China, because we know China is quite capable of developing such capabilities if it decides to.

Brian Castle said...

@Mike
You seem to assume a short conflict swiftly followed by U.S. intervention on Taiwan's behalf.

I think this is a fool's hope. America has shown it no longer has the stomach for a real fight. We abandoned Vietnam. We abandoned Iraq. We're abandoning Afghanistan. None of those had anywhere near the war-making capability of China. And even we did get involved, the Democrats would eventually come to power, pull out American troops, and watch as every Taiwanese who cooperated with America is put up against a wall and shot through the head. No thanks. I wouldn't vote to do that to Taiwan.

Since Taiwan cannot win a conventional military victory against China, Taiwan either has to deter the attack or go with hell-hole strategy.

Deterrence is complicated and involves a lot. As you suggest it may involve threatening cities even if in actual war the threat might not be carried through.

Hell-hole strategy is what worked in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. You turn the country into a hell-hole for everyone there - soldier and civilian alike. You make the place ungovernable. You have every civilian armed and a lot of people capable of building IEDs. You have larges numbers of people willing to die for their country. One you kill enough of the little emperors China may leave (and it may nuke the place right after leaving - it is China we're talking about). Frankly I don't think the Taiwanese are capable of a hell-hole strategy. Maybe that's a good thing.

So how do you deter? If you can fake a willingness to go hell-hole that would certainly be a big deterrence.

Brian Castle said...

@Mike
"They may not value the lives of the ordinary Chinese, but they sure as hell will value the lives of their own children and their extended families and friends, who by the way, will almost certainly not see any military action themselves (unless they are on the receiving end). Deaths among the political leadership would have greater impact on morale than deaths among soldiers or ordinary civilians. "

The problem is that the Chinese will choose when to attack. The decision makers will simply hide their children well out of Taiwanese missile attack before invading.

Mike Fagan said...

"...unless we talk nuclear (and that is very very very bad idea) then strategic bombing takes too long to have an effect (if any)."

Depends on how many missiles you can hit them with using what kind of warheads. I dislike talking about this, but thermobaric warheads may be an alternative to nukes. More bang for your buck than conventional explosives, but they aren't nukes.

Besides, the main point you are missing is that there is no either/or choice between capabilities that could be used for delaying tactics and capabilities that could be used for deterrent tactics. The cruise missiles and submarine platforms are the same - only the warheads need be different.

Mike Fagan said...

"And how do you propose that Taiwan prevent the Chinese navy from hanging out just outside Zuoying, continuosly pinging to it can pick up every submarine as it leaves port..."

Noise. Sonar isn't like radar. Assuming the existing natural background noise isn't enough we just need some way of adding to it. I doubt that would be terribly difficult.

Michael Turton said...

Besides, the main point you are missing is that there is no either/or choice between capabilities that could be used for delaying tactics and capabilities that could be used for deterrent tactics

Ye gods. Hundreds of wrecked cities since WWI and you still imagine that nations give up fighting when their cities are wrecked.

You remind me of the War-is-impossible brigade of the pre-WWI and pre-WWII eras, because modern war was too destructive. The enemy's cities will be destroyed.

List, please, of wars deterred by ability to hit enemy cities with non-nuke weaponry.

Michael


les said...

Actually, the idea of taking down a skyscraper or two in say, Shanghai or Beijing isn't a bad one if the CCP is covering up hits on it's bases or deaths on the ground in an invasion. If they try to sell the idea to their public that the invasion of Taiwan is going ahead with no costs to themselves, it would be prudent to burst that balloon.
Cruise missiles for Zhongnanhai anyway.

Mike Fagan said...

"because we know China is quite capable of developing such capabilities if it decides to."

I could be wrong but I believe even the best anti-submarine capabilities are limited. I remember reading articles about this from a few years back on how difficult it is.

Mike Fagan said...

"I think this is a fool's hope."

Agreed though only in the sense that it's better to assume the worst and hope for the best. I really don't have a clue what the Pacific Command would do in the event of Chinese attack on Taiwan.

Mike Fagan said...

"Frankly I don't think the Taiwanese are capable of a hell-hole strategy."

I think you're probably right. Someone at Thinking Taiwan recently suggested something along similar lines, viz having a more martial culture and learning from the Israelis. I can't see it happening though.

Mike Fagan said...

"Hundreds of wrecked cities since WWI and you still imagine that nations give up fighting when their cities are wrecked."

No actually. A deterrent is not intended to make an enemy surrender. It is intended to dissuade them from aggression in the first place.

Mike Fagan said...

"List, please, of wars deterred by ability to hit enemy cities with non-nuke weaponry."

You are asking me to prove (more than one) negative, which is a logical fallacy.

But you may be right that only nukes could succeed as a deterrent. I suggested thermobaric weapons as an alternative, which are extremely nasty things themselves, but nukes are on another level altogether. None of that detracts from the logic and prudence of having a back up strategy of deterrence in case - as Brian pointed out earlier - Taiwan gets sold down the river by the Democrats.

Michael Turton said...

Taiwan has a backup strategy of deterrence. It's whacking the enemy's military installations. Hitting cities is not a form of deterrence. We just mutually realized that.

Brian Castle said...

How will the threat of hitting China's military installations serve as a deterrent threat when
1. Taiwan doesn't have the capacity to do serious damage.
2. China doesn't face invasion by anyone the only reason it needs the military is to threaten Taiwan - which it will be in the process of destroying anyway.
?

All this talk of conventional weapons is pointless. China has 50 times as many people as Taiwan. That's 50 times as many people who can serve in the military, 50 times as many people who can research weapons, 50 times as many casualties they can take during the course of a conventional war. And China has the advantages of an attacker that is not pressed for time. China can gather wait until a time when it has the information it wants. Maybe a sub can evade detection 50% of the time, but it is in that other 50% when the attack will come. China will attack at a time when it knows the location all or most of the assets it wants to destroy in the first wave. And China will know the location of much without even needing to work hard because KMT ideologues will tell them. Anything capable of serious retaliation will be hit in the first attack so it will have to be capable of surviving the first attack or capable of retaliating before getting destroyed.

A turtle defense, or even a porcupine defense? Ask the defenders of Okinawa (if you can find any) how even the strongest most determined fortress defense does against an equally determined enemy with equal or better technology and a virtually unlimited supply of time, resources, and men.

A conventional defense won't work. Taiwan has to be more creative than that. The only thing I can think of is convincing China that if they invade every Taiwanese will promptly be given weapons they know how to use and instruction manuals on how to conduct urban guerrilla warfare.

Mike Fagan said...

"We just mutually realized that."

Excuse me, but we did no such thing.

"A conventional defense won't work. Taiwan has to be more creative than that."

Agreed, which is why I have repeatedly argued that Taiwan should follow a strategy of depoliticization, whereby as many vital functions as possible currently under centralized State control are turned over to the free market, starting with education. If the Chinese were to invade tomorrow, they will get bureaucratic control of education, healthcare, energy, agriculture etc handed to them on a plate. These things should not be controlled by the State to begin with, so why are we doing this? We could attempt to deter a Chinese invasion by raising the costs of managing Taiwan under centralized control.

"...every Taiwanese will promptly be given weapons they know how to use and instruction manuals on how to conduct urban guerrilla warfare."

I don't think that's an inherently bad idea of itself, but we're talking about a people who've been pushed around by authority all of their lives and through most of their history. The endless hours of practice disassembling, cleaning and reassembling an assault rifle for days on end is not something they'll take to easily. To borrow H.G. Wells' for a moment, much of the younger generation are the Eloi to the Chinese Morlocks.

Brian Castle said...

Turning things over to the market economy would, imho, have a mixed result as far as China's ability to govern Taiwan. On one hand, if the government is smaller there is less to worry about trying to manage. That is, if the people pretty much run their own lives all you have to do to take over is replace the government - you don't have to worry much about actually governing.

On the other hand, contrary to liberal caricatures, a free market does not promote a society where people don't care for each other and don't work together. Instead, when people have to rely on each other rather than on government management and handouts, they learn to cooperate. Non-governmental organizations form, some for profit and some for charity. Having many such organizations can make a society difficult to govern if that society doesn't want you governing. People won't have to organize to resist - they're already organized. The leadership skills already exist among the people.

taiwan-in-perspective.com said...

@Brian please, you are giving me headaches.

1, And how do you propose that Taiwan prevent the Chinese navy from hanging out just outside Zuoying, continuosly pinging to it can pick up every submarine as it leaves port and then following each submarine, again continuously pinging, so the submarine never gets a chance to hide?


Real warfare is a bit more complicated than Call of Duty or Sid Meier's Civ. You know what submarine would do in a peacetime when it knows outside of a busy port someone is waiting to track it? Just hide behind big commercial ship. Do you have the slightest idea how noisy is the sea around busy commercial port? In a wartime, you know what stops ships just hanging around coastline? This whole new thing called anti-ship missile. Rest assured PLAN is not going to waste ships implementing your crazy idea.

2, 1. Taiwan doesn't have the capacity to do serious damage.
2. China doesn't face invasion by anyone the only reason it needs the military is to threaten Taiwan - which it will be in the process of destroying anyway.
?

All this talk of conventional weapons is pointless. China has 50 times as many people as Taiwan. That's 50 times as many people who can serve in the military, 50 times as many people who can research weapons, 50 times as many casualties they can take during the course of a conventional war. And China has the advantages of an attacker that is not pressed for time.


Taiwan does have a capacity to do damage, of course it does. It does have a capacity to produce enough anti-ship missiles to make sure every ship from the other side will become target. In fact, it does only need to sink the big landing ships, slow, defenseless targets full of the best soldiers they would have. And no, China would be very much pressed for time. Quick victory with little damage done. They will be terribly pressed for time and therein lies Taiwan's advantage. If you think that the CCP or whoever will be in charge will have the freedom to waste hundreds of thousands well trained soldiers then you better check your calendar, Korean war ended 50 years ago. Modern soldier is not easily replaceable, his training costs a lot of money. And stop counting people, it does not work that way. With your method, Finns were supposed to surrender within few hours in 1939.

Michal

Anonymous said...

China need not take over Taiwan.The threat to destroy is good enough
and there is nothing much the US can do.It's just like a guy who wants
to kill his brother.
Of course the US can have assay if it wants ww3 for regime change in China.
However the price will be sky high.