Tuesday, October 18, 2005

China Takes Taiwan

In the last few years a consensus that the China threat might be greatest prior to the 2008 Olympics has emerged among many of us armchair analysts in the Blogosphere. Brian Dunn at the Dignified Rant has a an argument for a pre-Olympic invasion here, and a Taiwan invasion scenario to go with it. Commentator Wendell Minnick has published a fascinating account of an invasion as well. Here's a bit of fantasy for your enjoyment.

Dunn's article argues that

May to July is a non-monsoon window for the Taiwan Strait region (the other is October) and so would fit very nicely with the assumed pre-Olympics timing.

The summer may be non-monsoon, but 80% of the island's rain falls in that period, as it is typhoon season. Invading in the summer is a really bad idea. Not only do typhoons roll out of the Pacific every few days, but it is excrutiatingly hot and muggy.

No, the summer is a bad time. A much better time would be December or early January. The weather will be cool by day, and chilly by night, but certainly not intolerably so -- ideal weather for combat operations. The typhoon season will be over, but the rains will not have arrived. Look for the pre-Olympic invasion to take place in the late winter of 2006 or 2007. An earlier invasion will give the fallout time to blow over.

China will have several goals. First, it will want to localize the conflict as much as possible. Second, it will want the war over as soon as possible. Ideally, long before the US arrives, Chinese troops should be ensconced on the island and impossible to dislodge, with Chinese aircraft flying from airports in Taiwan and the island surrounded by Chinese ships and submarines. The Taiwan army should be comprehensively defeated and the Japanese presented with the quandry of beginning intervention against a military power astride their lines of communication to Persian Gulf oil -- with the US not having arrived.

Diplomatic Offensive
One important goal for China is to keep foreign intervention down to a minimum. There is no fear that Europe will actually do anything, though there will be expressions of solidarity and public protests, after which everyone will promptly go home and snap up Chinese goods, just as they made no material responses to the illegal US invasion of Iraq that might have required sacrifice on their part. The main diplomatic goal will be to keep the US, Japan, Canada, Australia, and other non-European powers who might have an interest in a free Taiwan from actually intervening. For the US and Japan, a speedy military victory is the most important lever for doing this. For the other nations, the invasion will come at a time when Chinese diplomacy has been putting on a charm offensive, spending money, promising markets, and engaging in pro-active diplomacy.

China's charm offensive will not need to provide distractions for the US. Dunn argues that China will have to isolate the battlefield, but that is only half the goal. The Chinese need more than anything to isolate the United States. Unfortunately for Taiwan President Bush has already managed to achieve this goal better than perhaps any hostile nation in our country's history. China need merely give history a nudge.

Achieving Surprise
It goes without saying that China will need to achieve surprise. This means that preparations will be minimal and cloaked by training exercises and so on. Commandos and spies already in Taiwan will begin sabotage operations, cyberwarfare, and the planting of beacons and other aids for navigation and attack. Spies will place homing beacons on important targets such as bridge and freeway spans, power lines, dams, dikes, and so on. All of this will take place a few hours before the attack. Dunn has suggested that warehouses with supplies and equipment will be pre-positioned.

The Opening
The battle for Taiwan begins, not at dawn, but after breakfast, when the early morning patrols have returned and people are just waking up and eating, and roads congested with people on their way to work. Strikes by commando teams hit on targets all over the island, including pipelines, fuel storage, ammo dumps, equipment, and military hardware. Fishing smacks loaded with explosives are detonated in ports.

At the same time the Chinese perform pre-emptive strikes on Taiwanese airfields, using their advanced Su-27 and Su-30 fighters to shoot down those few Taiwanese aircraft that beat the 15 minute window of air time between Taiwan and China and get into the air. The main attacks are carried out by aging and archaic jets, which have no trouble carrying dumb munitions and striking stationary targets on runways. There is no warning -- the jets have been prepped at night with the usual "training exercise" cover story, and the men are not told their true missions until a few minutes before the attacks are scheduled to begin. They have naturally been carrying out exercises in bombing airfields over the past few months, and have become competent though not skilled. But not much more is necessary -- the short flight time means that the strike aircraft can be over the island again in 90 minutes, assuming very slow turnaround times, long before the Taiwanese can organize any concerted response. Like the commando attack, the air attack is schedule to arrive during breakfast, dawn being the traditional and thus expected hour. As the air attack unfolds, Taiwanese airfields are also hit by Chinese missiles, which, though inaccurate, will slow down Taiwanese responses.

Strikes are also carried out on Taiwan's electricity network, whose terrible vulnerability was exposed by the 9/21 earthquake. Power plants will be left alone as they are difficult and costly to repair, but power lines and substations will be destroyed. These have been marked with electronic beacons that Chinese air-launched missiles can home in. Since Taiwan no longer has control of the air, even 1960s and 70s aircraft will have no trouble ranging over the island, dropping missiles on pre-planned targets, and taking out targets of opportunity. Water systems, including exposed piping, will be cut. Major highway bridges including the two sites where the 1st and 3rd north-south highways meet (near Hsinchu, and just south of Taichung), will be obliterated, along with the rail brides, the Chungchang and Chungtou expressways, and the West Coast Highway. This will be exceptionally easy since all cross the river just below Taichung within a few kilometers of each other. This will cut the island in half and force Taiwanese army units to cross on smaller bridges in the cities. In fact, Taiwan's topography, which crams all the infrastructure onto a plain fifty kilometers wide criss-crossed by wide rivers, is an interdiction expert's dream.

In addition to whacking transportation and communications infrastructure, the Chinese may consider knocking out some of Taiwan's dams. Consider this article in the Taipei Times a few months ago on the claims of an engineer that the Shihmen Dam could collapse.

The letter was written by former WRA deputy director-general Wu Hsien-hsiung (吳憲雄), and was published in the Chinese-language newspaper China Times on Aug. 16. In the letter, Wu said that the additional construction -- huge water pipes and pumps on the top of the dam -- could damage the structure, make it leak and possibly even cause it to collapse. If that happened, water from the reservoir would flood most of Taoyuan and Taipei counties and more than 3.5 million residents in Taipei and Taoyuan counties could be killed within a few minutes.

"The entire process would take less than two hours," Wu said in his letter.

Dams are notoriously difficult targets in wartime, often requiring specialized equipment and training. In WWII the famous Dambusters used specially-developed bombs for knocking out the German dams on the Rhine, and in Korea AD-4 Skyraiders used leftover WWII torpedoes dropped from the air -- the last time torpedoes were dropped from aircraft in anger -- to destroy the sluice gates of the Hwachon Dam in 1951. Shihmen is an earth-rockfill dam. Taking out the dam from the air may seem an impossible task.

But think about it: the Shihmen Dam is already considered vulnerable to collapse by its overseers in Taiwan. And here's another point: destroying dams is usually a problem of hitting them in the right way to produce a catastrophic failure. That requires pinpoint accuracy probably beyond the technological and human capabilities of the Chinese. There is little to prevent a potential saboteur from placing electronic beacons on the dam to guide weapons right to it. This would enormously simplify both the task of sabotage (e-devices are easy to conceal or disguise) and the task of hitting the dam, as it is simple to produce weapons that can home in on a beacon.

A look at the map will show that water from Shihmen will go directly into Taipei and cause massive destruction of electricity, transportation, and communications, completely disrupting any effort to coordinate a defense. A bonus is that unlike destroying the nuclear plants north of Yangmingshan, the effects of taking out Shihmen would not be permanent; the water would eventually drain and the locals can be taxed to pay for the damage, or perhaps the World Bank, always ready to pay for Chinese expansionism, could be tapped for cash. Similar effects could be obtained from dam destruction elsewhere on the island. For example, knocking out Wushantou would devastate a section of a major north-south freeway, the new Highway 3.

Dunn believes the Chinese may use chemicals, but I do not think so. The need for a diplomatic fait accompli is powerful, and the Chinese will be sensitive to world opinion. Instead, if they want to totally disrupt communications, they will selectively destroy the Dams and dikes that bottle up Taiwan's rivers. Few will notice, and if anyone complains, the Chinese can point to similar British and American acts in the world wars and in Korea and Vietnam.

At the same time, as the Taiwanese military begins its response, its own officers betray it. The Taiwan officer corps still harbors many pro-China mainlanders who will only be too happy to serve the Chinese. As Lawrence Eyton noted:

It also follows the release of an alarming statistic by the Ministry of National Defense according to which more than 3,000 former Taiwan military officers are now either doing business or working in "consultancies" in mainland China.

Suborned by appeals to "ethnicity" and lumps of cold hard cash, these traitors send out conflicting or irrelevant orders, sabotage responses, and refuse to fight. They also betray key codes and hand over important information. This means that the Chinese probably will have access to many of Taiwan's key defense computer systems as well.

Speaking of computer systems, cyberattacks begin on Taiwan's computer systems, both civilian and military. All networks go down to both network attacks and sabotage of key hardware systems. Private satellite operators like SPOT notice that their networks have failed to function and that they have no coverage of Taiwan.

Dunn has an excellent take on the psychological warfare which I will simply reproduce here:

Broadcasts will urge the Taiwanese military to stand aside. Some might. The Chinese will announce that unlawful combatants, which will include all the Taiwanese military, will not be treated as POWs but as criminals. The Chinese will claim the world considers this an internal matter and give wide play to any real statements to that effect. If any US Senator urges caution in reacting, that too will be played to the Taiwanese. The Chinese want the 23 million Taiwanese to feel alone and facing the power of 1.3 billion Chinese charging hard at them. Of course, ethnic solidarity will be emphasized and the pride of a powerful China able to end the long humiliation at the hands of the West will be used to convince Taiwanese soldiers to defect or go home.

The Troops Arrive: Phase 1
Dunn argues that the Chinese will do two things. First, they will drop paratroops in and around Taipei (this position is also taken by Minnick above. Wendell Minnick describes:

An airborne assault directly on Taipei by China's 15th Airborne Corps (Changchun), with three divisions (43rd, 44th, 45th) would be the first phase of the assault, with additional paratroopers being dropped in Linkou, Taoyuan and Ilian, to tie up Taiwan's four divisions assigned to the 6th Army (North). A Chinese airborne division contains 11,000 men with light tanks and self-propelled artillery. Some intelligence reports have indicated that China was able to airlift one airborne division to Tibet in less than 48 hours in 1988. Today, China's ability to transport troops has greatly improved. China is expected to be able to deliver twice that number - 22,000 - in two days.

The Chinese have upwards of 22,000 paratroopers but bear in mind that troops can be taught to jump out of an airplane with relative ease -- thousands of out-of-shape hobbyists learn every year in the States (simple training consists of 4-5 ground hours plus a solo jump). The Chinese do not care if they get bloodyminded elite troops or not, nor do they care if half the poorly trained jumpers die in their jumps. Their goal is to get warm bodies on the ground in Taiwan so that the mainlander officers can plausibly surrender, or just turn their troops over to the invaders. A week prior to this the Chinese have been putting ordinary infantrymen through crash courses in jumping. As the transport planes return to their bases, they are quickly serviced and the newly-training troops are thrown aboard and tossed out of the aircraft over Taiwan in a steady stream. Remember, it's just a half an hour across the strait. Plausibly, each aircraft could do a drop every two hours, given an hour for refueling and reloading.

The first jumps put Chinese troops in two or three places. First, thousands of troops, light tanks, and light artillery drop on Yangmingshan overlooking Taipei. There they capture the listening post atop Tatun Mountain, with its collection of telecommunications hardware, from which US intelligence has been tracking Chinese moves for years. This station was not targeted precisely so it could be taken intact. From Neihu on the northeast side of the city artillery can easily hit Sungshan Airport, both denying it to the locals, and providing cover for attacking troops for whom that airfield is a key target. Elite paratroopers begin immediately moving into the northern suburbs to grab that airport. They can walk there in three hours, and drive even faster. Although Yangmingshan looks like a collection of peaks on the map, vast areas of it are actually flat and grassy, especially at higher elevations, and it is criss-crossed with paved roads that locals use for Sunday outings. The real problem will be coming down off the mountain, which breaks up into steep ridges on the Taipei side, especially over to the east, where there are fewer roads and far more trees. That is precisely the terrain Chinese light troops must cross if they are to take the Sungshan airport.

At the same time the Chinese also grab Guanyin Mountain, the mountain on the west side of the Tamshui River. From those heights even small artillery can command the city and the approaches to Taipei from the small harbor of Tamshui. With the air secure the Chinese begin helicoptering in supplies and larger artillery to the area.

The third drops will take place on the ridges around Keelung. These are heavily forested and many troops will be lost. But with light artillery, the Chinese can deny the use of the port to the Taiwanese, as well as cover it for their own seaborne assault. Scattered drops of units of 20-40 men will take place at key points along roads and railroads, to block incoming Taiwanese units, and destroy more infrastructure targets.

Where will the Chinese make their initial headquarters? On the other side of Yangmingshan, of course. There, nestled in the flanks of two nuclear plants, no one will dare hit them with heavy weapons. It will be a pain to coordinate operations with units on top of Yangmingshan, but any military commander will tell you that terrain is more easily overcome than the enemy.

Phase 2
With the air secure the Chinese can then begin coming ashore. Earlier the previous evening civilian shipping had been loaded with military gear and troops. Many observers have argued that China lacks the amphibious units to take Taiwan, but such analysts are thinking like Americans, who are like an eccentric old aunt who can't go anywhere without taking her 38 suitcases. No, the Chinese will simply commandeer everything and throw troops over. The result would be a bloody mess by western standards, but again, the idea is to get warm bodies onto the island. The Chinese have done this in the past:

The PLA also adopted a new strategy during invasion of Hainan Island in April 16, 1950; while they continued to conscripted civilian ships to transport the troops, they modified 32 of them into motorized gunboats by shielding them with sandbags and arming them with light artillery. To gain an element of surprise, the cross strait operation was conducted at night, and it was also backed by artillery and air cover, which were lacking during Jinman.

Dunn suggests something I have long believed, that the Chinese will not come ashore on beaches, exposed like extras in a WWII flick, but at ports. The island's ports have long been havens for Chinese fishing craft running from storms and Chinese intelligence will be intimately familiar with them. The invasion force, which set out in the early morning begins arriving around noon, landing in Keelung, Tamshui, Taichung, and Suao on the east coast (around 6 pm). The initial attacks are made by dedicated amphibious units, but civilian shipping carrying military units follows on throughout the day. The paratroopers have thoughtfully seized the heights on both sides of Tamshui and the invasion forces, covered by artillery and air power, can come ashore with ease, confronting only local defenders without coordination. The port in Taichung lies on flat ground serviced by excellent six lane roads that have completely clear views. Resistance can easily be suppressed from the air. Suao can defended indefinitely from the heights above it, but the mountains are so steep there that a defense may be impossible to carry out. With only one road down the coast, Suao can easily be cut off and taken. Keelung is taken, also assisted by paratroops. By evening of the first day Chinese troops are ashore.

Alternatively, the Chinese can blow the Shihmen Dam early in the conflict, around 8 AM, during breakfast. The water reaches Taipei in a few minutes and in a couple of hours, floods the city completely. The flood itself continues on down the Tamshui to the sea, where it scours both sides of the Tamshui River clean of everything human, leaving bare infrastructure and no defense. By noon everything is over. This will pose severe problems for the Chinese troops coming ashore, but I've never met a trooper who would rather face an armed enemy than a mud and mess. With Taipei completely knocked out, the Chinese can rest, reorganize, and then march into Taipei directly from Tamshui, along any of several roads -- a half-hour drive in traffic -- having thoughtfully brought along inflatable boats and other equipment required to tool around the city. Resistance is not possible, as local ammo dumps, tactical command centers, and equipment are all filled with water. The major roads into the city are all cut either by the flood from the Dam (which knocks out a major highway), airborne interdiction, sabotage, or control by Chinese paratroopers. In fact, if the Dam is to be blown, the timing of the invasion may well be determined by water levels in the Shihmen Dam, which naturally must be high if this strategy is to be carried out.

Evening falls. Chinese troops enter Taipei. In Taichung, light units race to the top of Tadu Mountain, meeting choppers there carrying airmobile artillery. Heavy units begin coming ashore in Taichung. With all major links across the river between Changua and Taichung cut, the island is cut in two and everything in the southern part of the island is essentially irrelevant to the campaign. Light units begin working their way out of Taichung and to points north, with one important goal being the airport in Taichung city, a forty minute drive from the port in traffic. Additionally, if the Chinese can work their way around the city and to the suburbs of Dali and Wufeng in the southeast, they can prevent the movement of Taiwanese reinforcement over the many bridges on the rivers there, through the city, and to points north. In Keelung light troops have begun to scale the ridges out of Keelung and begin the 25 kilometer trek to Taipei and the Sungshan airport, to link up with the paratroopers. Meanwhile as regular troops disembark around the clock in Tamshui, the paratroopers are pulled out of line and shipped back to China, so that, if necessary, they can be dropped again on Day 3 or if possible, late on Day 2.

The Surrender
With Chinese troops in the capital and the city itself perhaps submerged, communications and transportation links cut, Chinese marines ashore along the northern rim of the island, the air under Chinese control, the Taiwanese navy suppressed and the air force destroyed, the President of Taiwan meets with his advisors. A mainlander President will probably urge surrender on his largely mainlander senior officers, a course they will probably be only too happy to comply with. A Taiwanese President may be a harder sell.

Night arrives. Taiwanese units have begun to slowly recover from their disorganization and inherent incompetence. Minnick makes the call:

Except for special forces and the marines, it is unlikely that the rest of Taiwan's infantry brigades scattered across the island would do much. As the saying goes, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog that matters." 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. One politically correct legislator recently complained to Asia Times Online, "Taiwan has to do something about violence in the military." The correspondent reminded him, "The military is a violent institution." The conversation was over; the lesson lost.

Taiwanese military preparedness is also typified by this from last year's TECRO magazine, the official publication of the Taiwanese trade office overseas:

Cadet Hung Wan-ting of Hsintien in Taipei County is enrolled at the USMA at West Point. Like every foreign exchange student, Cadet Hung had to adapt to a different culture to survive in her new surroundings. To her, two of the biggest differences between Taiwan's military education system and that of the United States are the physical demands placed on cadets and the U.S. army's focus on realistic training in the field. "Here, they stress tactics like marksmanship and land navigation. The USMA also teaches cadets about infantry tactics, such as squad movement, platoon movement, conducting raids, and defense in the field environment," whereas the Taiwan military focuses more on military discipline and seldom allow cadets to practice using live ammunition.

"Seldom uses live ammunition." "No stress on marksmanship and land navigation." Everyone familiar with Taiwan knows this story. Drills are unrealistic, officers give orders but do not lead. The result is that even the best intentions go awry. Troops fling away their weapons and run home to search for their families, fearing they are dead. Officers give contradictory and meaningless orders. Key bridges, ammo dumps, and tunnels are not destroyed as originally planned. Troops discover that much equipment has been pilfered over the years, while the another chunk is found to be useless, the victim of falsified reports and inadequate maintenance oversight, a common problem in all Taiwan bureaucracies.

In the morning, the President of Taiwan gets some startling news. There is a new President of Taiwan! As Minnick writes:

Once Taipei was captured, a new government chosen by Beijing would be sworn into office. There would be plenty of Taiwanese politicians to choose from. It is well known there are many pro-China legislators who have investments in China and more than a few who have had private meetings with Beijing officials. The inauguration would be conducted in the spotlight of the international media, giving it some psychological legitimacy in the eyes of the international community. There would be too many pro-China people in the US State Department - privately relieved the Taiwan issue was finally settled - to say anything in Taiwan's defense.

With his communications out, the elected President is out of touch and cannot gainsay the Chinese propaganda offensive. Bad news continues to roll in. Despite bitter last ditch resistance by local forces, Sungshan Airport has been taken during the night. Engineers are already working to pump out the water and get it operating again, and it is just a matter of time until the Chinese starting bringing men and equipment into the city. Scattered reports of fighting at the airport in Taichung are tinged with pessimism, Chinese heavy units are known to have formed up in Chingshui near the port and are now driving east across the northern flank of Tatu mountain and directly into Taichung down Chungching Rd. The air force commander reports that his forces have ceased to be effective. The head of China Petroleum informs the President that the nation's oil reserve was destroyed in sabotage attacks. The Naval commander has not reported in since his headquarters was repeatedly hit, but radio broadcasts from abroad say that most of Taiwan's fast attack craft have been sunk. Little does the President of Taiwan understand it, but Xinhua, despite being openly and obviously controlled by the Communist government of China, has quietly become an important source of news for Western newspapers, who, incredibly, cite it as if it were a news supplier and not a propaganda organ. The result is that Chinese propaganda has already begun to shape western reporting on the conflict.

At the same time, the President of Taiwan has not heard about any efforts by Western nations to intervene. Japan has demanded that China stop, but there are no reports of Japanese clashes with Chinese forces. The Chinese have vowed that oil shipments will continue and trade will go on during the conflict. Anti-Japanese prejudice in China has been held in check, but the Japanese are quietly informed that the mobs can be unleashed. To back this point, the Chinese Navy makes its presence known in the waters between Japan and Taiwan, where it will "maintain security for an unimpeded flow of goods as the splittist bandits in Taiwan are suppressed" as one Chinese official puts it. Europe bleats but does nothing in its usual fashion, except for the UK, which wonders aloud whether something should be done. The rest of ASEAN, already overshadowed by Chinese diplomacy, is mute. Russia smiles benignly and returns to its running sore in Chechnya. Australia, following Chinese progress on the satellite maps, announces that it will not intervene. India sighs with regret, and adjusts its attitude accordingly. The President of Taiwan tells his staff that if the US intervenes, he will advocate continued resistance. Out of touch, he is unaware of the decision already made hours ago.

All eyes turn to the United States. Caught by surprise -- though conspiracy theorists will charge for years afterward that the Administration let the war happen to distract attention from its domestic troubles -- US forces already began to react......or do they?

Two scenarios suggest themselves. In the first, Japan-based US forces react aggressively, attacking Chinese ships, aircraft, and invasion forces. US marines attempt to land on Taiwan. Aircraft from carriers, Guam, and southern Japan begin operating against Chinese forces on the island. Prodded by the Americans, the Japanese at last enter and a full-scale minor war begins. What the outcome of that will be no man can say.

In scenario two, as the US begins operations, in Washington it is 8 PM and everyone has gone home. The Chinese ambassador in Washington meets with the President immediately. The Chinese hold dollars, lots of dollars, it is pointed out. Flooding the world economy with dollars will break the dollar, and with it, the US and world economy. Washington is in a tizzy. Members of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus meets with the President at 10:30 PM and demand that something be done. Cooler heads point out that President already broke the budget in Iraq and that the US cannot now afford a major war against a major power. Already by the dawn -- evening of the same day Taipei time -- there are rumblings from Democrats and the handful of fiscal conservatives left on the Republican side in Congress that the nation cannot afford this war. At the same time everyone in the debate is following the progress of the Chinese, brought to them exclusively by the intrepid reporters of Xinhua, which announces that advance units of the Chinese army have taken Taichung, blocking troop movements from southern Taiwan, and entered Miaoli on their way to seize the information technology firms in Hsinchu. Major US corporations eye their technology investments in Taiwan nervously, and put pressure on the President to choose the less destructive of two evils. More importantly, they also point out that the Chinese markets will be closed to them for years if the US intervenes.

All night, as the main US forces wait for orders while individual units engage the Chinese, the President agonizes. News pours in. The Chinese have taken Taipei. Chinese troops are ashore in Taichung and have taken the local airport. Xinhua puts out a steady stream of serious-sounding victory nonsense, which is dutifully repeated by major establishment papers as actual news. All of this the President and his key advisors read. The Chinese, their ambassador indicates, are willing to overlook US participation with the Taiwanese at this point. They understand that the US has to keep its face. Further, in the back of the President's mind there is the project in the Middle East. The US cannot simply pick up and leave to go fight for Taiwan. But who wants to be the President who lost Taiwan? he asks himself

The Pentagon reports that it is ready to go. US fleet units are already en route. The State Department, long a haven for pro-China types, however, notes that if the US moves it will move alone. The President's policies have isolated the nation. The Chinese have also been effectively in stifling impulses to intervene among such powers as might be willing. Even the Japanese are waiting on the US decision.

All through the night the debate goes on as Chinese troops consolidate their positions across the northern end of the island. Finally, at 8:31 AM EST, as Chinese paratroops reach Sungshan airport and Chinese armor forms up to begin rolling into Taichung, the President of the United States commandeers the US emergency broadcast system. A nation falls silent to listen as the President clears his throat: "It is with a heavy heart," he begins.....


Unknown said...

"Most of the Taiwan officer corps consists of pro-China mainlanders who will only be too happy to serve the Chinese."

Do you even bother to think about the drivel that comes out of the DPP machine before you accept it? How can you dismiss the military as a bunch of communists?

Much of the mainlander old guard of the military has already retired, and many of your so-called ready-made traitors actually fought and killed the communists. Besides, what makes you think that ethnically confused, homegrown soldiers with no sense of national identity would be any more loyal?

Michael Turton said...

Do you even bother to think about the drivel that comes out of the DPP machine before you accept it?

Speaking of drivel....

How can you dismiss the military as a bunch of communists?

Who said anything about Communism?

I'll change the wording. Just got sloppy, is all.


Jason said...

Wow, Michael... that was a real punch in the nuts. Thanks for ruining my day!

Also makes me wonder what would happen to TECRO....

Anonymous said...

Did you find Dunn and Minnick in your fiction writing class? Maybe you should invite them around for a game of Axis and Allies.

Its easy to concoct these kind of scenarios. Might be fun to do one about the economy. Neither of these guys seem to mention surface-to-air missiles. They gloss over the Taiwanese response. And who's to say the PRC would not be in for a decade of terrorism like the US is in Iraq?

Anonymous said...

In the absence of a simple TrackBack:
I spent a rather entertaining hour or so reading this. You've obviously given this a lot of thought and it made for very interesting reading. However, in my humble opinion, there are two logical problems with this hypothesis. Please read my comments here:

Anonymous said...

"The Chinese have upwards of 22,000 paratroopers but bear in mind that troops can be taught to jump out of an airplane with relative ease -- thousands of out-of-shape hobbyists learn every year in the States (simple training consists of 4-5 ground hours plus a solo jump)."

What a moronic statement. I can tell you've never jumped.

Anonymous said...

The Chinese threatening to dump US bonds isn't a credible threat. It would lead to hyperinflation in China and would hurt China a lot more than it would hurt the US.

I know you think this sort of Allied and Axis-style speculation is entertaining, but how seriously do you believe that the mainland would actually attack before the 2008 Taiwanese presidential election?

Michael Turton said...

You guys are brutal...

Its easy to concoct these kind of scenarios. Might be fun to do one about the economy. Neither of these guys seem to mention surface-to-air missiles. They gloss over the Taiwanese response. And who's to say the PRC would not be in for a decade of terrorism like the US is in Iraq?

I've basically glossed over the Taiwanese response because I don't believe, at the moment, that there will be much of one. Sure, the have surface-to-air missiles which will no doubt take their toll of Chinese aircraft. Big deal. Many of the missile sites will be taken out. Others will be sabotaged, still others, commanded by people sympathetic to the Chinese. The army will take hours to get moving. People waaaay overestimate the competence of the military here -- live fire exercises are rare, drills are unrealistic. Again, there will be leaven of mainlander officers and spies who will screw things up. It only takes a few, in strategic spots, to foul up the works completely.

As for guerilla warfare, I have a little trouble imagining anything sustained like Iraq. That would require that the Taiwanese have some kind of pervading sense of their own identity, which they do not. It would require access to weapons and explosives, of which there are none on Taiwan. It would require that young people become tremendously angry about politics on a large scale, something I find hard to believe I could ever see in my own students. Sure, in '47 there was a rag-tag student army in the mountains, but that was an altogether different era. My bet? The taiwanese mourn their lost nation and get on with the business of living. The only thing going for the guerilla war scenario is that everyone in Taiwan has some kind of military training.

What a moronic statement. I can tell you've never jumped.

Nope, never jumped. Is there some substantive critique you have? Before you go off half-cocked, I was only using the civilian count for a comparison. The point is that it is not difficult to train people to jump, especially if they only have to do it once, they are coming down among friendly troops, and their sole goal is to be warm bodies. However long it takes -- 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks -- jump capable troops can be produced in a relatively short time prior to the invasion.

Still can't figure out what happened to your trackback function.

I deleted it. It wiped out all my previous comments. Now blogger has a link function. Hooray!

One thing that it laudable about my scenario, Dunn's and Minnick's is that there is a lot more emphasis on the political side of things. Too many analysts try to restrict the analysis to hardware counting -- that's the *real* Axis and Allies stuff. The fact is that any attempted invasion isn't going to be a weighing of metal, but a clash of wills. The Chinese approach will have a hefty political and psychological component.

but how seriously do you believe that the mainland would actually attack before the 2008 Taiwanese presidential election?

That's a great point. Yes, it is a possibility. What if their hand-picked boy Ma is behind in the polls in November? The Chinese are going to remember that Chen twice beat candidates of the richest political party in the world, backed by both the US and China. They are going to see 4 more years of no annexation of Taiwan. And they are going to watch their supporters in the local military become an ever smaller group, with less influence, as well as watch their aging aircraft age even further. In another decade all those airframes from the 70s and 80s may become too old to fly. Why not expend them now? And each year that ticks by is another in which China risks world opinion actually swinging back to Taiwan's side. Plus, which Chinese leader doesn't want to be the one to annex Taiwan? Each leader faces the exact same temptations. And then there is the pervasive weakness of the US, hamstrung by two wars, a military low in morale, a broken budget, and isolated from the world. These will only increase as the Bush Administration goes further along in its trashing of the US. The 2008 election may bring a sensible president who will fix the military, get out of Iraq, and repair the budget, making US resistance more probable. All in all, at least some possibility exists.

Sure, dumping dollars will create hyperinflation. But it is the threat of MAD that counts. After all, for years the USSR and USA restrained each other from nuke war with the exact same logic.

If I had to estimate what the odds of a Chinese invasion by 2008 are, I couldn't tell you. But they do exist....

Michael Turton said...

Anyway...I am glad you enjoyed it.


Michael Turton said...

Personally, the biggest problem is going to be Taiwanese resistance, but Chinese logistics. Especially, unloading equipment. Unloading is going to be serious problem, take time and require organization and practice. Airpower may suppress large unit movement but it won't stop small unit harassment.


Anonymous said...

There is a line in Minnick's original piece which goes: 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 and military leaders at odd hours of the night; death is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

As I said on a mailing list when I read this last year, Mr Minnick needs to take a cold shower.

And as other posters have said, its easy, Flemming-like, to come up with these sort of scenarios. I don't know what purpose they serve in terms of real stratgeic planning other than to ... er... excite frustrated middle-aged Western security analysts. There is a kind of pornography to all of this which I find genuinely distateful.

Analytically, I don't think anyone can say how a military conflict would play out. Would the Taiwanese stand and fight? Nothing makes the Taiwanese feel more Taiwanese than Chinese threats, so I don't believe they would shrug and give up. How effective and coordinated they would be, who really knows, but how effective and coordinated do we think the PLA would be? They're very busy running hotels and washing machine factories, for a start. Another analogy (in terms of the "imagining" of China as a potential adversary to the US by Westerners) is the Soviet Union. Apart from nuclear weapons, how credible a threat were they really in a stand-up fight?

Red A said...

Cut Turton some slack - He's crafted an interesting scenario, and some of the ideas are pretty smart.

Of course, this is Chinese "best case" scenario and assumes the enemy doesn't interfere with Chinese plans in many ways.

If the Vichy French could oppose Allied landings in North Africa, I think Taiwan's armed forces will not roll over either - I seriously wonder about the whole "mainlander" officer class will become traitors - all the air force guys I met were pretty Taiwanese, and even then, if you are attacked, you tend to fight back.

Also, 48 hours to transport an airborne divison to Tibet may only be the flight times, not the 5 days prep work to do so. And I would suspect that Taiwan would notice the preparations for a lot of this and could get ready. Sure the elite guys can pre-plan, but the untrained units would require tons of logistical planning.

While China can buy spies in Taiwan the reverse is equally true. Chinese officers covet rolexes, mistresses, and wealth like anyone else.

All it it takes is enough warning and many of Turton's suprise effects melt away leaving Chinese troops hanging in the wind, cut-off with ammo running low and no-resupply. When US marines land in 24 hours, a big morale boost hits the Taiwan side.

Also, how hard is it to take Taiwan's harbors? Maybe much harder than Turton makes it sound. What about those "open lands" leading to Taichung harbor? Advantage to China? or excellent fields of fire for Taiwanese artillery?

How did China get air superiority when Taiwan has hardened bunkers for planes and advanced radar? What about anti-aircraft missiles that will be firing at all those Chinese planes? If this goes wrong for China in any way...poof!

On the other hand, here's some elements Michael can include in his soon to be published techno-thriller:

Chinese agents could hire warehouses and buy tons of instant noodles, water, and fuel and effectively have pre-positioned a lot of the supply they would need. Even trucks! Heck they could have teams ready to go to the local truck dealership and demand they drive all the trucks to a certain location, etc.

If China can mine the harbors, then US troops might be forced to do amphib landings which reduce the speed and number they can send over.

I like the idea of the rush hour traffic and bombing the interchanges - though you'd have to assume Taiwanese military thinkers already have plans for this sort of action. This is one of the problems: Taiwan must have thought of many of these issues and have counter-strategies.

Also, if I was China, I would drop one single nuclear weapon. Could be dropped only as EMP or on a deserted island - just as the ultimate warning to Japan or USA - because if you can get them to hesitate even for 24 hours, it helps you a lot and would also cow many Taiwanese civilans.

Anyways, I'll think of some more stuff for you Michael...good job on the post.

Anonymous said...

Oh, please don't misunderstand, I am not having a go at Michael. It's the Minnicks who do it for me. In the academic world, I meet a lot of them, who spend their entire lives writing and rewriting this sort of material.

Mr Minnick would be better to spend his time on conflict resolution scenarios, rather than conflict scenarios.

Red A said...

Ah, man, that Dunn guy already had my idea for stocking warehouses down...damn.

BTW, to anyone doubting Michael's cred on this, check Dunn's:

'The Institute of Land Warfare, Army magazine, Military Review, and Joint Force Quarterly have published my occasional articles.'

Red A said...

How can Taiwan prepare better for such a Chinese invasion?

A. They have not prepared the public properly and the psychology is uncertain for sure. Some of this is due to the US security blanket which needs to be taken away from Taiwan ASAP in my opinion. A lot of these nightmare scenarios rely on lots of inaction and defection by Taiwanese troops. If instead, these troops are good to go, it's a whole different ball game. This is really hard though because Taiwan is blessed by the DPP and the KMT parties - neither of which inspire the entire populace. One thing is absolutely clear to me in many discussions with Taiwanese people: they have no clue as to military matters and assume they will lose. Someone needs to broadcast some documentaries on the Winter War or such things. I think Taiwan could easily stop China if it applied itself.

B. Obviously, protect the ports. Protect the airfields. For all we know the ROC army has units whose sole job is to defend and/or counterattack key infrastructure. But surely buying or making a ton of AA missile batteries would be smart. These are not easily killed as we think since China's air force is not the US air force when it comes to air to ground accuracy. Also, I suspect Air defense forces are the mostly likely to actually fight early on (you'd be itching to shoot down something.)

C. Protect against trickery, i.e. keep sigint and humint in China strong. I really wonder how China could load up civilain container ships with light infantry and ship to Taiwan without anyone noticing or reporting it...(Hey, why does my B/L, invoice and packing list show my cargo as being a platoon of infantry.) Sure, maybe you could hide 100-200 guys on the ship, but the Taiwanese captain or the harbor pilot (If I remember, ships don't just cruise up to the docks, they have a local pilot handle that part.)

C. How do you stop airborne troops from marching on Taipei? Well, it may not be so easy to get into Taipei with all that traffic, people fleeing, etc. The roads would be easy to block and urban warfare without armored vehicles is a tough call. Meanwhile if your airlift of such troops to your airfield should be threatened by Taiwanese quick reaction forces and a nice assortment of anti-aircraft missiles...

I also think most of the surprise attack plans really rely on clockwork precision from China...this is the China that flies its fighters how many hours a month?

Also, a speculation....NTD 33.7 to 1 USD today...if this continues the market is telling us somethng.

Anonymous said...

Hey, that was anonymous2 slagging you about parachuting, not me. 17 comments and counting, your most popular blog to date. Anyway, it just seems unreasonable to stack the deck by assuming perfect PRC execution and total ROC incompetence. Might be equally interesting fiction to write the reverse.

Michael Turton said...

Hey! That's a good idea! The problem is that I can't really wrap my head around Taiwan's military being more competent than China's. I suspect neither is very competent....

A said...

I love this post precisely because it is what you said, a fantasy read. It gives one end of a spectrum we often ignore. Well the Chinese military certainly isn't ignoring this option, and you are right to point out that it has been in the works for some time, just never garnering enough force to leap out of the gate. Will it ever? Who knows, but at least it's worth considering, great work on what must have been one damn long writing session.

Anonymous said...

The ROC military hasn't been in a shooting war in decades. The PLA really went into self-examination after the Vietnam border disaster in 1978. They have been on a big professionalisation push for the past decade. That by no means guarantees competence, but I see signs of professionalism being emphasized more than political reliability in the elite units (2nd Artillery, Airborne, etc.). Time is on the PLA's side, and they have been quietly and dramatically improving their performance.

Anonymous said...

I think Michael hit a lot of the right points. If China can get enough of its troops onto Taiwan (admittedly a big "if"), they will simply overrun the Taiwanese. Between the Chinese army and the Taiwanese -- the latter being almost all young guys who were conscripted and want nothing except to get back to their lives, as Michael pointed out -- it's hard to see how you can realistically expect them to put up a tough resistance. Especially when the Chinese say: "Just put down your guns and go home and get back to work. One country, two systems."

Anonymous said...

It seems that a major holiday (especially New Year) would be the best time for an invasion, particularly the last day.

Everybody who could get out of duty would be gone, especially the big officers with command authority. Those on duty would be feeling ... like they were stuck on duty during a holiday. Not to mention that many ordinary people are away from home.

Anonymous said...

To the budding Sinologist,

I guess this is rather like a Rashamom moment, you see what you want to see. By US standards, while the ROC military has impressive equipment, their doctrine, training, and overall troop quality leaves a lot to be desired. PACOM is genuinely worried about the qualitative improvement in PLA forces, especially in the 2nd Artillery and submarines. Those two components will be the first to strike, shall we say, when the balloon goes up. I don't want to make it sound like it will be a cakewalk if Beijing decides it is the moment to act. But all this nostalgia for when the PLA was a "not ready for primetime" military is really self deluding and potentially disastrous. Number one rule for military planners - never underestimate your enemy.

Anonymous said...

the decapitation theory is also doing the rounds. take out all senior politicians in the period of a day.

michael - your scenario is frightening, i dodnt like reading it at all. mostly because its all possible.

but surely a bombing of a dam wiping out taipei and 1000's of people wouldnt be taken lightly by the international community?

then again, the west has been bending over a barrel and shagged up the azz for years by the chinese... all in the name of $.

Anonymous said...

Well I don't know if it has been stated and I just want let y'all to know, even though there are two very distinct movements for the future of Taiwan. None of them would give up and fight for the invasion troops. The former Mainlanders. For one, most of them aren't no in control anymore, and also they may be mainland Chinese, but the ones that came to Taiwan with the retreating forces are die hard Nationalists, to surrender the last bastion of Nationalist China to the Communists would be throwing all that they've fought for.

The mainlanders in Taiwan are not the most likely to surrender and become traitors, in fact, they are the least so. The mainlanders in Taiwan are either Nationalists from China who fought the communists or the children of them. They're the least likely to give up.

Anonymous said...

The risk in this would be enormous..... you think that a war between Japan the USA and china would be "minor" IT would be nuclear......

Also there could be attacks on south korea by northkorea in the Chaos.

Anonymous said...

This would be WWIII but, it would be very difficult for China to land significant forces with the US Navy blocking the straits. China would need to land close to 1MM men to occupy the country and if our carriers and subs were in the region it would be shooting fish in a barrel as they tried to cross. You can't possibly load 1MM troops without our satellites picking up this kind of activity in the Chinese ports.

Joshua said...

Some thoughts I had prior to reading your article -
Why not attack during the Olympics and hold the world's athletes hostage until the objective is won.

Weather - China is the leading nation in changing the weather, as they intend to "modify" the weather during the Olympics - why not do it on the Coast also.

What's up with China denying port at Hong Kong during Thanksgiving to the Carrier Kitty Hawk and two vessels in need of assistance.