МОСКВА, 11 февраля 2022, Институт РУССТРАТ.

As a result of the official reorientation of the United States towards confrontation with China, the Taiwan factor has gained special attention in international politics and conflictology. The island, whose government insists on independence, is partially recognised by 15 states and is separated from mainland China by a strait from 130 to 220 km wide, being about the same distance from Hong Kong and Shanghai.

In any major conflict, this «unsinkable aircraft carrier» becomes a weighty argument that can become both a springboard for action against Beijing, and vice versa — to strengthen the protection of China’s densely populated coast on the Pacific Ocean side.

In recent months, the information background around Taiwan has become seriously heated: Western media close to the establishment are actively peddling theses about China’s supposedly imminent and inevitable invasion of the island territory. One of the arguments used is the increased activity of the Chinese Air Force and Navy, which have increased the number and quality of patrols near the island. October was particularly intense in this regard, when on certain days up to 39 Chinese aircraft were near Taiwan.

However, the information picture, intensively introduced into the agenda, very superficially describes the essence of what is happening. From a military point of view, China is certainly capable of defeating Taiwan’s army – only in neighbouring Shanghai already the third large amphibious assault ship has been launched in two years — but the need for such actions is rather doubtful.

In any case, without external triggers that can put Beijing in a hopeless position. In addition, in cases where Western institutions conduct independent research, their results seriously undermine the thesis about the widespread expectation of war by Taiwan itself.

Informational background

The analysis of Western publications specialising in alarmist forecasts of the Chinese invasion of Taiwan shows a serious predominance of emotional and propaganda tools over attempts to objectively assess the situation. As a rule, publications are based on the axiom thesis that China has already made the final decision to conquer Taiwan by military means, and in the near future.

The Washington Post and other establishment-related media regularly publish jingoistic texts on the future war with China under the pretext of defending Taiwan.

«China is testing the West. We shouldn’t back down,» writes Josh Rogin. Stressing that «inaction in the face of aggression is the most dangerous path of all possible ones”, calling for strengthening the US’ alliances in the Pacific region and being ready to enter into conflict with China after the latter’s invasion of Taiwan.

The author does not provide any evidence that China is really planning to invade somewhere. On the contrary, in fact, he calls for concentrating a real US strike force in the immediate vicinity of China under the pretext of a virtual threat. Nevertheless, such rhetoric becomes the basis for an anti-Chinese information escalation, as well as an occasion for expert discussion and the formation of a public consensus on the need to initiate various measures of influence against China.

One of the numerous examples is the publication of the Financial Times with coverage of the position of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. During a video conference with Taiwan, the former Japanese leader warned that «China’s invasion would be tantamount to economic suicide, since China is closely linked to the global economy, which will respond to an attack against the island”. Abe also said that Japan and the United States «will not be able to stand aside» in the event of a Chinese attack.

Abe resigned as prime minister in 2020, but he remains an influential behind-the-scenes figure in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, especially in matters of diplomacy and national security, the Financial Times emphasises. Recalling that it was Abe who in 2019 stepped up military planning for a potential conflict around Taiwan or the disputed Senkaku Islands. This became the basis for future US and Japanese military exercises to prepare for a clash with China over Taiwan.

It is worth noting that by doing so, Abe, still being prime minister, de facto questioned the key «pacifist» article No. 9 of the Constitution of Japan. According to which «the Japanese people forever renounce war as the sovereign right of the nation, as well as the threat or use of armed force as a means of resolving international disputes.»

In addition to the former Japanese Prime Minister, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, American President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and numerous officials at other political levels spoke about the «most serious consequences» in the event of mainland China’s invasion of Taiwan.

The idea that Taiwan is on the verge of a military conflict with the People’s Republic of China is widespread in US military circles. In March, a very competent specialist, Admiral Phil Davidson, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “China is likely to attack Taiwan within six years”.

The rhetoric of Beijing’s opponents about China’s «inevitable» attack on Taiwan is accompanied by actions that look frankly provocative. Specialising in relations in the Asia-Pacific region, the Diplomat describes the visit of US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to Taiwan in August as a sign of “stepping up its diplomatic and military support to Taiwan”. 

This was due to the fact that the United States agreed to expand the package of military supplies to Taiwan to $5 billion, which includes radars, missiles and artillery. «China has threatened unspecified retaliation against the United States for such arms shipments, but it is unlikely that the United States will stop them”, the newspaper notes. 

According to the Kyodo news agency, citing sources in the Japanese government, Washington and Tokyo have developed a joint military plan «in case of an emergency in Taiwan». According to the plan, the US Marine Corps will create temporary bases on the Nansei Island chain stretching from Kyushu — one of the four main islands of Japan — to Taiwan and deploy troops there. The official declaration may be announced at a meeting of the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries in the «2+2» format at the beginning of next year, the news agency reported.

«Most analysts I know believe that Taiwan could be invaded next year, albeit at great cost to China and with a real risk of a protracted war of the great powers, which could escalate into a nuclear level,» the Bloomberg expert Ian Easton, author of «The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia”.

It is worth noting that the defence of Taiwan from the point of view of the interests of the inhabitants of the island themselves very often looks very peculiar.

War up to the last Taiwanese

American allies have repeatedly made statements «in support» of Taiwan, which cannot but cause surprise. Thus, Taiwan News publishes the opinion of two American scientists who recommended destroying the Taiwanese semiconductor industry and blowing up microelectronics factories in order to make the island «unattractive» for China.

US Air Force University expert Jared McKinney and University of Colorado political scientist Peter Harris presented the plan in an article titled «Broken Nest: Deterring China from Invading Taiwan» published in the quarterly journal of the US Army War College named «Parameters».

According to the authors, the «Broken Nest» strategy will provoke a serious economic crisis in China and will not allow Beijing to strengthen at expense of the Taiwan’s high-tech sector absorption.

McKinney and Harris acknowledged that the main problem would be to make the threat seem plausible to China. The authors also advocated the involvement of other US allies in the region in a potential conflict, and the issuance of permits to Japan, South Korea and Australia to develop and deploy nuclear weapons on their territory.

It is difficult to imagine a simpler and more logical proof of the validity of China’s fears that Taiwan can be used by external forces as a springboard to control Beijing’s behaviour – including nuclear means. Such «nuclear» statements have caused serious concern in China, whose official media outlets have issued a range of opinions of authoritative experts, which boil down to one thing: China will not allow nuclear weapons in Taiwan under any circumstances.

In Taiwan’s pro-government media, it can be noted that even Beijing’s statements specially selected to illustrate «Chinese aggression» have one important detail — China’s rhetoric is directed mainly against the United States and Japan, but not against Taiwan. In fact, the Taiwanese media confirms that China is ready for a forceful solution to the «Taiwan issue» only as a response to the threatening Beijing increased military presence of the United States and satellite countries on the territory of the island.

Western structures that study public sentiment in various countries give very interesting results that are seriously at odds with the agenda of the official media. Thus, the Brookings Institute review of October 13, 2021 states that «many US officials tend to think that Taiwan residents are too nonchalant about this looming threat”.

This, the researchers note, has two possible explanations. Firstly, «after 70 years, the military threat is so routine that most Taiwanese people no longer notice or react to it”. And secondly, «Taiwanese people believe an attack would be irrational, and is thus unlikely”.

In May 2021, Brookings conducted a survey, the main task of which was to find out — how consistent are the views of Taiwanese residents with the generally accepted opinion of American officials? 57.6% of respondents stated that they are concerned that war is quite likely — this is how both respondents/supporters of the Kuomintang, which gravitates towards reuniting with mainland China, and supporters of the «separatist» DPP party respond.

Although the overwhelming majority — 79% — of respondents admitted that the frequency of Chinese military actions near Taiwan has increased over the past six months, this has not found a proportional expression in the level of concern. When asked if they were more worried than they were six months ago, only 30% of respondents said yes. When asked if they think China is more likely to attack Taiwan than 5 years ago, 46% of respondents said yes, while 45% said the probability has not changed.

These results show, Brookings states, that Taiwanese residents are aware, but not necessarily concerned about the prospect of “an imminent military conflict with China”. They are also much more aware of the increased activity of the PLA than many American politicians. However, not all Taiwanese perceive these threats as terrible ones, and most believe that there is no reason to panic.

Despite all the militaristic statements from their own government, representatives of Japan, Australia and the United States, the level of sympathy of civil society for the military structures of Taiwan turned out to be at least ambiguous.

«Despite President Tsai’s efforts» the review says, the Taiwanese do not see an improvement in the island’s defence capability. When asked how they feel about their government’s ability to «defend Taiwan in light of Beijing’s increased intimidation”, respondents are pessimistic.

25.8% believe that Taiwan’s defence capability is improving, while 35% believe that Taiwan is less able to defend itself than before, and 40% say that there is no change in Taiwan’s defence capability.

«Clearly, further efforts are needed to persuade Taiwan residents that their military is fully capable of protecting them,» Brookings states.

The main conclusion that researchers come to is that few Taiwanese believe that a conflict is inevitable – although most admit that it is possible.

«Taiwan residents may not react as strongly as Americans to Beijing’s escalating intimidation, but that is not because they are unaware of it. While Taiwanese people may not be panicking, they are far more aware of their geopolitical surroundings than American observers appreciate,» concludes the Brookings review.

Or, in other words, American observers are much more concerned about the «inevitability» of China’s war with Taiwan than Taiwan itself. It is noteworthy that the percentage of Americans who want a war with China over Taiwan usually exceeds the number of militant Taiwanese themselves.

Interesting semantic nuances are being found almost everywhere where official mouthpieces of American propaganda, such as Voice of America (this organisation is included in the register of foreign media agents), communicate directly with residents of Taiwan.

In the article «What Will Taiwan Do If China Invades?» from December 21, 2021, the publication finds that the people of Taiwan do not really believe in this invasion, and if it does, they are not particularly inclined to fight against it. Most of all, in the case of a conflict, respondents are interested in having a sufficient number of air tickets to leave the island, and the peak of the «horrors of occupation» is the establishment of such a regime of subordination to Beijing, «as in Hong Kong”. This, in particular, is the subject of a separate article written by the New York Times.

In cases where Voice of America polls «public activists» funded, among others, from the United States, the answers fully correspond to the general Western rhetoric. Thus, Ken Wu, vice-president of the human rights group Formosan Association, said that «the Taiwanese would fight back to the limits of their strength”, and those who cannot break through the blockade of Chinese ships might “flee to the mountain ranges” to survive.

Communicating with other social strata not associated with pro-American centres of human rights protection, VoA journalists found that the Taiwanese are not afraid to send children to military schools for «greater discipline» and educational effect — without fear for their future at all.

Although only 1.5% of respondents want to reunite with mainland China «as soon as possible», according to a survey carried out by the Election Study Center of the National Chengchi University, Taiwan residents are not eager to fight for independence. More than half of Taiwan’s residents want to maintain the status quo indefinitely or resolve the issue of unification with mainland China “later».

Why does China need a war

As mentioned above, the island’s semiconductor industry, which plays a key role in global electronics production, is indicated as an economic incentive for a potential takeover of Taiwan. TSMC, whose factories were proposed to be preemptively blown up by American experts, is a world leader in the production of trace elements for household and specialised computer equipment.

TSMC accounts for over 50% of the production of the global semiconductor chip market, and in the foreseeable future this situation will continue – the closest competitor, GlobalFoundries, has no more than 10% of the market. Equipment from Chinese Huawei, American Apple and a number of Russian solutions for the production of processors are powered by TSMC products.

The production of processors is not a technology inaccessible to other countries, it comes down only to financial costs — the production of such products really requires investment in the amount of billions of dollars — and the time factor. China has such resources, and it actively uses them to ensure technological sovereignty.

According to a document published by the South China Morning Post with reference to the National Bureau of Statistics, the production of semiconductor products in China increased by 37.6% last year. In the first five months of 2021, Chinese companies produced a total of 139.9 billion chips. This figure is called «outstanding».

If to compare this with the volume of chip production for the same period of 2020, from January to May, the growth was 48.3%. China is able to provide ultra-comfortable working conditions for specialists attracted from Taiwan, necessary for building China’s semiconductor industry, which makes a war with the island optional and more costly with less efficiency.

Turning to other sociological studies, one can find out that a smaller part of respondents supports political unification with mainland China, but the vast majority welcomes the deepening and expansion of economic ties, one way or another.

From a military point of view, Taiwan is certainly of great interest — but China’s painful reaction and willingness to use forceful methods to ensure its security is caused by an attempt to use the island’s territory by forces hostile to China. Without this key factor, China has no sufficiently compelling reasons for a PLA expedition there, which would require significant resources and sacrifices.

The option in which today’s Western allies of Taiwan will «wash their hands» at a critical moment is quite likely. It is enough to recall the flight of NATO from Afghanistan. However, to capture Taiwan, China would have to plan an amphibious operation significantly exceeding the scale of the Normandy landings during World War II.

The PLA would have to gain air superiority and control the sea at a considerable distance from the combat zone in order to ensure the delivery of landings from sea and air to the enemy-occupied territory. In the most general terms, mainland China will need to provide a five-fold superiority in forces at the landing sites, a three-fold superiority in the main direction of the strike, and at least a 1.5-2-fold advantage in general during the amphibious operation.

In numerical terms, we are talking about the landing of at least 10-15 brigades and divisions — just to capture the bridgehead. In the future, the transfer of hundreds of thousands of fighters with equipment and weapons will be required, which will require a huge strain for the PLA.

Such operations usually become the most extreme measure and are not carried out in cases where there is at least the slightest alternative. Beijing can be forced to go on an expedition of such scale only in case of real attempts by external forces to use Taiwan militarily against mainland China. A massive missile strike on objects of infrastructure threatening China on the territory of Taiwan looks much more likely and economical — but even in this case, the fact of the presence of such infrastructure is necessary.

If the United States refuses to militarise Taiwan, the very need for any military preparations disappears. As the experience of Hong Kong and Macau suggests, China prefers to pursue economic integration — even if it takes longer.


1. Beijing has no objective reasons for military expansion against Taiwan, the economic benefits necessary at the current stage are also being extracted under the existing status quo.

2. The information campaign in the Western media about the imminent and inevitable war between China and Taiwan does not express the real sentiments of the people of Taiwan.

3. Public opinion in Taiwan cautiously assesses political unification with Beijing, but sees no obstacles to maximum economic cooperation with the mainland.

4. The objective reason for China’s concern and possible forceful reactions on the part of Beijing are the actions of the United States and countries close to the AUKUS bloc, which have a clear anti-Chinese orientation.

Институт международных политических и экономических стратегий Русстрат


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