Taiwan: When and how will China go on the offensive?

For several years, tensions between Washington and Beijing around the Taiwan question have continued to grow, to now become a subject constantly flirting with the casus belli, between the incursions of the navy and the American and allied air forces in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, the interceptions and the naval and air incursions of the People's Liberation Army around the island, and the successive and reciprocal responses as soon as Washington sends a new load of armaments, parliamentarians or members of the government in Taipei. The warlike dynamics are such that now the armed forces of both countries are engaged in an arms race to outplay the adversary in what increasingly seems like an inevitable confrontation. However, no one currently envisages that an outbreak of hostilities could occur in the months or years to come, the Pentagon estimating for its part that the period of danger will begin in 2027. In view of the industrial programs in progress in Beijing, Taipei and Washington, geopolitical developments and the ambitions of the leaders of the major world powers, what would be the most likely date for a Chinese offensive to regain possession of Taiwan, and what would be the strategy chosen by Beijing to achieve this ?

Towards a blockade rather than a massive aero-amphibious assault

Often, when the scenario of a Chinese offensive on Taiwan is studied, it is based on a vast aero-amphibious assault against the island, preceded by an intense bombardment using ballistic and cruise missiles, even drones, to overcome the defensive infrastructure of the island. However, such a hypothesis would be, whatever the level of preparation and the means deployed by Beijing, an extremely risky strategy for the People's Liberation Army. Indeed, the rare major aero-amphibious operations having been carried out successfully in history have been either against weakly defended coasts (Operation Torch in 1942, Operation Musketeer in 1956), or when the assailant disposed in such a way undeniable air and naval superiority, and significant means to weaken the adversary's defenses and logistical lines (Operations Overlord and Dragoon in 1944, Landings of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945, Operation Chromite (Incheon landing) in 1950, San Carlos in 1982).

The landing of French and British forces in Egypt in 1956 was one of the turning points of the Cold War. Despite the military success of European forces, they had to withdraw in the face of the Soviet threat to use nuclear weapons, and Washington's condemnation of this operation.

However, as the setbacks of the Russian navy and air force in Ukraine have perfectly shown, it is very risky to want to deprive an adversary of its air, anti-aircraft and anti-ship defensive capabilities, even by making intensive use pre-emptive cruise and ballistic missile strikes. In fact, the mobilization of a large naval and air fleet to carry out an assault on Taiwan could only take place after the air forces, anti-aircraft defences, coastal defenses and Taiwanese navy have been completely neutralized, that is to say after a first combat phase of a relatively long duration, with the risk that such an air, ballistic and cyber war will provoke the intervention of the United States and its allies, but also, as this is the case in Ukraine, the radicalization of the Taiwanese civilian population, making the eventual administration of the island more difficult once the Taiwanese forces have been defeated.

Another alternative exists, however, for Beijing, that of relying not on an aero-amphibious assault, but on an impermeable naval and air blockade of the island, so as to weaken the determination of the Taiwanese themselves over time. themselves, while limiting direct confrontations between the PLA and the Taiwanese forces, at the very least by preventing them from affecting civilian populations and infrastructure too much. Like the naval and air blockade implemented by J. F Kennedy in 1962 around Cuba following the delivery of Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles on the island, the objective of such a blockade would be to keep distances American and Western military and technological support to the island, while putting the US Navy and the US Air Force in a complex situation to manage in terms of international relations. In the long term, the blockade would also undermine the entire economy of the island, but also the entire planet which is very dependent on semiconductors produced in the country. In fact, and even if clashes will be inevitable between Taiwanese and Chinese forces in such a scenario, the confrontation will remain below a threshold likely not to mobilize public opinion and Western political leaders, unlike the situation today in which the Russia faces after the numerous strikes and abuses against Ukrainian civilians by Russian armies.

Even though the Chinese navy will soon have a dozen large Type 072 and Type 075 amphibious ships, an amphibious assault on Taiwan would be a very risky military operation without the assurance of absolute air and naval superiority for the forces. Chinese.

Provided that the blockade is sufficiently justified on the public and international scene, and that the means to ensure its effectiveness are effectively implemented over a sufficient period of several months, it is very likely that it would then be a question of the best strategy for Beijing to regain control of the 23rd province, while keeping under control the civil resistance of the Taiwanese themselves, and presenting on the international scene a narrative likely to demobilize many potential allies of the island.

What means to hold a blockade against the US Navy?


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