Quarantine, remote strikes, invasion: Chinese scenarios against Taiwan

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Taiwan on Saturday accused the Chinese military of simulating an attack on the island during military exercises mobilizing more than a hundred fighter jets and more than a dozen military ships between August 4 and 7. . These maneuvers are presented as preparation for a future blockade of the island, which is one of Beijing’s possible strategies.

Still several hours to go before the end of the Chinese military exercises, scheduled for this Sunday, August 7 at noon. In the meantime, Taiwan’s armed forces remain on high alert as dozens of Chinese fighter jets, ships and missiles are tested near the island that Beijing wants to bring back into the national fold “willingly or not”. strength”.

The visit of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and these military exercises – the largest ever staged by the Chinese military near Taiwan – have revived speculation about what form an attack from mainland China would take. against this island of 400 kilometers by 150, almost twice the size of Corsica.

If this question seems remote for French and European decision-makers, it is crucial for American think tanks who perceive the conflict around Taiwan as decisive for the pre-eminence of the United States in the Western Pacific. Several forward-looking action plans have been established, which revolve around two distinct strategies: the encirclement and then the suffocation of Taiwan to force the reunification desired by Beijing, or the invasion in order of the island.

Blockade, quarantine… the boa constrictor strategy

A map of the six maritime zones of the current Chinese exercises shows the island of Taiwan completely surrounded by enemy forces. American military experts, cited by the Wall Street Journal, claim that this provision reinforces the scenario where Beijing would impose a blockade of Taiwan in order to force negotiations on reunification. A Rand Corporation report published in February 2022 presented this scenario as inspired by the blockade of Cuba in 1962. The research institute rather evokes a “quarantine”: Beijing would let food and essential provisions pass.

“China’s objectives (would consist of) demonstrating by a fait accompli its sovereignty by controlling the air and maritime spaces, as well as the deliveries of cargo ships, ships, planes, and people who have access to Taiwan”, write the authors of the report.

In theory, a blockade is considered an act of war, but Beijing would use the fact that the UN recognizes “only one China” to argue that its actions respect international legality. In fact, such an action would involve an even greater military deployment than that of recent days to enforce this “quarantine”.

“Within 24 hours, a vast Chinese fleet comprising navy, coast guard, and maritime militia vessels deployed around Taiwan to enforce the quarantine, intercepting vessels seeking to approach the island without Beijing’s approval. Chinese fighter jets and its surface-to-air defense systems are preparing to attack any unauthorized intrusion into Taiwan’s airspace,” writes a Reuters investigation. detailing the unfolding of such a scenario.

In addition, the Chinese army could invade small islands under Taiwanese sovereignty, such as the Matsu or Kinmen Islands, which are totally indefensible because they are located only a few kilometers from the Chinese coast, to increase the pressure on Taipei.

American analysts point out that this strategy of suffocation would be part of the continuity of a Chinese policy which they describe as “gray-zone warfare” – a low-intensity conflict, without a declaration of war. Ongoing exercises and repeated intrusions by Chinese fighter jets to test Taiwanese defenses are, they say, an integral part of this strategy. A key advantage of this plan – from the Chinese point of view – is that it shifts the weighty decision to open fire onto the shoulders of the Taiwanese and American authorities.


The main limitation of a strategy of suppression is that it does not guarantee Taiwanese capitulation. On the contrary, a blockade or the attack on isolated islands could galvanize the will to resist the Taiwanese people, their government, as well as their Western allies. A situation that could then precipitate Beijing’s ultimate nightmare: the independence of Taiwan and its integration into a formal alliance treaty with the United States and Japan.

“Shock and awe” in the Pacific… strikes and massive invasion of Taiwan

This is why other American analysts believe that the Chinese attack plan would take the form of a surprise attack on the island, which would notably aim to decapitate the Taiwanese government, in order to limit its capacities to mobilize before a massive landing. . A revisited form of the campaign “Shock and Awe“(“shock and awe”) in Iraq in 2003, which had allowed the American army to seize Baghdad in less than twenty days.

“To achieve its goals, China must be strong and brutal.”go big and brutal“) from the outset. His war plan may well include a surprise aerial missile attack on Taiwan and US military bases in the Pacific, strikes on satellite communications (…) and a wave of sabotage and assassinations in Taiwan, in preparation for a massive airborne and amphibious invasion,” writes so in the Wall Street Journal Professor Hal Brands, specialist in international relations and co-author of “Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China”. The likelihood of such an invasion is growing, he said, as Chinese authorities fear losing Taiwan forever.

The figures of such an operation make you dizzy. Military strategists usually estimate that a ratio of at least three attackers to one defender is needed, which would mean for the Chinese army to mobilize 1.2 million men to face the 450,000 Taiwanese soldiers (including more than half are reservists).

This invasion force should cross the 180 kilometers of sea in the Taiwan Strait under a rain of missiles before landing on an island whose topography – cliffs, mountains, densely populated cities – is favorable to entrenched defenders. The invasion of Taiwan does not “would look nothing like the D-Day landings” on June 6, 1944, said Ian Easton, a director of the Project 2049 institute and author of “The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia”.

To ensure the logistical effort, the Chinese army would then requisition hundreds of ferries and civilian ships, which have been for several years organized to be mobilized as military auxiliariesaccording to Thomas Shugart, a former American submarine officer and researcher at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

“The invasion scenario can appear very risky”, specifies a Council on Foreign Relations report published in February 2021. “But, from a Chinese analyst’s perspective, the lasting reward would be the final resolution of the Taiwan sovereignty issue.”


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