This is what would happen if China invades Taiwan

Tensions across the strait
The cost of war
'A massacre for the Chinese navy'
The Asian giant
Conquest does not equal control
Not unlike D-Day
The road to victory
It's all about location
Years of preparation
In treacherous waters
'Large number of small things'
Chinese air supremacy
Where's America?
A devastating blow to the United States
No guarantees
New player joins in
The empire of the sun
A war with many sides
An example named Ukraine
Attacker Vs. Defender
The human cost
How an invasion would play out
First scenario: blockade
Second scenario: Kinmen invasion
Third scenario: Customs blockade and total war
Washington and Tokio get involved
Uncertain times
Tensions across the strait

Tensions between the People's Republic of China and the island nation of Taiwan have been brewing in the past years. This has made many people wonder if the delicate balance that has allowed the two of them to coexist might have a violent collapse at any time. How would such military conflict play out?

The cost of war

A June 2022 CNN analysis spoke about the "extremely high price" that China would have to pay in case it invaded Taiwan.

'A massacre for the Chinese navy'

Phillips O'Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, told CNN that invading Taiwan would be “a massacre for the Chinese navy”.

The Asian giant

At first glance, China would have no problem defeating Taiwan, regardless of the actions of the United States. After all, Beijing controls one of the largest and most powerful military forces in the world.

Conquest does not equal control

However, effectively controlling the territory is a whole different beast than just invading it. The conflict could drag on for a long time and bring hefty casualties.

Not unlike D-Day

In their analysis for CNN, Ben Lendon and Ivan Watson believed that a Chinese invasion of the island of Taiwan would be 'more dangerous and complex' than than the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy.

The road to victory

Lendon and Watson point out that the Allied operation in Normandy lasted over three months, with US documents revealing casualties of over half a million from both sides, plus countless civilian deaths.

It's all about location

The CNN analysts write that it would not easy for China to find a place to land on the island: “Experts have identified just 14 beaches that would fit the bill, and Taiwan is well aware of which ones those are”.

Years of preparation

“Engineers have spent decades digging tunnels and bunkers to protect them”, add Lendon and Watson.

In treacherous waters

Professor Phillips O'Brien, on the other hand, agrees that even approaching the island would be difficult for the Chinese navy. Taiwan has been stocking up cheap land-based anti-ship missiles. “What's cheap is a surface-to-ship missile, what's expensive is a ship”, commented O'Brien.

'Large number of small things'

A New York Times piece penned by Any Qin and David E. Singer highlight that Taiwan possesses a defense system based on a “large number of small things”. These include mobile cruise missiles for coastal defense, naval mines, and small fast-attack craft and mobile artillery.

Chinese air supremacy

One can't deny the overwhelming power of the Chinese air force when it comes to a hypothetical assault on Taiwan. However, there's a big difference between bombing a territory and actually taking control of it.

Where's America?

For the United States, it would be very difficult to do nothing in the face of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

A devastating blow to the United States

A 2021 Reuters investigation citing military experts agrees that “For the American alliance, a Chinese takeover of Taiwan would be a devastating blow. At a stroke, the United States would lose its status as the pre-eminent power in Asia”.

No guarantees

“If America did opt to defend the island, though, there is no guarantee it would defeat an increasingly powerful Chinese army, according to current and former senior US commanders”, argues the Reuters investigation.

New player joins in

However, the United States would not be the only third party to join in a conflict between Beijing and Taipei.

The empire of the sun

“For Japan, blocking China from gaining a foothold in its trade routes is vital. From Taiwan, the Chinese military could threaten Japan’s southern islands and dominate the sea lanes that carry its imports and exports”, argues the Reuters analysis.

A war with many sides

The war in Taiwan could become in a multi-layered conflict with far-reaching implications involving many countries and elements around the globe. In other words, it wouldn't be an easy battle.

An example named Ukraine

The Ukrainian invasion is proof that is not fast or simple to take over a country filled with people willing to defend themselves. Even against a superpower, such as Russia.

Attacker Vs. Defender

There's also a basic law of any war: Defense requires fewer resources than attack and conquer, which could also be seen in Ukraine.

The human cost

In any case, resisting an external aggressor, regardless if it's Ukraine or Taiwan, would have a very high human cost. Everyone involved knows this.

How an invasion would play out

The Reuters piece 'T-Day: The Battle for Taiwan' speculates how a Chinese invasion of the island would play out.

First scenario: blockade

First scenario: China blockades Taiwan and simply waits for the government in Taipei to surrender. In this hypothesis, Chinese troops would operate on the Taiwan-controlled Matsu islands, which have been the focus of practice maneuvers this past August.

Second scenario: Kinmen invasion

Second scenario: Chinese troops seize the island of Kinmen, just six kilometers off mainland China.

Third scenario: Customs blockade and total war

The third and final scenario that Reuters speculates is that, from the blockade to the Matsu islands, Beijing would launch a snap blockade, cutting off Taiwan's supplies and preparing for air raids and landing in territory controlled by Taipei.

Washington and Tokio get involved

In this final scenario, the United States and Japan would also get involved in the conflict.

Uncertain times

The truth is that these scenarios are really educated guesses and, if the conflicts in the past years are proof of anything, is that we cannot predict how such conflict (if it ever happens) would play out. We only know that the cost of human lives would be high.

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