HomeWorldWar Game Shows Taiwan Halting China's Invasion But At 'Huge' Cost

War Game Shows Taiwan Halting China’s Invasion But At ‘Huge’ Cost

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  • US military support is critical for Taiwan to defend itself from a Chinese invasion, but victory may be “pyrrhic,” a think tank says.
War Game Shows Taiwan Halting China's Invasion But At 'Huge' Cost
War Game Shows Taiwan Halting China’s Invasion But At ‘Huge’ Cost (Image: Anonymous/AP)

Taiwan is likely to defeat a Chinese invasion if the United States comes to the island’s defense, a prominent think tank says, but warns such a victory would come at an “enormous” cost, including the loss of tens of thousands of lives and damage to Washington’s global standing.

“War with China would produce destruction on a scale not seen by the United States since 1945,” said Mark Cancian, senior adviser to Washington, D.C.-based CSIS.

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“Deterrence is possible and affordable, but it will require planning, some resources, and political will,” said Cancian, the report’s author.

CSIS said it based its assessments on war games of a Chinese amphibious invasion of Taiwan in 2026. Military experts executed the scenarios of the war game 24 times.

They found that the invasion always began with a Chinese bombing raid that destroyed Taiwan’s navy and air force in the early hours of hostilities. The Chinese navy surrounded the island as tens of thousands of soldiers crossed the Taiwan Strait in a mix of military amphibious vessels and airborne troops landing behind beachheads.

“If Taiwan surrenders before U.S. forces can be carried out, the rest is useless,” according to the report.

Three other factors were also necessary for Taiwan to repel a Chinese invasion, he said.

The United States should come to Taiwan’s aid within days of the start of hostilities and with the full range of its capabilities, CSIS said.

“Delays and half-measures make defense difficult, increase U.S. casualties, and increase the risk that the Chinese will create irreducible accommodation in Taiwan,” the report said.

The United States should also use its bases in Japan, according to the think tank.

“Without the use of American bases in Japan, American fighter jets cannot effectively participate in the war,” he said.

And finally, the United States must possess enough air-launched and long-range anti-ship missiles to be able to attack the Chinese fleet quickly and en masse, he added.

‘Sobering in all iterations’

The cost of such a conflict, however, was “high and sobering in all iterations,” the report warned, predicting “tremendous” losses, not only for Taiwan and the United States but also for Japan and China.

“In four weeks of fighting, the United States typically lost hundreds of aircraft, two aircraft carriers and up to two dozen other ships,” Cancian said. “The bases on Guam were devastated. The Taiwanese economy suffered major damage. Japan was often dragged into war.”

“China also suffered terrible losses, often including more than 100 warships and tens of thousands of dead, wounded, or captured soldiers,” he said. “Such a failure could jeopardize the Chinese Communist Party’s grip on power.”

The losses wouldn’t just come on the battlefield, CSIS warned.

“The United States could win a Pyrrhic victory, suffering more in the long run than the ‘defeated’ Chinese” because of the damage to Washington’s global standing, according to the report.

To avoid war altogether, the United States and its allies must strengthen military deterrence, he added.

Washington should strengthen its military bases and work with allies, particularly Japan, for additional base options. It should also buy more long-range missiles, particularly anti-ship missiles because some inventories are critically low, CSIS said.

Taiwan, meanwhile, could adopt the “porcupine strategy,” in which a smaller army adopts forms of fighting that inflict much pain on a larger adversary. Such an approach would involve Taiwan deploying more mobile anti-ship missiles, the think tank said.

Taipei’s government should also focus on strengthening Taiwan’s ground forces rather than buying expensive ships and aircraft that are vulnerable to attack, according to the report.

“Because some Chinese forces will always land on the island, Taiwanese ground forces must be able to contain any beachhead and then counterattack forcefully as Chinese logistics weakens,” the report said.




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