(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TAIPEI TIMES)
China not yet ready to invade Taiwan
Peter Enav, a former Taiwan correspondent for The Associated Press, on Tuesday last week published an article on the Web site Taiwan Sentinel, entitled: “Taiwan Under the Gun: An Urgent Call to Action,” in which he warned that the three conditions required for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to consider an attack on Taiwan are close to being fulfilled.
Enav believes that as soon as the middle of next year, China’s military will have completed its readiness to the extent where it could decide to launch an invasion of the nation.
The three major conditions, as Enav sees it, are: One, China must feel certain that the “political option for unification” is now impossible; two, China’s military must be ready and able to launch an unimpeded amphibious attack across the Taiwan Strait — and feel confident that it can crush any post-invasion resistance; and three, Beijing must believe the international fallout and economic sanctions following an invasion of Taiwan would not outweigh the gain of unifying the nation with China.
These three conditions tally with the basic criteria for an invasion that have been put forward by Beijing in the past.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has said that China would experience a political and cultural renaissance that could endure for up to 200 years. Implied within this overall goal is a timetable for the unification of Taiwan.
Looking at this timetable, China would not be ready by launch an attack on Taiwan until 2021 at the earliest. In reality, while the PLA’s Rocket Force possesses long-range missile strike capability, China’s military still lacks sufficient transport and lift capability and also still needs to first shore up its core strategic interests in the East and South China seas and further increase the strength of its forces before it can consider invading the nation.
At present, it would be difficult for the PLA to muster sufficient forces to mount a successful invasion. For these reasons, Enav’s warning that the PLA would be ready to attack Taiwan by next year seems somewhat alarmist.
Furthermore, as the recent high-level economic dialogue between the US and China shows, the two countries are still at loggerheads on trade, as they have been for some time.
Economic issues never exist in isolation but are invariably part of a wider political, military and diplomatic picture. If the trade dispute between the US and China is not resolved and the relationship sours, Washington would use the prospect of warships from the US military’s Pacific Fleet forces stopping over in Taiwan to deter Beijing.
US President Donald Trump recently approved a plan by the Pentagon that allows the US Navy to conduct full-year passages through international waters in the South China Sea illegally claimed by China as its own.
The White House clearly intends to use freedom of navigation as a means to respond to Beijing’s sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. It is also clear that containment of China has already become established US policy. The US would not easily allow the PLA to attack Taiwan.
The US is still the only superpower and, while willing to cooperate with Beijing in many areas, Washington is increasingly wary of China and employs military and diplomatic means to contain it. Competition between the two nations is intensifying, which could benefit Taiwan.