The relationship between China and Taiwan is more stable in 2009 than it has been in years, but China has nonetheless not renounced its “right” to use force to forestall Taiwan’s “independence”.
At the same time, the cross-strait military balance is shifting in ways that are problematic for Taiwan’s defense: the growing size and quality of China’s missile arsenal, along with other advances in Chinese military capabilities, call into question the United States’ and Taiwan’s ability to defend the island against a large-scale Chinese attack.
In this volume, the authors employ a mix of theater-level combat modeling, simpler mathematical models, historical analysis, interviews with experts, and qualitative judgment to evaluate both the China-Taiwan political dynamic and the cross-strait military balance. They conclude with a discussion of how Taiwan might be successfully defended against a Chinese invasion attempt.
What can be said about the cross-strait military balance? In the near-to-mid-term the authors conclude the following:
- China’s ability to suppress Taiwan and local U.S. air bases with ballistic and cruise missiles seriously threatens the defense’s ability to maintain control of the air over the strait.
- Restructuring Taiwan’s air defenses to “ride out” heavy strikes on its bases and other installations can complicate Chinese planning and reduce the leverage that Beijing can derive from its offensive forces.
- Regaining the initiative in the air may require that the United States and/or Taiwan field a new, expensive, and politically problematic suite of strike capabilities (e.g., hundreds of medium-range ballistic missiles) aimed at China’s own air base infrastructure.
- Making clear to Beijing the consequences of attacking U.S. bases and forces in East Asia in terms of counterstrikes on the Chinese mainland has the potential to enhance deterrence.
- A reasonably robust “four rings” defense against a large-scale Chinese invasion should be possible even with a degree of PLA control of the air, but it will require new capabilities and concepts to be put in place.
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