The prospects for Taiwan to defend itself unilaterally against an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are more robust than has been previously assumed, as recent articles have highlighted.1 A Chinese amphibious force crossing the Taiwan straits would face withering fire from Taiwan’s excellent Hsiung Feng ship- and shore-launched antiship cruise missiles. The amphibious force that survived would have to contend with Taiwanese mines and coastal defense vessels.2 Moreover, once it reached Taiwan, what remains of the 25,000-strong force the PLA Navy (PLAN) could carry in a single trip would have to contend with the roughly 150,000 troops the Taiwanese could concentrate on the few landing sites on the west of the island. Of course, China’s fleet of amphibious landing vessels will grow, but so will the antiaccess/area-denial (A2AD) system confronting it—and defending large vulnerable platforms will always be harder than attacking them. Economic blockade will not work either.
1. Michael Beckley, “The Emerging Military Balance in East Asia How China’s Neighbours Can Check Chinese Naval Expansion,” International Security 42(2):78–119.
2. Drew Thompson, “Hope on the Horizon: Taiwan’s Radical New Defence Concept,” War on the Rocks, 2 October 2018.
3. Beckley, 95.
4. Shawn Snow, “The Corps’ HiMARS Are Going Airborne as Marines Bring Them to Targets via KC-130s,” Marine Times, 28 December 2018.
5. Bryan Clark and Jesse Sloman, Advancing Beyond the Beach: Amphibious Operations in an Era of Precision Weapons, CSBA.
6. T. X. Hammes, Technological Change and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In George P. Schulz, Jim Hoagland, and James Timbie (eds.), Beyond Disruption: Technology's Challenge to Governance (Stanford, CA: Hoover Press, 2018).