Beijing’s erratic behaviour could lead to an accidental war with the U.S.

Unlike other flashpoints, Chinese authorities will show no flexibility and could invade if Taiwan declares independence.

The People’s Liberation Army has spent years training to retake the island, and are prepared for US intervention

Taiwan looms large as one of the most obvious flashpoints for an armed conflict between China and the United States. Beijing has made clear it regards the island as an integral part of China and any attempt to change its status is a red line.

Chinese spy ship spotted off the coast of Queensland, Australia during a multinational Talisman Sabre exercise with Royal Australian Navy.

Unlike other areas of territorial contention, such as in the South China Sea, analysts say Beijing will show no flexibility on this issue and has not ruled out a force to reunify Taiwan with the mainland.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has been preparing for its “reunification mission” ever since Chiang Kai-shek’s defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of the civil war in 1949. The military is well aware that an invasion could prompt US intervention.Advertisement

“The PLA is very clear that once a war with Taiwan breaks out, their opponent will not just be the Taiwanese military, but the US-Japan alliance and other allies in the region,” said Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang, a Beijing-based military science and technology institute.

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The PLA was confident that a combined force of its aircraft-carrier groups, air force and land-based missiles was a “strong shield” to prevent the US and other fleets from entering the Taiwan Strait, Zhou said.

Still, a full-scale seaborne invasion of Taiwan would be a huge risk and some observers believe Beijing will try to impose a short, limited campaign to force the Taipei authorities to negotiate, while using its initial advantage in air power to keep US forces at bay. 

“The PLA will definitely use force to take Taiwan back if the US provokes Beijing, because foreign force intervention is one of the three taboos listed by the Anti-Secession Law” in China, said Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping.

But Beijing would not fire the first shot, unless the leadership believed it was “losing hope of peaceful reunification”, he added.

Beijing regards Taiwan as an inalienable part of its territory that must eventually be reunified with the mainland. The law cited by Song provides the legal basis for military action if Taiwan is deemed to have seceded.

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