Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Chinese Invasion Critique

As promised in my last post, here are my thoughts on Michael Turton's China invasion scenario.

  • A lot of this argument has already been covered in in our back and forth on China's ability to invade Taiwan last July and thus will not be addressed again.

  • The latest RUMINT states that American war plans call for two or three American aircraft carriers within striking distance of the Taiwan Strait within 72 hours. When the first act of terrorism/sabotage is conducted, forces will be alerted. China would need to have overwhelming force in place before the US can respond and even with a large number of commandos/spies planted in Taiwan in advance, I seriously doubt their ability to accomplish that. Once America gets into place, America's F/A-18 Hornets would put a serious hamper on China's ability to conduct troop insertion and resupply by air and could begin to attrit China's surface ships. [whether or not America will intervene is addressed below]

  • The plan to cover-up invasion preparations under the guise of an exercise is not particularly new. I'm guessing that the Taiwanese have thought of that and that whenever the Chinese are conducting exercises anywhere near the Strait Central Line and Taiwanese waters, a large number of Taiwanese fighters are on alert.

  • Chinese planes are attacking power facilities and the like in Turton's scenario. This is no longer a decapitation-style strike, but rather a full-fledged war, I guess. The Minnick piecehad planned to take the island intact, I guess that is one place where Turton's scenario differs. I don't doubt China's ability to blow up a lot of stuff, but I don't think it would be an efficient use of resources for an aggressor with a limited window of attack. On the topic of dams, I'm not sure that China would want to legitimize dams as a target considering they also have large dams that could be hit. This isn't to say they wouldn't do it; just that I wouldn't call it wise.

  • I'm sorry to see that Turton has such little faith in the ROC military. The willingness of those soldiers to fight, however, is something that can't be proven either way until the event occurs and hopefully we will never know. I am confident in most of the men and women of the ROC armed forces that I know and of their willingness to fight.
    Additionally, loyalty and political ideology all tend to fade away in the face of someone shooting at you and bombing your house. In a all-out attack like the one described, I think the military will fight back out of self-preservation if for no other reason. I would say that the military remaining inactive is more plausible in a decapitation strike like Minnick describes but still not likely.

  • When dealing with airborne insertions, the shortage will not be soldiers. As Turton notes, any ground pounder can be taught quickly to jump from an airplane (or just pushed out of one). China's shortage, however, will be airplanes. According to David Shambaugh's Modernizing China's Military, China's military is so short on airlift capability that even its rapid reaction forces deploy domestically by train or road (158). I don't have any numbers on China's airlift capability but I'm pretty sure it is a small number and I seriously doubt the ability of the PLA to airdrop in any heavy weaponry (tanks and artillery), meaning they would be throwing a few lightly armored airborne troops against a modern heavy army.

  • The targets hit and the order of their attack seems reasonable to me, but that doesn't say much as I haven't spent much time thinking of how to conquer the island.

  • We've been through the sealift argument before with Hainan and Kuningtou (Kinmen) as our case studies. I would just add that coming ashore at Taiwan's ports would certainly be easier, but one must take the ports first and that wouldn't be as easy as he seems to think, in my estimation. I guess the ROC military units defection and treachery he predicts is why that could be accomplished so easily because the military knows what would happen if they gave up a few ports.
    All of Phase 2 may be a waste of time, however, as it seems that the ROCA, ROCN, and ROCAF have already thrown in the towel in this scenario.

  • Turton writes:
    Taiwanese units have begun to slowly recover from their disorganization and inherent incompetence.
    It is a good thing that the PLA forces don't have either of those because that would seriously undermine their ability to conduct these fantastic maneuvers.

  • Minnick writes:
    Taiwan's military is rife with lethargic and ineffectual troops just begging for their 20-month tour of duty to end so they can go back to their girlfriends and jobs.
    Once again it must be noted that this also applies to China. Conscripts make up roughly 65% of the Chinese military (MCM, 153). Do they not have girlfriends that they want to be with?

  • Turton's comments on Cadet Hung Wanting, who is performing quite well at the finest military academy in the world are misleading. She had one year of training at the ROC Military Academybefore attending West Point. Just because something is not trained in land navigation or spends insufficient time on life-fire marksmanship as a freshmen, does not mean it is not taught and/or emphasized at all in the country's military.

  • Turton notes:
    Xinhua, despite being openly and obviously controlled by the Communist government of China, has quietly become an important source of news for Western newspapers, who, incredibly, cite it as if it were a news supplier and not a propaganda organ.
    This is true and regrettable.

  • Finally, Turton rightly questions whether or not America would intervene at all. He cites an overstretched US military and China's holdings of American dollars. I seriously doubt that either factor will affect America's response. If America does not respond, it won't be because China has T-bills. With Bush in the White House, I'd say it is a safe bet that America would do "whatever it took to help Taiwan defend itself." Under President Clinton or whoever is elected in 2008, I'm not so confident that America would do the right thing, but under Bush I think America's response is clear.

  • In summation, I disagree with most of Turton's conclusions. It would be much harder for China to invade than depicted. It seems that every advantage has been given to the Chinese forces and the Taiwanese have been underestimated at every turn. I don't know that we should fear 2008 any more or less than any other year, but I think it is a pretty safe bet that we won't see the events described on Turton's blog that year.