The media has continuously reported on the visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Asia. This event has attracted special attention from the international community, especially when she arrived in Taiwan on August 2.
Everyone is anxiously waiting to see what Beijing’s reaction will be. In the past China always used wolf warrior diplomacy, an aggressive and coercive style that showed people that China was ready to open fire (for the war) and tensions then would escalate. So will China take advantage of Pelosi’s visit and use it as an excuse to attack Taiwan?
It seems that the heat of the battlefield in Ukraine has been redirected at Taiwan. Currently, analysts are divided by two streams of opinion. The visit of the third most powerful person in the U.S. government to Taiwan despite the CCP’s threats represents an alliance between the U.S. and Taiwan.
The second stream is completely opposite. They think that Pelosi’s visit was meant to pressure Taiwan to win the war on chip production with China.
Observers also believe that Xi Jinping is trying to score points ahead of the coming elections. Moreover, the U.S. is now supporting Ukraine in the conflict with Russia. Therefore, it will be very difficult for both the U.S. and the EU if they want to help Taiwan. This is a golden opportunity if Xi wants to conquer this small island nation.
However, whether China can take Taiwan with a just military strike, experts say it would be a brutal battle and there will be no quick win for China.
Taiwan – China’s options
On August 1, Fox reporter Eric Michael Smith said that for Chinese military planners, Taiwan is not an island that is easy to invade. Taiwan is about 100 miles from China. This island is surrounded by a huge protective natural “moat”, and it also has rugged mountainous terrain that makes it very difficult to invade even though the enemy may be strong.
Observers have pointed out that in 1944—during World War II—the U.S. military stopped its invasion of Taiwan—the Japanese colony then, because it was too costly. U.S. military planners have concluded that the occupation of Taiwan would require a strike force of half a million men. The Pentagon has also predicted U.S. casualties can be as high as 150,000 troops if they attempted to invade.
In addition, Taiwan has been preparing for war against invaders since the 1950s and it has a solid bureaucracy, the military is specially trained to repel the Chinese army, a large force of modern and powerful weapons, which can be present in all potential landing areas. Due to Taiwan’s mountainous terrain, if the Chinese wanted to land, they would have to face fire from Taiwan’s defensive positions.
Observers say that it would be very difficult for China to bring Taiwan to its knees by bombarding Taiwan indiscriminately because:
First, Beijing is said to be keen to maintain Taiwan’s infrastructure, especially in regard to the semiconductor industry. It should be noted that Taiwan is the largest semiconductor producer on the planet. Market intelligence firm TrendForce reportsed, “Taiwan dominates the world’s semiconductor manufacturing industry – controlling 48% of the foundry market and 61% of the world’s 16nm (nanometer) fabrication capacity.”
Second, attacking would mean killing civilians. This kind of leveling attack would easily turn generations of Taiwanese into the arch enemy of China. In addition, Taiwan has missiles that, according to Taipei, can reach Beijing or the Three Gorges Dam.
Kitsch Liao, a consultant on cyber and military affairs at Doublethink Lab in Taipei, who has also researched the CCP’s invasion of Taiwan, told Fox News that in addition to the complex terrain and defenses of the Taiwan Strait, people often ignore the logistical support factor. “Typically, any military unit carries no more than three days’ worth of supplies with them,” said Liao. “This means they either have to be resupplied, or scrounge for whatever they can from the field.”
Liao notes that because ammunition is bulky and can be rapidly drained, the Chinese military cannot use ammunition seized from Taiwan, “This means they’ll have to bring over an enormous amount of equipment.”
He believed that landing in Taiwan is costly for the Chinese military. Chinese amphibious ships may need to pass through the Taiwan Strait to resupply ground troops, but that would make them extremely vulnerable targets.
Some observers argue that because the invasion is so difficult, the CCP may consider it a last resort rather than a first option. Ian Easton, a research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, a U.S. think tank and an expert on Taiwan affairs, said that given the dire dangers of invading Taiwan, “a rational strategic leader will choose a different strategy of action.”
So what does Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan mean to the US, China, and Taiwan?
Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan made both Biden and the Pentagon afraid and tried to warn her not to visit Taiwan. She is the third most important person in the U.S. hierarchy of power. Congressional elections are coming, with inflation soaring and the U.S. economy in a difficult situation since Biden came to power, Pelosi may realize that she could lose her power and that the Democrats will most likely fail to secure a majority in Congress. Therefore, this trip could save the situation and add points to the Democratic Party for taking a tough stand against the CCP.
At the same time, the trip is effective in diverting public opinion from criticism of Biden’s clumsiness and weakness on Ukraine, in order to save face for the U.S. on the international stage.
China, also has an election coming up, which is the Chinese Communist Party congress in November. Xi Jinping’s display of his tough stance on the U.S. regarding Taiwan could hide opposition criticism that is trying to overturn his power. Therefore, Xi will not miss this rare opportunity.
For Taiwan, the visit of the U.S. House speaker is clearly an indirect way of demonstrating the island’s independent status. So, this is a big event of certain significance for Taiwan. Although Pelosi’s visit is in fact not yet official, it nevertheless signifies Washington’s rejection of the “one China” policy and signals the U.S.’s recognition of Taiwan as an independent entity.
Thus, it can be seen that China’s current military exercises or the way that China is flexing its military muscle is not a preparation for war but a diplomatic message sent to the United States.
With these moves, according to analysts, the CCP is also telling Washington that it will now be difficult for them to talk to each other about the islands in the South China Sea, about China’s nuclear weapons, and the ability to control China in the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Weapons, especially regarding China’s creation of hypersonic weapons.
China and Russia have already disagreed with the U.S. proposal regarding a new nuclear treaty. Now, Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan seems to be making the situation even more unpredictable. And what happens when the world’s three nuclear (weapon) powers (powerful nations) do not have a common voice on the issue of nuclear weapons but instead adopt a hostile attitude and an unhappy approach?