Analysis: Chinese Invasion of Taiwan Unlikely to Succeed

But Taiwan can't win on its own, and the cost for the US would be high
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2023 6:15 PM CST
War Games Show China Likely to Lose a War for Taiwan
In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, soldiers take part in a drill during a visit by Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen at a military base in Chiayi in southwestern Taiwan on Friday.   (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

It's possible to prevent China from conquering Taiwan, but only with the direct involvement of US forces and at a high cost for everyone involved. Per CNN, that’s the main takeaway from recent war games conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The prominent DC-based think tank detailed 24 separate simulations in a new 165-page report, offering an unusually comprehensive, unclassified analysis of potential war in the Taiwan Strait. According to the report's authors, the US and Taiwan can expect a pyrrhic victory, but war is not inevitable.

Overall, CSIS found that China is unlikely to succeed if it invades Taiwan in 2026. While outcomes vary by scenario, the battle would probably be decided in three or four weeks. China would lose about 10,000 troops, 155 aircraft, and 138 warships; it would also leave tens of thousands of POWs in Taiwanese hands. The US would lose at least two aircraft carriers and 3,200 troops. Most scenarios gamed by CSIS also include heavy Japanese casualties, as Japan would be drawn into the fight whether it likes it or not because it hosts key US military bases. And Taiwan's military, infrastructure, and economy would be devastated.

Per the Hill, one simulation of the "Taiwan stands alone" approach did not end well for Taiwan, in part because—unlike in Ukraine—it would be impossible to deliver weapons to the island once the shooting starts. Otherwise, report coauthor Mark Cancian said it’s possible for Taiwan to remain independent, "but the cost is very high." And while most simulations show the US and Taiwan winning, “it’s possible to imagine the Chinese are looking at it differently.” For that reason, Cancian recommends "enhancing deterrence" to convince China invasion isn’t worth the price. That might be the thinking within the Biden administration and Congress, which recently passed a bipartisan, $10 billion security assistance package for Taiwan. Noting the report’s limitations, Cancian said the simulations were based on what type of military China will have in 2026, but that could pale in comparison to where it will be in a decade. (More Taiwan stories.)

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