With increasing tensions between the US and China over diplomatic visits and interactions with Taiwan as well as growing arms sales, global concerns are rising that the CCP and Xi Jinping will finally do what they have been threatening to do for decades and invade. This invasion would be to force what they call “reunification” and it has been a Chinese communist obsession since their nationalist opponents fled to Taiwan in 1949.
There are many theories about how an invasion of Taiwan would play out, with many officials in Taiwan preparing for amphibious assault, air bombardment, missile bombardment and naval attack. Bunkers and bomb shelters are being built in major cities and towns across Taiwan with troops training to disguise military equipment as civilian equipment. However, there is a scenario which is not often discussed in the mainstream media that is far more likely: A blockade.
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, suggested that a naval blockade of Taiwan by China is possible and that China is entirely capable.
“They have a very large navy, and if they want to bully and put ships around Taiwan, they very much can do that…”
The blockade strategy has several advantages that make it the primary option for China. First, it allows them the strangle all trade to and from Taiwan, forcing the country to rely solely on China for imports and exports. Without “reunification,” 23 million Taiwan citizens could face months without new shipments of survival necessities.
Second, it is essentially non-kinetic, and allows China to maintain an image of relative “peacefulness” while still isolating the island militarily and strangling the economy of Taiwan. If western forces act to intervene, it could be construed as an “act of war” in a situation that calls for diplomacy.
Third, if successful, there would be almost zero military losses for China and very low costs in terms of resources. The cost to benefit ratio would be favorable.
Fourth, it makes sanctions similar to those used by NATO countries against Russia less likely. With no visceral images of death and destruction for the media to play on a loop, convincing the public to accept the loss of a huge portion of the global supply chain by sanctioning China would be difficult.
Vice Adm. Karl Thomas notes: “Clearly if they do something that’s non-kinetic, which, you know, a blockade is less kinetic…then that allows the international community to weigh in and to work together on how we’re going to solve that challenge.”
While China’s navy is large in terms of the number of ships, most of the vessels are smaller and less advanced compared to western navies. China does not have the ability to project naval power across the oceans to invade western opponents, it would be a disaster for them. But, what they can do is lure countries like the US into a quagmire situation, bleeding our resources over time and wearing down our logistics and morale.
With the sudden and inexplicable flurry of meetings between Taiwan officials and US representatives including Nancy Pelosi, not to mention multiple instances of Joe Biden stating that the US would intervene in Taiwan if China attacks, a confrontation looks inevitable.
It may be the Chinese government’s intention to draw the US into a long term engagement overseas that we cannot win.
With the typhoon season coming to a close in October, if there is a blockade of Taiwan planned it would happen soon. Such tactics also tend to have quick returns, with supplies cut off to the general population, it would only take a couple of months before panic sets in. US or NATO would be forced to respond kinetically in order to end the blockade swiftly before the populace of Taiwan ran out of supplies.
Unlike Ukraine, it would be very difficult for the West to supply Taiwan with an endless flood of money and weapons, and with NATO already reaching it’s limit with Ukraine support packages, fighting a proxy war on a second front could be disastrous.